Discovering Our Own Deafness

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, February 18, 2018

Ephphatha! Be opened! What a wonderful Gospel not only for the close of a retreat experience but for any time when we’ve been discerning how the Holy One has been moving in our lives and for reflecting on what we’ve taken in and truly heard.

In this passage from Mark’s Gospel (Mark 7:31-37), Jesus heals a person who has a double challenge: he’s deaf, and he also has a speech impediment. This may be why Mark writes that “the people brought him to Jesus.” This unnamed person couldn’t hear or speak, so deafnesshe couldn’t even cry out to Jesus in his need. He had to rely on others to intercede for him and to get Jesus’ attention. In this action of the others is an invitation to us also, an invitation to remember with gratitude all those who support and hold us in prayer at any time, but most especially during those times when we can’t seem to speak for ourselves, when our energy or passion is so low that we need others to advocate on our behalf.

Pause for a moment to offer thanks for all who, right at this moment, are holding you in prayer, bringing you to Jesus as the friends of the deaf person did; pause for a moment also to remember anyone in our world who right now is desperately in need of your prayerful encouragement and affirmation.

Whenever I hear this gospel, I think of a man named Benito. I first saw him when I lived in Jersey City, NJ in a high rise apartment building. The residents there were mostly Latino, so my very limited Spanish was sorely tested. But I happily discovered that sometimes we don’t really need words to communicate. From the first moment I moved in, I was so touched by the graciousness of my neighbors, who were constantly asking me “How are you?”, “How are you finding your way around?” “Is there anything you need?” Everyone was helpful. Everyone welcomed me. Everyone except Benito.

Anytime I saw him, it was as if I didn’t exist. When I was with Benito in the elevator, he would always yell “Abierto!” (“Open!) when we reached his floor, and then he’d exit and brush by me without saying a word. In this warm Latino culture, his behavior was a striking contrast to the spirit of all my other gracious neighbors.

If I greeted him with “Good morning” or “Buenos dias” or “How are you?” Benito never responded. Not only that, but he would sometimes brush against me, knock things out of my hand, and never apologize. I began to think, “What’s his problem?” And for weeks I had a single story for him, the only thing I knew about his life. And that single story was Rude. Rude. Rude.

Then one day I was on the elevator with another neighbor and as the doors started to close, Benito walked by.

“Isn’t that a shame about Benito?” my neighbor said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well,” she said. “You know his eyesight is so limited. And he just found out yesterday that his hearing is almost gone.”

In that moment, I wanted the elevator to swallow me whole. Here I had been making all kinds of judgments and sticking negative labels on Benito, when all this time he was struggling like the deaf person in today’s Gospel. He carried the double challenge of both limited sight and loss of hearing.

So which of us, Benito or Chris, was the deaf one? Which of us needed to pray “Abierto!” Open! to the needs of our neighbor?

When my heart was opened in that Ephphatha moment, my view of Benito was turned upside down. He was no longer a single story of rude, rude, rude. He was now a person of courage, navigating a dark and silent world with amazing grace. My judgment, my single story of who I thought him to be, got in the way of the truth of who he actually was.

deaf4This same Holy One who makes the deaf hear and the mute speak is active and alive in us, offering us the grace of his presence and healing. As we move into our day, may we continue to listen. May we live Ephphatha in the days ahead. May we be opened to the invitation to truly hear and offer compassion to all that our world loves, pursues, and suffers.

Ephphatha! Abierto! Amen!

Takeaway

Sit in a place of stillness. Listen intently and openly to the Holy One.
Can you call to mind a time when you might have passed judgment on another?
When your critical judgment based on what you saw or heard turned out to be far from the truth of the other’s reality?
What assumptions might have been underneath your judgment?
How did your view of the other change when you learned the truth of their circumstances or their story?
Ask the Holy One to bathe you in compassion and in openness of heart.

Images:
pinterest.com
tarabrach.com
steadfastlutheran.com

NOTE:
Thank you for your prayerful remembrance of all who were part of the guided retreat for the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Dubuque, Iowa February 4-9. Today’s blog post is adapted from a reflection I offered on the closing day of that retreat.

Please now hold in your prayer these upcoming experiences:

February 21: Retreat day for the staff of RENEW International at Mount St. Mary House of Prayer, Watchung, NJ

February 26: Retreat day for Regional Vocation Directors at Emmaus House, Ocean Grove, NJ
Thank you!

