I once attended a St. Francis of Assisi retreat. The retreat leader offered talks about St. Francis and the spiritual principles that were the hallmarks of Francis’ life. We were given personal time to pray and reflect on those principles. We sang. We worshiped. We ate. We learned. Yet, what I most remember is the deep dislike that one of the participants had for another participant. I have no idea what the problem was, since they had not met before the retreat. But, the one participant avoided the other and spoke rudely when they were in close proximity to each other. This seemed strange to me, since we were at a ‘spiritual retreat,’ after all! I was young then – chronologically and spiritually. I still expected spiritual people to be, well – spiritual!
I learned over the years, however, that it is not the fact that we espouse a certain faith tradition that makes us behave as spiritual people. We become spiritual by making a commitment to do as Mahatma Ghandi suggested – ‘being the change we wish to see in the world.’ I learned so much about St. Francis at that retreat, made friends that continued to support me after the retreat, prayed in ways that renewed me, and even heard my own soul sing. Yet, none of that was the ‘word,’ from God to me.
The ‘word’ came during the closing worship service. When it was time for the passing of the peace, the two participants who were ‘at odds’ with one another were on opposite sides of the chapel. Because the retreat was fairly large, there was no reason that they would have to greet one another. Just as the priest was preparing to move on to the next part of the worship service, the one person who had been so rude strode across the chapel, took the hands of the other person and simply held them. The two looked at each other for some moments and then embraced. Tears began to form in my eyes. The ‘word’ from God to me out of those 3 days of retreat was simply, ‘reconciliation.’
I left the retreat knowing that even when there are great chasms between people those chasms can be closed when even one of the two are transformed by the Holy One. There is no breach that cannot be healed – if only we will allow God to move in our soul.