"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

30-Day Lockdown Retreat Journey: We Need God, No Question, But Does God Need Us Too? (DAY 19)

The Calling of Saint Matthew by Caravaggio c. 1600

Today is Day 19 of the 30-day whole community retreat journey in light of the lockdown. 

Point Of Departure: Esther "Etty" Hillesum (15 January 1914 – 30 November 1943) was a Dutch Jew author of confessional letters and diaries during World War II. In 1943 Etty was deported and killed in Auschwitz concentration camp. Her diary is a very good Spiritual Reading for the well-being of our soul during trying times. It was recommended for my own spiritual reading by my spiritual director.  Here is an entry entitled "Sunday morning prayer" (July 12, 1942) that brought me to feel the same way like how she was feeling back then. They call this experience "Déjà Vu"derived from the French, meaning "already seen." Etty's diary sparks a similar reality already seen, or an act that happened in the past only that this time the enemy is invisible to the naked eye against human life as a whole.

I quote,

“Dear God, these are anxious times. Tonight, for the first time I lay in the dark with burning eyes as scene after scene of human suffering passed before me. I shall promise You one thing, God, just one very small thing: I shall never burden my today with cares about my tomorrow, although that takes some practice. Each day is enough unto itself (cf Mt. 6:34). I shall try to help You, God, to stop my strength ebbing away, though I cannot vouch for it in advance. But one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me: that You cannot help us, that we must help You to help ourselves. And that is all we can manage these days and also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of You, God, in ourselves. And perhaps in others as well. Alas, there doesn't seem to be much you Yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives. Neither do I hold You responsible. You cannot help us but we must help You and defend your dwelling place inside us to the last.”

"I have strength enough, God, for suffering on a grand scale, but there are more than a thousand everyday cares that leap up on me without warning like so many fleas. So for the moment I scratch away and tell myself, 'This day has been taken care of now, the protective walls of a hospitable home still surround me like a well-worn, familiar piece of clothing, there is food enough for today, and the bed with the white sheets and the warm blankets stands waiting for me tonight, so don't let me waste even one atom of my strength on petty material cares. Let me use and spend every minute and turn this into a fruitful day, one stone more in the foundations on which to build our so uncertain future.'" (Selected with an Introduction by Anne Marie S. Kidder, "Etty Hillesum: Essential Writings," Orbis Books 2009)

Three months before she was murdered and in the height of pain and sorrow that she experienced in Westerbork (A Dutch transit camp where thousands of deported Jews arrived before they were sent to various concentration camps) she wrote this in her diary on August 18, 1943:

"You have made me so rich, oh God, please let me share out your beauty with open hands. My life has become an uninterrupted dialogue with you, oh God, one great dialogue. Sometimes when I stand in some corner of the camp, my feet planted on the earth, my eyes raised toward your heaven, tears sometimes run down my face, tears of deep emotion and gratitude. At night too, when I lie in my bed and rest in You, oh God, tears of gratitude run down my face and this is my prayer."
(He Is My Brother The Bonding of a Priest and a Rabbi Over 25 YearsFr. William Treacy and Rabbi Raphael Levine, Classic Day Publishing 2007), p. 171.

Grace To Beg For: To ask for what I desire. A deep awareness of God who needs me more now than ever, and greater than my need for Him. I long for that grace to stay awake and to guard the little piece of God glowing in my soul.

Word Of God: (See full texts below from universalis.com)

1. Mark 13:33–37 (Be watchful! You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming.)

2. Luke 21:34-36 (Be vigilant that you may have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent.)

Questions Or Considerations To Ponder:

When her friends were asking her to go into hiding, she made the following reflection...

"People often get worked up when I say it doesn't really matter whether I go or somebody else does, the main thing is that so many thousands have to go. It is not as if I want to fall into the arms of destruction with a resigned smilefar from it. I am only bowing to the inevitable, and even as I do so I am sustained by the certain knowledge that ultimately they cannot rob us of anything that matters. I certainly do not want to go out of some sort of masochism, to be torn away from what has been the basis of my existence these last few years. But I don't think I would feel happy if I were exempted from what so many others have to suffer. They keep telling me that someone like me has a duty to go into hiding because I have so many things to do in life, so much to give. But I know that whatever I may have to give to others, I can give it no matter where I am, here in the circle of my friends or over there, in a concentration camp. And it is sheer arrogance to think oneself too good to share the fate of the masses. And if God Himself should feel that I still have a great deal to do, well then, I shall do it after I have suffered what all the others have to suffer. And whether or not I am a valuable human being will become clear only from my behavior in more arduous circumstances. And if I should not survive, how I die will show me who I really am." Etty Hillesum

Prayer Requests:
You can email request for prayers for the dead (Name—RIPusing 8thworkermercy@bloggercom—there is a DOT between 8thworker and mercy. It is restricted so that only me as blog author can read it. Others will NOT be able to read any email; instead they will get a message stating that this is private. We will offer your intentions during our regular 6:30AM Masses in our community of Jesuit priests and novices.

P.S. Feel free also to include the names of all who are sick (Name—Get well soon).

Fr. JM Manzano, SJ

Mark 13:33–37

Be watchful! You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

Commentary (Credits: Universalis.com)

This brief parable of the master returning unexpectedly is typical of Jesus’ vivid way of speaking. The message is typical, too, for Jesus was constantly stressing that there is no time to lose. In the gospel of Mark especially there is a feeling of hurry: in chapter one alone there are 14 instances of ‘immediately’! When Jesus came in his earthly ministry he again and again challenged his hearers to make up their minds NOW, to change their ways NOW. He challenges us to do the same. We can hear the rattle of the returning Master’s key in the lock. There is no time to hide the contrabands, to pull our uniforms straight before greeting the Master at his entry. Even if we do not think that the world’s end is imminent, even if death is not threatening, every moment counts, every decision is for or against Jesus. Saints are rumoured to have said that, if they received the news that they were to die that night, they would carry on doing what they were doing anyway.
Luke 21:34-36

Be vigilant that you may have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Commentary (Credits: Universalis.com)

Today Luke puts before us three matters, all of permanent importance in the work of spreading the Good News which Luke has been outlining: sobriety, prayer and the trap.
  The first, sobriety, is a symbol for concentration and perseverance, to avoid the distractions of carousing in a worldly enjoyment and so ending up like the drunken steward of Luke 12.45 who maltreats his fellow-servants and does not notice his master arriving back. The second is prayer, the permanent accompaniment of the apostolate, which Luke has stressed throughout the Gospel: Jesus prays all night before choosing the Twelve; he teaches them his own prayer; parables of prayer abound, and especially the persistence of the Wronged Widow and the Unjust Judge, and the humility of the Tax-Collector.
  The third matter is a nice verbal confusion, or perhaps a pun. 1Thessalonians 5.3 likens the onset of the Day of the Lord to the suddenness of labour-pains, whereas Luke 21.35 likens it to a trap being suddenly sprung. The latter is an allusion to a poem of Isaiah (24.17) on the fall of Jerusalem. In Aramaic the same letters are used for both words, ‘trap’ and ‘labour pains’, though pronounced differently, so perhaps both meanings were intended. The fall of Jerusalem to the Romans was both an end and a beginning.


  1. Thanks for this. Having great time with reflections and with God.


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