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Listening as an Act of Love

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM for February 4, 2018

 

When were you last deeply listened to by another?

Listened to without unsought advice being offered or judgment being expressed? Listened to by someone who wasn’t simply counting the seconds until your pause or intake of breath created an opening for the listener to jump in and offer you the wisdom of their years of experience? Listened to without being told, “I know just how you feel,” listeninghandtoearfollowed by the listener’s recounting of their story, perhaps a similar parallel event, but one that was not your story. When were you last so fully and attentively heard that you felt not only listened to but also valued and affirmed?

Many years ago in a survey, people were asked to recall a moment when they felt most deeply loved. Most of the responses indicated a striking similarity, for the moment of feeling most deeply loved was often also the moment when respondents were in the presence of someone who had the gift of profound listening. A listening that’s the kind David Augsburger describes when he writes, “Being heard is so close to being loved that, for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”

Quite an equation, isn’t it? Being heard = being loved in some way. Hopefully, all of us have the graced opportunity to have in our lives a friend, a mentor, a teacher, a spiritual guide who has the particular gift of accompanying us in this way no matter what is unfolding in our lives. Henri Nouwen described so well the qualities of this person of presence and deep listening in Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

That level of caring and attentiveness can also be found in spiritual direction, sometimes called spiritual guidance or spiritual companionship. For the director, it’s a call to a listening so deep that it mirrors and reflects the unfailing presence of the Holy One who is the third person—along with the director and directee–in that meeting. This way of spiritual coming together is about the “stuff” of one’s life and how the Holy One is moving in all that “stuff.” As spiritual guides open their hearts to the sacred story of another and act as spiritual companions, they’re in a privileged place. Here they get to witness the unfolding story of how God is present and acting in another’s life and how the other is noticing the presence of the Holy One there.

In accompanying others as friends, mentors, teachers, spiritual guides, all of us must also come face to face with our own powerlessness and must own our inability to save others from their pain, to take away their losses, to mend their fractured relationships, much as we desire to do so. As listeners, we’re not called to enact what is beyond our human abilities. We practice the limits of living in that space of “not knowing, not curing, not healing.” We grow in trust in the power of the Holy One whose faithful presence we hope to mirror for others. We offer what is ours to give: spaciousness of heart and a safe place where others can lay down burdens, share what delights and draws them, and speak out loud their unique story, all with the assurance it will be received with reverence.

The following prayer by Jay McDaniel resonates with our hopes for becoming deep listeners. It’s one of the Prayers for a Thousand Years, a collection of hopes and  aspirations written as we moved from the end of the twentieth century into the twenty- first century, into these next thousand years:

earth weknowyourdream.org

In this century and in any century,
our deepest hope, our most tender prayer,
is that we learn to listen.
May we listen to one another in openness and mercy.
May we listen to plants and animals in wonder and respect.
May we listen to our own hearts in love and forgiveness.
May we listen to God in quietness and awe.
And in this listening,
which is boundless in its beauty,
may we find the wisdom to cooperate with a healing spirit,
a divine spirit,
who beckons us into peace and community and creativity.
We do not ask for a perfect world, but we do ask for a better world.
We ask for deep listening.

Takeaway

Sit in a place of stillness.
Call to mind the last time you were fully and lovingly heard.
What did this experience feel like? Look like? Sound like?
When have you offered this same gift to another?
Ask the Holy One to listen with love in you, and give thanks.

Images:
Fotolia.com
Fluentu.com
Earthweknowyourdream.org

NOTE:

Please remember in your prayer all who are part of a week of guided retreat for the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (PBVM) taking place February 4-9, in Dubuque, Iowa. Thank you!

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Breaking into Beauty

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM for January 21, 2018

 

The possibility of breakage is part of everyday living. In our bodies, we can break bones and split open skin. With our words, we can both affirm and wound. Promises and relationships can be nurtured or shattered. Carelessness, inattention, accident, indifference–all can break both objects and hearts.

A perfection-seeking consumer culture finds little or no value in things that are imperfect, flawed, in need of repair. This culture tells us that what is damaged, split, or smashed must be hidden, kept out of sight, or discarded and tossed into the trash.

