I am one of those people blessed to visit many places, people, and communities. Among the many blessings I’ve received throughout such travels, two stands out. The first is a heartfelt knowing that God is everywhere, laboring, loving, transforming. People say that God is omnipresent. My encounters with many people in many places confirm this truth. It is breathtaking to know this in a deep deep way. The second grace I am receiving is also a heartfelt knowing. It is the tangible realization of how transformed people can be when they live out their common desire to be real. Let me elaborate.
My Thanksgiving was spent with a group of young adults (24-35 years-old), mostly from the Parish of Queen of Peace in München (Munich), Germany but also from the nearby cities of Stuttgart, Mannheim, Regensburg. We experienced three full days of leadership workshops and prayer. Throughout the weekend we tried to live fully the present moment, create space for one another to be real, and especially to listen to our inner voice – God’s voice. I have had the opportunity to experience this kind of Cura Personalis event many times in the US and Canada with people from varying age groups and different ethnic backgrounds. Yet, I have never been given such firsthand experience with young people in Europe, where it is generally known that faith is passé and irrelevant among the young. Moreover, in the Catholic context, the sexual abuse scandals have left behind reactions of doubts, sadness, anger, and disillusionment.
The group took significant risks and sacrifices. Without knowing much about the gathering, these young adults took time off from work and studies to dive into something truly different. Although many have been on retreats and youth gatherings, few have had the opportunity to slow down, reflect, and listen to their inner workings. Even though many have known each other for five years or more, not many have had the occasion to be open and vulnerable in such real and honest ways. Real in terms of embracing their doubts, weaknesses, pains, confusing questions that often accompany quarterlife crises among young adults. Yet, they courageously created a safe space for one another to take risks, to actualize their common desire to be real, to grow spiritually and with each other. The results are astounding.
Even though the fruits of the gathering remain to be seen in the lives of participants in the coming months, signs of transformation are already evident. The pastor and parish leadership have commented how the young adults have noticeably and positively been changed in their body language, attitude, and spirit. At an outing after the weekend, the young adults themselves shared these observations: “We have never related to one another like this … in such open, honest, real ways … it’s so amazing, beyond what we can imagine … we have been transformed.” I wish I have the language to adequately describe the glow of spirit revealed through their glistening eyes, beaming faces, and grateful looks. It is as if they are stumbling on a “treasure buried in a field,” and are considering to sell all that they have to buy that entire field (Mt 13:44). It is simply indescribable.
I have been blessed to see such joyful discoveries and burgeoning growth in people before. Yet, I see clearly in the past few years the potentially transforming power of people willing to take risks in living out their common desire to be real, to create space so they can be more truly, humbly, and fully themselves. It allows me a greater glimpse into another layer of Jesus’ parable of the sower (Mk 4:1-9; Mt 13:1-31). It is very possible for us to become, together, the rich soil which receives the Word, accepting it, and bearing fruit “thirty and sixty and a hundredfold” (Mk 4:8). When we dare to live out our common desire to be real, miracles can happen. Genuine growth happens. God happens.
Dankeschön! Thank you my friends from Germany … for such a tangible, palpable gift that touches me profoundly and unfolds something deeper within … an unforgettable Thanksgiving … an inspiring Advent gift!
With whom can you be real? With whom are you willing to create space to take risks? Will you bring it up with God and listen?