Last weekend I was given the incredible gift of attending a mothers’ retreat in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist. Fears and doubts assailed me before I left for the retreat as I wondered if I had the time to do this during the busy Advent season, how the kids would fare without me, and whether it would even be a fruitful time for me.
I needn’t have worried. There was such an abundance of grace at the retreat as I enjoyed fellowship with 200 other women, deep and inspiring spiritual talks, receiving the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist, all-night Adoration, and of course just eating uninterrupted meals that I didn’t have to cook!
God has a way of working out the little details when we make our biggest priority to focus on Him. And that was one of the most powerful messages of the retreat — the reminder to look to Him first because there we will find Him looking back at us with so much love. The priest for our retreat shared the story of the Rich Young Man in the Gospel of Mark as an example of this. The young man approached Jesus and told Him about all the good things he was doing for salvation. He asked Jesus if there was anything else he needed to do. In the very next line of this passage, before giving any answer, Jesus, “looking at him, loved him” (Mark 10:21). Yet the rich young man ends up missing out on this loving gaze because he was so focused only on the works he needed to do. Father encouraged us to remember that although our works are certainly part of our faith, they are not the foundation of it. Love must be the first step — receiving the love God has for us every moment, then our works can flow out of that love received.
As mothers, it can be so easy to slip into servant mode during the Advent season. We are juggling our normal duties of meals, cleaning, and transporting children as well as the additions of finding gifts for family members, teaching our children about the feasts and traditions of Advent, and going to yet another Christmas performance or extended family gathering. Even our own devotions can feel like just one more thing on the to-do list. Yet the goal is to see our prayer time as a much-needed pause each day to seek the face of Jesus so that He can simply “look at us and love us.” I’m amazed by and grateful for the grace and love I received from taking 24 hours away to pause this Advent and spend time at the mothers’ retreat, but I know that that is not the only place I can find God looking at me.
His loving gaze is there in those sweet baby eyes as He lay in the manger.
His loving gaze is there in the Holy Eucharist in our churches as He waits silently for us.
And His loving gaze is there in our hearts every time we speak with Him in prayer.
All we need to do is pause and look to Him first.
Copyright 2019 Laura Range