We know from experience that returning broken heirlooms or artifacts to anything resembling wholeness can be an especially difficult task. Antiques Roadshow admonishes us that telltale cracks or chips or well-intentioned touch-ups can greatly diminish the worth of treasured objects, causing them to lose whatever value they might once have held.Breaking shattered pot copy

We name things that are spilled or spoiled, burnt or torn, as “ruined,” with little hope of restoration. To mend or alter is much more challenging than to create from scratch. To rescue the soup into which a shaker of salt has tumbled requires skills bordering on the miraculous.

Yet there can also be a form of beauty in what is broken or worn or in need of repair and restoration. What if, instead of lamenting the flaws in our possessions and ourselves, we approached them as teachers pointing the way towards a new practice of wholemaking? Our spiritual traditions emphasize the call to treat people and animals and also inanimate objects with respect, care, and reverence, no matter what their condition. Our efforts to recycle, to see the potential in what is old or used, remind us that we are reincarnating something that would otherwise be forever lost or forgotten. In memorable lyrics, composer Leonard Cohen makes the case for the lessons of breakage and the imperfections in our lives by renaming them as graced: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

The Japanese art form, kintsugi, finds profound beauty in what is broken. Kintsugi is believed to date back to the 15th century when the favorite bowl of a shogun was shattered. Efforts to repair the bowl with metal staples, the custom of the time, diminished the bowl’s appearance, so the disappointed shogun enlisted a craftsman and charged him with this task: find a method of restoration that not only repairs the bowl but actually enhances its original beauty.

That method, kintsugi, uses lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum to fill in the cracks. The precious metals don’t hide the damage that’s been done but instead actually highlight and draw attention to what is cracked, transforming what was viewed as a flaw into a prominent part of the new art form.

There’s a contemplative dimension to the practice of kintsugi. It invites the artist to spend time with brokenness, not to fear it but to mine its depths, to become intimate with it. Kintsugi demands that the artist listen to and learn from the past history or spiritual background of the item being restored. It requires a worldview that is able to discover in the broken, the old, and the seemingly useless a surprising witness to a new and profound type of beauty.

Today and every day, may we embrace the artistic and spiritual practice of kintsugi. May we see beyond surface appearances. May we open ourselves to a way of looking at the universe that finds potential for the beautiful in what is damaged and flawed in ourselves and in others. May the Holy One who holds us in tenderness show us our own beauty even when, perhaps especially when, we look at the fragments of our lives and cannot imagine any dimension of the beautiful in them. May this same Holy One continually fill in the cracks and lead us and our world into a place of wholeness.

breakingpinterest.co

Takeaway

Sit in a place of stillness.
Place before you a photo of an item that is visibly broken, or hold in your hands an object that is cracked, chipped, worn. Gaze at this.
What moves within you as you spend time in the presence of brokenness or imperfections?
Where in yourself or another have you recognized the potential for a new dimension of the beautiful?
Ask the Holy One to reveal to you your own singular beauty, and give thanks.

Images:
katieminami.blog
pinterest.co.uk
Chris Koellhoffer

NOTE:
Please hold in your prayer all those who will be part of these upcoming events I’ll be leading in the near future:

January 26-28:   Directed Prayer weekend at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth, Wernersville, PA

February 4-9:    Guided Retreat for the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (PBVM) in Dubuque, Iowa.

Many thanks for your remembrance of all of us!

 

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Nurturing a Winter Soul

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM for January 7, 2018

What is the gift of winter? After more than a few days of fierce wind, snow measured in feet rather than inches, sputtering car batteries, and layers of ice so thick it laughs at the puny scrapers with which we threaten it, we might be tempted to utter an incredible “Gift? You call this a gift?” Understandably, our recent winter experiences here in the North might easily tempt us to name this season as more of an inconvenience, a disrupter of plans, a foe of travel, an enforcer of hibernation, and nothing more.wintersingleflake

True, our sister, winter, brings all of these experiences to many of us. The deep freeze, the unrelenting cold, the snowy blanketing of landscapes, the slowing down or absolute halting of plans. As we experience all of these harsh realities, might we also acknowledge that winter comes bearing gifts? Sabbath time, hush and stillness, fierce beauty, rest, gestation and deepening. Winter reminds us that, no matter what appearances seem to imply, the universe is always invested in healing and growth and renewal, gifts of this season.

