By Florangel Rosario Braid
Like many Christians, I went on a Lenten retreat last Wednesday.
This was at the UP Church of the Risen Lord in Diliman, Quezon City and I am sharing my experience as it provides some timely lessons.
Especially today, with the presence of various forms of conflict and external challenges that are affecting our relationship with others within the home, the church and in the community.
Based on Verses 1-10 in the book of Galatians, Retreat Masters Joey Umali and wife Digna, led the group (resident pastors Dr. Mar Apilado and Tud, Congregational Ministry chair Jean Puno and some 30 church leaders and members) to an activity-oriented five-hour session consisting of talks, group discussion, personal bonding, covenant-sharing.
Taking a leaf from Paul’s advice to the Galatians regarding issues relevant to our times – “dealing with conflict and criticisms,” “bearing one another’s burden,” “planting and reaping,” “doing good with urgency and consistency,” and “planting and cultivating different seeds,” the facilitators helped us flesh these concepts by drawing from our own experiences and translating the ideas into doable solutions.
We went through the process of examining some simple truths that we frequently encounter in our daily lives.
One challenge we continually face is that of dealing with rebuke through constructive criticism.
That “Shalom” is not merely the absence of conflict but the presence of trust.
That we must continually be open and listen with the heart.And that we can build the right relationship with God, self, and others if we observe the four elements of Christian communication – (1) care in using the spoken word, (2) focus on the truth,(3) care in the manner by which we convey the word.
Here, we express outrage or disagreement in private and praise in public.
Balance criticisms with compliments.
With every criticism, offer three compliments; and (4) your objective is to make the person Christ-oriented so that he is able to forget the past and focus on the present.
Then there is that of bearing one another’s burden.
We are often told that no burden is unbearable if we share it with others.
But this is easier said than done especially if it is sharing with someone who is not kin or friend.
And especially so, if he or she is an enemy.
But loving our neighbor includes loving also the enemy.
Then there is the law of “planting and reaping.” That you reap what you plant, and that what is as important as the product is the process.
Here, the attribute of fortitude is most important.
Thus, the farmer comes to mind as he represents an example of one who has unlimited patience or fortitude.
What is most essential in the process is that of having fortitude which is the strength of mind and emotion that allows one to bear the pain and all types of vicissitudes.
And of course, that of having a winning and positive spirit.
“Doing good” not only to those close to you but to everyone is as difficult as that of bearing one another’s burden.
It is doing good not only with urgency but consistently.
We ended the retreat by translating the concepts into a visual statement – constructing with art materials a vision of a “garden of the future.”
All five groups visualized their garden by translating the concept of the Church as an inclusive congregation – open to everyone thus demonstrating the values of sharing, caring, love, openness, non-judgmental attitude, compassion. and the manifestation of the presence of the Spirit working within and around us.