You can tell a lot about a person by the people they hang around with. Someone, I forgot who, once said, “Show me a man’s friends and I will show you the man.”
Who are Jesus’ friends? When we read the Gospels, Jesus seems to spend a great deal of time with the poor, those who were blind, deaf, ignorant, tax collectors, prostitutes, those possessed by demons, and very simple people. In short, we could say people who were broken and who knew it and did not try to hide behind any illusions or any false estimation about their own righteousness. Jesus came into their life, not with a hand of judgment ready to slam down upon them but with a tender touch of mercy, love, healing, forgiveness and hope.
Over the past two years I have had the privilege of attending post abortion retreats for men and women who have participated in an abortion. Why did I say it was a privilege to attend such retreats? Because I have met the people who, if Jesus still walked upon the earth, he would have spent most of his time with. People broken, wounded by sin, yet humble and extremely aware of their need for God, and their need for a Savior.
There is no “stereotype” person on these retreats. It includes both men and women ranging from ages 15-60, people who are rich and those who are poor, people of various nationalities and backgrounds, people who want to be at the retreat and those echo sometimes do not want to be there. Despite all these differences there is one thing they all have in common; a profound humility that proclaims and witnesses to me the love and mercy of God and brings to life those words spoken by Jesus in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God, blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (MT 5:3-4)
Most of the people who attend these retreats so not try to hide behind things like a career, external appearances, the ”perfect” family, a new car or any of the other gimmicks contemporary society will often use to try and hide their pain. They have taken it directly to Jesus Christ, the Divine Physician, the only one who can ultimately heal them and bring them back to the happiness and joy of knowing God’s love for them.
While I am at these retreats I always feel challenged (in a good way) about my own relationship with Jesus. I find myself asking, am I really giving Jesus everything? Is he really the Lord of my life? Am I seeking to serve him? Have I become somewhat lazy in my prayer life or in the spiritual life in general?
The reason why I ask these questions is because of the wonderful example or the people who are attending these retreats. Being with them, even in their continued struggles with forgiving themselves and dealing with guilt, I see the presence of a loving God who is “nursing” them back to health and back into his loving embrace.
Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, C.F.R.
Fr. Jeremiah assists in the Men’s “Entering Canaan” mission as well as weekend retreats