Winter is not a season of standstill. She often moves below the surface and the seen, ushering in a time of contemplative, expectant waiting, of dreams and inner visions. She calls us into a slowing of our steps, into mindful movement, into a hush of silence, into a rhythm of seeming to do nothing but go deeper. She offers us the grace to mine her presence, to reflect on the bareness of trees, the stillness of landscapes, the darkness of star-filled nights. She invites us into sacred rest. Most of all, she challenges us to foster and nurture a winter soul.

In “Winter Spirituality,” a guest post for the Monk in the World series, Nancy L. Agneberg reflects on her own preference for the gifts of this season and on having just such a soul.

“I value the harvest of fall, the energy of spring, the secure lingering of summer,” she notes, “but even more I covet the lairs of winter, the hidden passages, the unlit corridors, the streamlined views, the bareness of the horizon. The action coldly stopped, frozen without conscious time. I’ve done what I can all those other days and months and now it is time to leave what is undone and to unwind the sweater til once more it is yarn. It is sheep. It is essence.”

wintersheepcopySo especially during this season, may we cultivate patience to listen to the unresolved questions frozen in our hearts. May we believe in our resiliency when we are wintered. May we trust the love and mystery deep within ourselves and others. May winter reveal to us the hidden, the invisible, the heart of what really matters. May we foster a winter soul.

Takeaway

Take a few minutes to sit in the stillness of this season.
If you are in a wintered area, gaze out the window or walk outside if it’s safe, temperature-wise. What do you see?
What are the challenges, places where you feel frozen, stuck, or hardened in your life? Where in your life might you be dreaming of a softening or awaiting a thaw?
Invite the Holy One to winter in you.

Images:
hdwpro.com
livescience.com
animalsaustralia.com
pixabay.com

Wintercopy

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When the Word Is Embodied

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, for December 24, 2017

Sometimes a word and a moment collide and their merging breaks open fresh meaning.

Not long ago, I had left the TV on and went to take a shower. As I was exiting the bathroom, I could tell, even without seeing the TV, that whatever program I had been watching earlier had now switched to the daily liturgy. Just as I was slathering Aveeno on my winter-dry skin, the words of the Eucharistic consecration filled the room: “This is my body.”

letting go arms

I stood up straight with recognition. Suddenly my hand filled with cream, my skin glistening with lotion, my fingers gently smoothing moisturizer over rough elbows—all were suffused in a moment of nuanced definition. It was as if a light had shone on my body and I was seeing my flesh for the first time. Yes, I thought, this is my body, the keeper of memory, the recorder of pain and delight and wounds and dreams. This is my body. And it is so much more.

My very flesh, my human flesh, my blessed and broken flesh is no ordinary thing, graced as it is by the Holy One. My flesh embodies the Holy One. In this season of preparing our hearts for the coming of a vulnerable Child, haven’t we been reflecting on what it means to have a body? What it means to take on our human condition as Jesus did, like us in all things save sin? What it means to incarnate the Holy in our own lives?

As we stand on the edge of celebrating the Nativity, we remember how God’s love, so great it could not be contained, expressed itself and became enfleshed in our humanity. This divine expression is Jesus, whose body shivered in the cold, succumbed to fatigue, hungered for bread and for fish, felt the sting of the whip and the weight of the cross, slipped away for quiet prayer, drank wine at a wedding, enjoyed the company of cherished friends. Jesus, who during his time living on this Earth gave flesh to the words, “This is My body.”

The Holy One, living in each of us right here, right now, continues to proclaim, “This is My body.” This is My body today, breathless at the sight of a sunset, crippled with arthritis, savoring a meal, parched with thirst in migration, perspiring during manual labor. This is My body, reading a story, writing an email, sleepless with worry, delighted in play, grieving a loss, longing for renewal.

