Philippians 1:6 “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Giving my heart to him again and receiving his special words to my soul. Music that made me dance and music that made me cry. Witnessing that got to the heart of the matter of the struggle to follow His footsteps. Quiet time to sort out my life and pray and find buttercups in full bloom in the grotto of the retreat center. Reconciliation to give Him my sorrow over poor choices in the past and present and to find forgiveness. This was my past weekend at our Parish Woman’s Retreat.
Sunday morning, as I entered the chapel, I realized that I had not yet signed the altar cloth and it was “last call” so to speak. So up I headed, purple fine line marker in hand with final instructions that I could leave a message if I so desired with my name. I stood pondering what message to leave on an altar cloth that will be brought back to the retreat year after year. What words to write in this tiny little space that I found had not been written on yet…. It came to me fairly quickly. The Bible promise that I have held on to since those early days of parenting and MOPS and not knowing what I was doing with my life and being filled with anxiety and struggles just to make ends meet while my husband finished medical school. The promise that He would complete me, Philippians 1:6. So I wrote on the altar cloth the simple sentence with a prayer that it would bless the other women present now and to come:
You, Jesus, complete me. Joan Marie 2016
I headed back to my seat and waited for the big group celebration and then Mass to close out our retreat. As they had all week-end, our group celebration began with a Bible verse. Surprisingly it went like this: “A Letter from St Paul to the Philippians. ‘I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. ..And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception to discern what is of value so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.'” Simply put, it was my God promise that I had just prayed over my sisters in Christ not ten minutes earlier.
While I sat there contemplating the meaning of this “coincidence,” the group went on to sharing time. Woman after woman bravely standing and speaking into a microphone sharing what the retreat had meant to them. Woman after woman sharing their struggle, their lepers, their pain. Sexual molestation, substance abuse, death… I sat listening with my own struggles and heard that small, still voice saying to me “speak My promise to these woman.” Alas, I am not so brave as to stand in front of just shy of 200 woman and be vulnerable. I just could not bring myself to raise my hand, though I tried and tried to gather up the courage to say what I knew He wanted me to say. For that I am sorrowful.
So I am here saying to each of you, now, in this place to take courage. Do not see yourself as the leper whom others fear. Do not look at yourself only through your pain and struggles feeling that you are the only one. We all have pain and struggles. We all have death and illness and abuses somewhere in our lives or the lives of loved ones whom we care for. Suffering comes to all of us. But He, the one who created us, bore our sins, and overcame the sting of death, looks down on us with steadfast love and tender mercies and He completes each of us. He never leaves nor forsakes us. He is in each of us helping us through whatever suffering this life brings by giving us whatever it is we lack to get through it. I am small, weak, and cowardly. Yet, with his merciful heart and outstretched arms, Jesus wraps Himself around me in those moments of suffering and weakness and completes me so that I am able to stand strong and brave and proclaim His love to all my suffering Sisters and Brothers in Christ. He promises to do this for you as well.
Praying that each of you can find the confidence to know in your very being that He who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus, as well.
Amen, Joan Marie