Thirty-two volunteers spent two meaningful days at a peaceful oasis located in the bustling city of Quezon City last March 19-20, 2016. The Sta. Rafaela Maria House of Spirituality, which is being run by the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, provided the ideal venue for holding VIDES Pinoy's annual lenten retreat.
After being warmly welcomed by the community and listening to a brief orientation given by Sr. Sharon, the volunteers were asked by VIDES Delegate Sr. Jojo Carrasco FMA, to take a moment of silence and to prepare themselves for the ensuing sessions.
Rev. Fr. Benhur Borja, SDB, this year's lenten retreat master, introduced his talk on the "Mercy of God" by sharing the story of King David, the awful sins committed by the great king, and the sinner's eventual repentance. Fr. Ben asked the retreatants to reflect on why God forgave David despite the latter's grave sins. He asked them how could God possibly forgive and accept people who have committed heinous and unspeakable crimes, especially against the innocent and the vulnerable.
1. The Lord's mercy is a mystery. We surely cannot understand how, despite the severity of the sins His people have committed, God can still show mercy and compassion.
2. The Lord's mercy is an experience. God welcomes sinners with open arms. Instead of feeling shame, we feel His unconditional acceptance. Enveloped by His great love, we feel light, peaceful, and happy. Receiving His grace and mercy is an extraordinary experience.
3. The Lord's mercy is about remembering. A positive experience is worth remembering. Because God's forgiveness is an indescribably pleasant experience, we would always want to relive and remember it.
4. The Lord's mercy is transformation. Being blessed by God's mercy and compassionate heart, we experience a positive change in our lives. Our hearts are transformed. We also become more forgiving and more accepting.
5. Mercy is the yardstick of our relationship with God. The strength of our relationship with God is measured by our capacity to accept His mercy, and to forgive and be merciful like Him.
Fr Ben explained that for humans, forgiveness is a process. He shared how a person can tell if he or she is finally ready to forgive the people who caused him or her pain. First, you are already asking and praying for the strength to forgive people who hurt you. Second, you no longer wish the person who offended you any harm.
A discussion on anger and the importance of learning how to manage it was also made. Volunteers were asked to examine where their anger is coming from and to process and resolve the issues so they can make peace with themselves and the people who caused or continue to cause them pain.
Also underscored during the sessions was the importance of having a grateful heart. Fr Ben recalled the story of the ten lepers whom Jesus healed, emphasizing that only one of the ten lepers returned to Jesus to express gratitude. He discussed the importance of gratitude in our daily lives. He asked the retreatants to always remember that a grateful heart is a happy heart.