Simeon the New Theologian (949-1022) has been trying to tell us this mystical truth for all of our lives. May we listen to him with a heightened consciousness these days as we pray his poem prayer, Awakening the Beloved:

We awaken in Christ’s body, as Christ awakens our bodies.
There I look down and my poor hand is Christ,
He enters my foot and is infinitely me.
I move my hand and wonderfully
My hand becomes Christ,
Becomes all of Him.
I move my foot and at once Mexican Nativity copy
He appears in a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous to you?
–Then open your heart to Him.
And let yourself receive the one
Who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
We wake up inside Christ’s body
Where all our body all over,
Every most hidden part of it,
Is realized in joy as Him,
And he makes us utterly real.
And everything that is hurt, everything
That seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
Maimed, ugly, irreparably damaged
Is in Him transformed.
And in Him, recognized as whole, as lovely,
And radiant in His light,
We awaken as the beloved
In every last part of our body.

Takeaway

Find some quiet time over the Christmas holidays.
If possible, pray near a crèche or Nativity scene and gaze on it.
Reflect on the wonder that is your human body:
For what are you most grateful?
What aspects of being human are challenging for you?
Share this with the Holy One as you sit in stillness and in gratitude.

You are in my heart and prayer for blessings for you and all in our beautiful, yet wounded world at this Christmas and into the new year to come.

IMAGES:
Modernday.org
Lettinggo
Chris Koellhoffer, Nativity from Mexico

NOTE:
Thank you for your prayerful support of the retreats and presentations that formed my Advent journey this year.
Please now hold in prayer my days of stillness and reflection during January as I prepare for a full calendar in the new year. Thank you.

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Moving Beyond the Limits

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM for December 10, 2017

Have you ever had to move? Whether that reality is recent or in the remote past, you may still remember what evolved in the wake of your decision-making: sorting through possessions, discerning which belongings to take and which to dispose of or leave behind. Packing and unpacking. Tending to your own emotional well-being in the transitioning. Feeling disoriented even after you settle in to your new home.

Whether the experience of moving is the outcome of your own carefully selected choice or was set in motion and dictated by circumstances you had no control over, one thing is clear: even in haste, there are discernments needing to be made about what to let go ofhandscoloredearth copy and what to make room for in your new residence as well as in your unfolding life.

In the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus tells us how discerning and deep listening fit into his definition of neighbor. The neighbor, he insists, is one who makes room, who stretches the boundaries of hospitality, who sets in motion a journey that fosters spaciousness of heart.

In reflecting on the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jon Sobrino says, “This meeting [between the passersby and the injured man] is where the human part is decided: Either you make a detour around the person who fell in with robbers, or you heal his wounds.” Either you cross to the other side of the street in an act of avoidance, or you make room in your heart for the presence and the stories of others.

In telling the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus indicates what he makes room for: the broken, the forgotten, the smelly, the bleeding, the overlooked, the wounded, the needy, the inconvenient, and on and on.

As we prepare for Christmas, we revisit the familiar passage in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 2:6-7) that recalls in two brief sentences the lack of space that greeted Emmanuel, the infant God-with-us, on his arrival:

“When they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Perhaps we’ve occasionally wished that we could have been present on that moving day, at the moments leading to Jesus’ birth. Perhaps we’ve reflected on how we would have re-written the story so that the circumstances of Jesus’ birth would have offered decent housing, warmth, ambiance, a welcoming environment. But Dorothy Day admonishes us to shift to another way of thinking about the Nativity, one rooted in our time and place:

“It is no use saying that we are born two thousand years too late to give room to Christ. Nor will those who live at the end of the world have been born too late.

Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts. But now it’s with the voice of our contemporaries that he speaks; with the eyes of the store clerks, factory workers, and children that he gazes; with the hands of the office workers, slum dwellers, and suburban housewives that he gives. It is with the feet of soldiers and tramps that he walks, and with the heart of anyone in need that he longs for shelter. And giving shelter or food to anyone who asks for it, or needs it, is giving it to Christ.”

Where in our contemporary world do we see the realities of Jesus’ life echoed today?

Jesus, coming into a world that has no room for him.
Jesus, in forced migration, moving from Nazareth to Bethlehem while still in his mother’s womb.
Jesus, an outsider, finding no safety or shelter in the inn.
Jesus, a refugee, fleeing for his life in the company of his parents.
Jesus, finding no place to rest and lay his head during his public life.

We have to wonder what every one of these experiences of being an outsider did to Jesus. Did they grow his own spaciousness of heart? Did they make him even more tender in welcoming the outcasts and the misfits? Did they root in his heart and impel him to dream and work toward a world where all are welcome and none are turned away?

