Was there a Better Way?
Whenever, we have a task or project to carry out don't we always
look for the most capable person to lead us? And if the task
were supposed to follow a set pattern, don't we like to stick to
time-tested methods that worked all the time?
But sometimes events happen so quickly that it takes our breath
away. When things do not go as we planned, tempers flare up,
moods become dampened, and we so quickly become irritated -
especially if it was caused by last minute permission changes,
which could so easily be overruled if only the person in
authority would take a softer stand.
Yes, it happened to me recently.
My fellow facilitators and I had been conducting a 32-week "Becoming Disciples through Bible Study"
program for the past year and now we had organized a year-end
retreat as a climax of the study for the participants. It was so
very important that we do it right. The retreat schedule was
very carefully planned.
The culmination of the retreat will end with a mass, where the
priest will give his blessing for those who wanted to become
facilitators for the next year and so send forth to do the work.
However, this time, it was different from the previous years. In
our first year, we had the retreat at Stella Maris, an old
3-storey building where tables, chairs, sound system, and many
other essential items for holding the retreat were not in place.
I could remember how the older participants would have to
struggle up the staircase while the facilitators had to carry
tables and chairs up and down the stairs. Setting up the sound
system and OHP was also a struggle for the facilitators.
In the subsequent years, we had it in one of the beach hotels.
It was excellent for the first time, but the cost went up the
following year and it was not so affordable for many of the
participants. However, everything went according to plan and the
hotel staffs were able to accommodate any urgent requests that
But the other hotel patrons and the general public were doing
their own thing, organizing their own functions and making
noises in and around the hotel area! This year, somebody
suggested to use a new building that was build on one of the
church ground. This church is very well-known, large and grand.
The church ground is spacious, contains lush greenery, hill
slopes, and is so beautiful. For many of us, it was an ideal
place for retreats. And it was relatively cheap.
All the facilities for the retreat were there - single-storey
comfortable rooms, spacious function room, sound systems, short
distances from our homes, plenty of open spaces for reflection
and Taize, and low cost - it seem a perfect place.
But we found out that there were some difficulties too. Some of
the older participants wanted to attend mass during the retreat.
This would never have happen if the retreat were held away from
church grounds. Anyway, this was not a big problem.
Our greatest blow came when we were told by the parish priest
that we could not have a separate mass at the end of the retreat
and that mass must be held together with the parish
congregation. The reason - the chapel that we had intended to
hold the mass was not blessed yet.
Immediately, there was uproar from amongst our facilitators,
knowing that masses had been conducted before at homes of people
that has not been blessed. Most of us could not see the validity
of the reason given.
What did we do?
There were grumblings from the people, especially the older
generation. They became agitated, lost their mood, and became
discouraged. However, some of our more sober members came back
to their senses and very quickly came out with an alternate
The program for the retreat was very specific. The mass was the
time for the disciples to be sent forth, to make disciples of
all nations. It was planned to be the last event. We were now
required to attend the mass before we could finish the other
parts of the retreat. Obviously, this would upset the whole
All the facilitators voiced out their concerns during our
meeting that dragged on until the wee hours of the morning.
Finally we came out with an idea for a community meal where we
can still be sent forth by the attending priest. Some parts of
the program were rescheduled.
The mass started at 8:00 a.m. All the participants for the
retreat occupied the North wing of the church.
What happened during the mass made me completely speechless!
All the hymns and their messages, from the beginning to the end
of the mass, were totally in line with what we had wanted the
participants to experience.
The 1st reading was Is 49:3, 5-6. It talks about being Light to
the Nations and being appointed to be a servant to bring back
His people. "Because of you, people will praise me."
The psalms, Ps 40:2, 4, 7-10, talks about He making me secure
when I trust in the Lord, and willingness to do God's will;
"Here I am, and how I love to do Your will" and not keeping the
news of Salvation to myself but sharing with others.
The 2nd reading, Cor 1:1-3, talks about being called to be God's
And finally, the Gospel was Jn 1:29-34, that talks about the
baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.
In the homily, the priest stated very clearly that the readings
were about discipleship. He explained that St. John the Baptist,
being such a well-known person would humble himself and was able
to accept being placed in a lower position when Jesus Christ
What an announcement! Here we were trying so hard to bring the
message to the participants and now the whole church was
reinforcing the message we wanted to proclaim. All the songs
were sung to reinforce the message and it was sung by the whole
church congregation, and choir complete with music, visuals and
Each time the priest mentioned about discipleship, we sitting at
the pews would nod our heads and smile to each other. Tears came
upon some of us, realizing how God's ways are so different from
our ways, and that He will provide more and accomplish more than
what we can do by our own efforts.
On reflecting on the whole sequence of events that took place,
it dawn upon me that one of the things mentioned in the priest's
homily was obedience - it was one of the marks of discipleship.
Was he trying to test our spirit? If he did, I think we had
passed the test by submitting to his authority and not opposing
When the mass was over, we came out of it in awe. God has
provided more than what we had hoped for.
The book of Proverbs from the Bible provides wisdom on right
living. Our compilation of "50 Secrets of Truth
and Life" might help bring people to study scripture. Done
in pictorial form it is a lighthearted way of looking at Bible
Proverbs. Perhaps that might just open up people's hearts...