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JRS Online Retreat: Day 18 – The Hidden God
Thursday, November 18, 2010


" . . . in everyday life it is the plain facts and natural happenings that conceal God and reveal him to us little by little under the mind’s tooling."

As you begin your prayer today, remember that you are in God’s holy presence. Become aware of how God gazes on you all the time, how tenderly and powerfully God regards you. Ask God for what you want in prayer:

Ask the Father to help you to accompany Jesus in his suffering so that we may learn to grow in the ability to suffer with those in need. 



Reflections for Prayer

Charles Chilufya, S.J.
Former Project Director
JRS Malawi

Lilongwe, 18 November 2010 – In early 2006, my Jesuit provincial sent me to do refugee work as a JRS project director in Malawi. After my first few months, some refugees in the camp asked me if, as a Jesuit, I would accompany them spiritually.  I quickly agreed. A couple of weeks later we were planning our Holy Week celebrations and the refugees asked me if I would stay with them in the camp since they wanted the services to take place in the evening. I accepted and lived in the camp throughout Holy Week. During this short stay in the camp, I began to feel tightly bonded to this community of refugees who had endured deep human hardships. During that Holy Week I came to see them as a refugee community that had created its own lived narrative of the passion and death of Christ.

During those few days of living closely with the refugees I shared a deep darkness and had no idea of what words of hope and comfort I could offer these poor souls. God was equally hidden from me for how can any human being be exposed to so much suffering and remain unmoved? How could I preach to these suffering people that God was close to them and that there was hope when their world appeared so dark? Somehow, however, in the midst of that experience of darkness the light of faith illumined my heart. For three days I went up to the pulpit and proclaimed the suffering Son of God whose hidden divinity was revealing itself even in the darkness of that camp. Our hidden God continued to shed the light of His Son’s resurrection and gave hope to this refugee community.

Much later, one of the leaders among the refugee Christian community, Simon Buloze, now resettled in Australia, shared his own similar experience with me:

"In the refugee camp of Luwani I came across situations which took me to the lowest depths of despair and anguish. It was a camp practically inhabitable with a very hot climate unfavorable for human habitation. I had experiences of loneliness and many other forms of degradation of human life. ‘Why does God allow that I suffer so much when he loves me?’ After a long period of questioning, I came upon an answer: in my suffering I discovered the grandeur of God’s love for me for through ‘many dangers, toils and snares.’ I recognized the presence of God especially through the concrete experience of receiving love, compassion, and help from other human beings."

For Simon, therefore, in the midst of great suffering, God was hidden and yet¸ as he reflected back on his experience, he was able to see the grace of God present in his life and was able to recognize the crucified Lord and acclaim that the Crucified One truly is the Son of God. Simon once wrote: “The incarnation is for me proof that God is present with me for I have experienced the presence of God in countless human beings who have made a difference in my life, especially at points when I doubted God. During every stage of my journey as a refugee I found consolation, especially spiritual consolation, which strengthened me to face the vicissitudes of the life of a refugee.”

Where and when, in your life have you experienced God’s absence? Call on the risen Christ, the Light of our world to reveal God hidden in the darkness of your own experience.


Address God as a friend speaks to a friend. 

Talk to God about your response, your own needs and your deepest desires.

End your prayer with the Our Father, the prayer Jesus taught us.



Suggested Reading for Prayer

Psalm 22:1-5, 24-25

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish?  My God, I call by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I have no relief. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the glory of Israel. In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted and you rescued them. You who fear the LORD, give praise! All descendants of Jacob, give honor; show reverence, all descendants of Israel! For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out. 



Quote

. . . in everyday life
it is the plain facts and natural happenings
that conceal God and reveal him to us
little by little under the mind’s tooling."

~ R.S. Thomas