Lenten retreat question: ‘Who are we in Christ?’

Friday, Mar. 29, 2024
Lenten retreat question: ‘Who are we in Christ?’ + Enlarge
Father Ray John Marek, OMI leads the 2024 Diocesan Lenten retreat, held March 23 in St. Vincent de Paul Parish’s Holy Family Hall.
By Marie Mischel
Intermountain Catholic

HOLLADAY — When Father Ray John Marek, OMI, was contacted about giving this year’s diocesan Lenten retreat to the English-speaking community, he naturally asked what topic he should address. He was told to focus on the synod of synodality and Eucharistic renewal in the context of Lent.

“And I knew it was a lot to handle because on each of those things you could really wax eloquently for about a week on end,” Fr. Ray John said to appreciative laughter from those gathered for the retreat, held March 23 in St. Vincent de Paul Parish’s Holy Family Hall. The retreat in Spanish was given by Fr. Alfredo Basualdo.

Both the worldwide synod and the national Eucharistic revival have been big movements in the Church during the past few years, he said, and Lent also is a significant topic, but as he mused about tying them all together, he realized that all three center around the question of “Who are we in Christ?” he said.

Fr. Ray John is the director of the Lexon House of Spirituality in Oakland, Calif. He has given the diocesan Lenten retreat five times in the past 12 years; he also has made presentations to the lay ecclesiastical minster and permanent diaconate formation groups.

The retreat included sessions of silent reflection and small-group discussion as well as talks by Fr. Ray John.

The question of identity “as individuals, as a community of faith, as a church” and “a parallel question of how we are to be and what we are to be doing as people of faith is as old as the Bible itself,” from Adam and Eve to Israel wandering in the desert to Jesus being asked who he was to the disciples establishing the early Church, he said. “It is the same question Pope Francis asks of us: How are each one of us called to be missionary disciples – men and women whose lives and hearts are burning with the fire of God’s presence, the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit … to move beyond our churches, our parishes into a world that needs to hear the Good News.”

The Lenten Gospel readings are filled with stories that show Jesus interacting with and listening to other people, Fr. Ray John said.

At the beginning of the Synod on Synodality held last October in Rome, Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, OP, former master of the Order of Preachers, preached a retreat that focused on communication and the need to listen to each other, Fr. Ray John said, adding that the synod process is challenging Catholics to listen to voices outside their own parish or group.

He encouraged those present to listen to the Scripture texts that would be proclaimed throughout the remainder of Lent.

“If you don’t recognize the voice of the Lord speaking to us in those texts, you will never be able to learn and understand how Christ can be present in the bread and wine because … Christ, the Word, precedes everything,” he said.  

That listening will allow people to journey with others, he said.

The religious order to which Fr. Ray John belongs, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, has the charism of preaching the love of the crucified Christ, he said. This is “a generous love that can reach even into our own hells and bring us back to life.”

The stories of Christ’s Passion show that even in the face of suffering, Jesus endured, was faithful to God’s will, and was willing to forgive, he said. “We need to know that he was victorious; that crucified love does bring new life.”

In closing remarks at the retreat, Bishop Oscar A. Solis also spoke of Christ’s suffering, which “has transformed the world, and because of his love we are renewed. And if you are transformed and renewed, it means the Church is transformed and renewed” because the people of God are the Church, he said.  

With that renewal, “there is only one mission for those who believe in Christ, those who believe in God: love. Love as Christ loves us,” the bishop said.

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