In Howard Thurman’s beautiful prayer, “Christmas Comes,” the call of this season is made clear:

“When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.”

During this Advent and the days to come, may we pay attention to the Holy One’s invitation to greater spaciousness of heart. May the Divine impulse toward hospitality take root and expand in us today and always.

Takeaway

Sit in stillness in the presence of the Holy One.
Reflect:

Who do you easily welcome into your heart?
Who is it challenging to welcome?
What one practice of hospitality might grow your heart and also make a difference in our world?
Ask our gracious God for greater spaciousness of heart, to hold in tenderness all that our world loves, pursues, and suffers.

Images:

faithlifeministries.net
handscoloredheart

NOTE: Thank you for your prayerful support of all the Advent experiences I’ve been privileged to lead in the past two weeks. Please hold in prayer these Advent programs I’ll facilitate or lead in the days before Christmas: 

December 11: Advent Penance Service, Christ the King Church, Springfield Gardens, NY
December 15: Advent retreat day for the faculty and staff of Our Lady of Port Richmond School, Philadelphia, PA

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The God Who Loves Leftovers

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM for November 26, 2017

The Holy One loves leftovers. I’m not talking about the kind we crave the day after Thanksgiving as we search for new and creative ways to reimagine turkey and all the trimmings from our holidays feasts. No, the divine predilection shows itself in a continual outreach and a tender welcome to all who are excluded, dismissed, ignored, missing from the table. These, all of these, are the leftovers the Holy One is dreaming about today in our beautiful, yet wounded world.

We’ve listened to, read, and prayed with the Gospel accounts of the multiplication of theHandswithbread2 (1) copy loaves and fishes (Matthew 15:32-38, Mark 8:1-10), where Jesus stretches the capacity of a meager reserve of bread to fill hungry stomachs. Miracle enough, but what Jesus does next is even more astonishing. He directs the disciples to gather up seven baskets of fragments, the broken pieces, the crumbs that nobody wants. In this simple, tender action, Jesus shows his care for the leftovers, for all that is fragile and seemingly insignificant in our human family.  His gaze is focused on those who are overlooked,  undervalued, granted not a second of attention or care.

The crumbs and the broken fragments are called by another name in Chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel. Here Jesus highlights his particular affection for those the world might dismiss as lost causes: the wandering or inattentive sheep; the misplaced coin; the willful, impulsive child. Lost, lost, and lost we call them, but far from being forgotten, they are front and center in the memory of Jesus. His constant desire is for their return. He imagines them as temporarily lost but permanently found. All his longing is for their homecoming. All his hope is in someday hosting a feast that celebrates their turnaround.

We stand at the edge of Advent, a season when we contemplate the mystery of God’s love made flesh among us, the Word taking on our human condition. In Emmanuel, God-with-us, we see up close the witness of Jesus’ self-emptying love. We see his lived experience of what it means to be the anawim, the small and vulnerable one, born as an outsider in a stable, rejected by his own people.

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We see how the Holy One turns our notion of belonging and worth on its head and evidences a predilection for those who are vulnerable, marginalized, without power or voice, the hidden ones, those who seem to count for nothing. These Advent days remind us that, no matter what is happening this moment—shame or brokenness or beauty or joy—we may recognize our lives as precious and know ourselves as welcomed guests at the divine banquet. May we embrace our neighbor as an equally honored guest as we gather at the gracious table of plenty the Holy One has set.

Wishing you every blessing of the Advent season ahead!

Takeaway

Sit in stillness in the heart of the Holy One.
Reflect on one of your own experiences of being an outsider.
Name what this felt like and looked like for you.
Imagine yourself now as both healed and affirmed in the heart of the Holy One.
Express your gratitude to this welcoming Presence and breathe your blessing to others in need in the universe.

Images:
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Chris Koellhoffer
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NOTE:
Please hold in your prayer the many Advent events I’ll be privileged to lead in the next two weeks: 

November 29:   Pre-Advent evening for Lay Ministry Formation, Diocese of Scranton, PA
December 3:     Advent afternoon for the Churches of Sullivan County, NY
December 4:     Advent Evening of Prayer, Christ the King Church, Springfield Gardens, NY
December 5:     Advent Evening, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish, Swoyersville, PA 

Thank you for your prayerful support! 

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