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Getting into the rhythm of life

 There was a rhythm to Jesus’ life which is worth knowing. From time to time, Jesus would retreat in prayer and contemplation. From these retreats, he would return to activity in the world, surrounded by crowds, to an often busy life that was full of activity and incidents.


This cycle of activity to retreat to activity to retreat was important in sustaining Jesus’ relationship with the Father: his spirituality.


The reading from the gospel in today’s liturgy begins with such a rhythm. Jesus had just spent time with the crowds. 


Then he sent the crowds away while he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Then he returned to the marvellous action of calming the waters.


St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Congregation of the Passion, adopted this pattern for the new community which he formed in the 18th century. 


He gathered his men into houses, which he called retreats, where they could live in contemplation of the Passion, leading a rather austere life.


From these houses, they would go out on active work, especially the preaching of God’s generous love, as shown in the experience of the Passion. St. Paul of the Cross himself followed this rhythm of life and taught it to his new community.


St. Paul believed that this model was a good one, not only for religious priests and brothers, but for others as well. He saw it as a viable model for all people, especially for families.


We know from his letters of spiritual direction that he recommended that families ponder the Passion daily. He wrote to one family explaining that this devotion should be so deeply rooted in their lives that they should meditate on the Passion for at least one quarter of an hour each day.


He recommended that parents teach this type of meditation to their children, but he also understood that parents should not tire children by making meditation too long, or do anything that could put them off it.


The pattern of quiet and activity can even be lived on a really short cycle. To one busy official, St. Paul of the Cross suggested that he keep a crucifix in his office, so that he could stop periodically and make extremely brief meditations throughout the course of his working day.


Contemplating the Passion of Jesus is especially helpful in making us sensitive to the sufferings of others, as well as to the love of God, which we give witness to in front of others.


Retreat to action to retreat to action… Is this a cycle that we can adapt in our own busy lives? Perhaps there are special times when we can go away to the retreat houses in Cheung Chau to contemplate our relationship with God.


But more often we have to create this cycle within the mundane cycle of our living and working environment. In this way, we can find the strength that overcomes all fears.