retreat in time of sorrow
Based on the story of the death of Lazarus from the Gospel of John, Chapter 11.


Find a quiet space. Sit comfortably, upright. Put aside the thoughts that absorb you. Breathe gently-in-out. Do it again. Close your eyes and remember you are in the presence of God. Call upon the Spirit of God to be with you as you begin speaking to God.


Informed that his friend was dead, Jesus went to the home of Martha and Mary to console and be consoled. We don't know any details of the death. All we know is that this family was grief-stricken and called upon Jesus to be with them.

Van Gogh's LazarusWe read "Jesus wept" (John 11:35). As any one of us, Jesus grieved at the loss of his friend. Tears poured from his broken heart. The consoling words that he spoke are few. But that he wept speaks volumes. He mourned the death of his friend and their brother. He was one with the sisters of Lazarus.

Many of us don't know how to grieve. Many don't understand how necessary it is. Tears are a very important part of the grieving process. On TV we see Israelites and Palestinians standing by a gravesite, weeping, wailing and beating their breasts. They express their sorrow in such dramatic fashion! Some, from a different cultural background may be uncomfortable with such demonstrativeness. On the other hand, too many of us from the northern clime frequently stifle the outpouring of grief. The end result is a sorrowing that continues to eat away at us.

The tears that Jesus shed were an appropriate reaction to the pain of loss. In the immediacy of grief, all kinds of emotions rise up within us. And it is imperative that we don't try to stifle good basic human reactions to tragedy. Think of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, standing at the foot of the cross. She had to be crying her eyes out. Some artists picture this so eloquently. Pray to her. She understands what it means to mourn. She drank deeply from the bitter cup of suffering. Pray with her as you mourn your loss. Ask her for the "gift of tears". It is a legitimate request with roots in Christian tradition.

day one: reflections and some questions

home page for this retreat

Email questions or comments about this page to Fr Columkille Regan, C.P.

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