Yesterday I spent about twelve hours with 26 eighth graders. No, I’m not crazy. I was just helping with a confirmation retreat. The thing is, I went into the day not wanting to be there. I woke up regretting volunteering. Part of it was that I was going to give a talk which included a personal story about my Grandma. The other part was that I had a bad week and I just wasn’t feeling like giving. As soon as I got there, though, I was reminded why I’ve always loved helping with retreats and working with teens. The students were great and the whole day was super blessed.
As typically happens, I received just as much from the retreat as a leader as the students did. This week I’ve been really struggling with the weight of having to say goodbye. A lot of it was stemming from losing my Grandma a few weeks ago, but it’s been spiraling into a realization that I’m afraid to say goodbye to my friends and family when I leave for the convent in May. I was feeling really restricted and just upset about it all. I was carrying these concerns as I walked into the retreat yesterday.
Right before lunch, we celebrated Mass. The Gospel was a passage from John chapter 10. This part specifically stood out to me,
All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I cam so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
During the homily, I was reminded that we will be tempted to think that God is a thief; that He asks too much, that He takes good things away for no reason. But we must remember that God only takes things to replace them with better. God is not a thief. Jesus came so that we would have life, and not just life, but abundant life. He came so that we would thrive.
We spent the whole retreat focusing on the qualities/virtues it takes to thrive. We talked about faith, hope, love, and the last talk was on joy. The speaker focused on the Wedding at Cana and how Jesus’ first public ministry was to turn water into wine for a wedding feast. Jesus turned a family’s embarrassment, shame, and fear of running out of wine, four days too early, into joy. In the same way, He turns our shame and fear into joy, if we just follow the advice Mary gave to the servants, “do whatever He tells you”.
I may not be completely cured of my fears to say goodbye to my friends and family, but yesterday was the reminder I needed that God is not a thief. He came so that we would have an abundant and joy filled life. I just have to choose to trust Him and follow His will.