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Mount Gilboa, or Putting off the Ties that Bind Us

 

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Final Mountain Top of the Horizons’ Program

11/05/2009: Spain - Photo gallery

The Horizons’ course took place at Los Negrales. The program structure was organized around the symbolic climbing of various biblical mountains. Our journey came to an end in the course of the first week of April, an end that was marked by the symbolic climbing of Mount Gilboa. According to Sister Joan Chittister, it is upon this mountain top that “putting off the vendetta rigidity of Saul, one allows oneself to be won over by the vibrant fascination that issues from David and his gusto for life.”

On Mount Gilboa one can feel “the attraction of casting off the ropes,” of looking directly ahead of oneself, of welcoming life with harp and zither - like David - and of discovering new paths along which to go forward. From such a mountain top, we envision our future.

The last week of the course brought us back in spirit to the eight mountains that we had climbed and the horizons which we had perceived from them. “If you desire to see the valleys, climb to the very top of the mountains” (Kahil Gibran). The eight weeks of Horizons stimulated us to climb, to walk, to allow our feet to get covered with dust. The invitation to be “searchers and explorers” rather than rigid “statues” certainly found an echo in each of us. We have come to regard religious life as paradigm of “the search,” and we have come to see the epoch in which we are living as a time for creativity and imagination. That is, a time to rethink our relation with God, with our life, with events . . . and so to recognize that “God was here but I did not know it” (Genesis 28:16).

The retreat that we made helped us to gain a sensitivity to the plan that God has for each of us and for us as community. The retreat was a call to recognize the project in which our personal project takes root. We were reminded that the “dream” of God is that we be people who are open, standing on our own two feet, knowing how to look at life from the heart, knowing how to live faith as a joyful experience such that life itself becomes a blessing.

Looking back over the program, we feel that we have encountered a God who is new, one who reveals himself through our ordinary, daily experiences. Playing our kind of lawn bowls, gathering at the card table, having a party, cleaning the house, engaging in brotherly dialogue, working in the garden . . . in all that is small and simple we have found the seeds of eternity. “God is so great that only that which is small can contain him.” Daily life was suggested to us as the place where we find an ongoing call to discover the riches and depth which are part and parcel of each moment and each action of daily life

In light of the preceding, we were encouraged each week to develop a way of examining our lives from the point of view of a «faith reading. » We tried to examine the week as more than a mere collection of facts. We attempted to discover in the bare facts an “event”: to know how to pick out, in the passing “countryside” of each day, the features of eternity. We made the effort of entering into reality in systematic fashion in order to awaken ourselves to the light and wisdom which lie at the deeper level of our lives. We know that, “those who have their eyes open are able to read and interpret that which is Permanent in that which is passing, that which is Eternal in that which is short-lived: God in the world.”

When we evaluated our experience, we were able to ascertain the benefits of diversity. The group’s international character, our dealings with the local Claretian community, the differences and diversity amongst us came to be seen as an approach to God’s infinite bounty. We thought of our diversity as both opportunity and gift. Establishing a serene, brotherly relation with one who is “different” helped each of us to be profoundly himself, and to be able to see what is “different” as having a “sacred” character.

At the end of the Horizons’ program what each participant was holding in his heart was expressed in various ways. Here, for example, is one Brother’s comment.

« I thank God for those who made the experience possible, an experience that occurred opportunely at a turning point of my personal history. I liked very much the exteriorization exercises and the course layout which brought along with it essential elements for one’s personal integration as believer, as Marist Brother. In my own case, I was able to establish a process of reconciliation with various wounds that I carry. I became aware once again of God’s love as unconditional. I also see clearly the awakening of a thirst to establish a personal relation with Jesus, and the wish to make more vital certain key elements that have to do with a spirituality incarnated in life - elements which had become dormant...”
We are absolutely certain that the two months have been a real experience of grace.

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Los Negrales - April 7, 2009

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