“Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time that God had stated,” reads Genesis 21:2. The Hebrew word for “set time” here clues us in to nuances lost by the English translation: it means “appointed time, place, or meeting.” Essentially, this verse means that Sarah’s conception was a privileged meeting between God and her, a “visitation” by God within her soul that took physical, visible form in the miraculous conception of Isaac.
This idea of God reaching down into time and space, touching a particular womb and making it fruitful, despite all natural hindrances, is a beautiful one. There are other instances of God’s “meeting” a particular person. The moment of the Incarnation, when, at the Angel’s word, He becomes man in the Virgin’s womb, is the greatest example.
Every time Christ, walking the roads of the Holy Land, healed a person, either physically or spiritually, the finger of God touched that soul. Christ met the Samaritan woman at the well — not just geographically but at the well of her heart where she longed for interior water, longed to be known, respected, and loved truly.
God wants constant, not just sporadic, contact with us, of course. A “jealous lover,” God wants to hear from us throughout the day in our short prayers of gratitude or supplication, wants to see us before Him in prayer in chapel or church, wants all our work and conversation to be directed to His glory.
God wants constant, not just sporadic, contact with us, of course. A “jealous lover,” God wants to hear from us throughout the day in our short prayers of gratitude or supplication, wants to see us before Him in prayer in chapel or church, wants all our work and conversation to be directed to His glory. This is what St. Josemaria Escriva used to call “unity of life”: I am striving to do all in His presence and for love of Him — rather than give Him just certain hours of the day or fulfill my “obligation” on Sunday.
Yet, being human, being fragile and easily distracted, it is not enough for us to be working to allow the whole of each day to be permeated by His light. We also have to set aside certain times to permit Him a special “meeting” with us. One way to do this is to commit to go on an annual retreat. 2020 is still just beginning: make this the resolution you keep!
Many religious communities offer retreats for laity, and your parish can also provide suggestions on opportunities for retreats. Retreats come in many different varieties, adapted to particular needs, stages in spiritual growth, and ways of encountering God. When you set aside a day, a few days, a week, or even 30 days for a full Ignatian retreat, you dispose your soul to receive the graces God wants to pour out. You change your schedule, hopefully to a more leisurely one; you change your location, hopefully to a beautiful and spiritually nourishing one. You set a “meeting time” with God, and He will not disappoint!
Sr. Maria Veritas Marks is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.