In Flight

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, April 23, 2017

We’ve lived and experienced the Paschal Mystery—the suffering, dying, and rising of Jesus–for as many years as we’ve been alive. Because of that familiarity, we can sometimes dreamwalk through the Gospel stories we’ve read and prayed and heard so often. Yet grace can break through and intensify our awareness, calling us to pay attention and notice with fresh eyes what has been in front of us all along.

That was my experience this past Holy Thursday. On that night, I joined my IHM Sisters at Our Lady of Peace Residence, our retirement facility in Scranton, for the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. In that place of peace, I was lulled by the familiarity of the first reading from Exodus (12:1-8, 11-14), listing all the details that needed to be in place for the Passover meal: the time of the ritual gathering; the specific type of lamb; the blood on the doorposts; the elements of unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

But then came a sentence whose ending leaped out at me:

“This is how you are to eat it:
with your loins girt,
sandals on your feet,flightrefugees
and your staff in hand,
you shall eat like those who are in flight.”

Flight? Flight, meaning the action of fleeing or attempting to escape? What does it mean, I wondered, to eat and to live like those who are in flight?

The 15th century poet Mira, revered by Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs as a champion of human rights, offers an insight. In “I Write of That Journey” she notes,

“All actions have evolved
from the taste of flight;
the hope of freedom
moves our cells
and limbs…”

The hope of freedom moves our very cells. The taste of flight lingers with me now as I sit down to a lovely place setting in a peaceful room and invite to the table:
those who are in flight from the bombing of Aleppo;
those seeking refuge from starvation and genocide in South Sudan;
those frantically fleeing terrorist attacks;
those migrating in search of potable water;
those running from religious persecution;
those hiding from the threat of domestic violence.

All are accompanied by a journeying God, a God on the move:
in movement even before his birth as Mary “went with haste” to visit her cousin in need;
carried in his mother’s womb for a census in the town of Bethlehem;
fleeing to Egypt to escape the slaughter of innocents;
living as an itinerant preacher with no place to rest at the end of a day;
walking the last long steps on the way to Calvary.

In the crucified peoples of our world we can so easily name the suffering and dying of Jesus unfolding right here, right now. Yet the Paschal mystery is not only this suffering and dying of Jesus in us; it must also include his rising in a world that is both beautiful and wounded.

In this season of resurrection when we focus on the rising of Jesus and the call to new life, we also underscore another definition of flight: the action or process of movingflighthope through the air; the process by which an object moves through the atmosphere or beyond it; all of the ways Jesus continues to rise in each of us.

This rising, this other type of flight, calls us to remember and give thanks for the many who have lifted us up, encouraged us, affirmed our dreams, supported our visions, loved us and stood by our side when we thought we had not a single redeeming quality. This rising calls us to applaud the poets and artists and dancers and painters who illuminate a vision of a world marked by tenderness and beauty and right relationship. This rising calls us to celebrate those who are bearers of hope and to take up their witness of resistance to the oppression and exclusion of social sin.

May we remember and hold in awareness and in prayer all those who experience any kind of flight this day. May each one of us rise into new life, into unending compassion, into undaunted hope.

Takeaway:

Spend a bit of quiet time reflecting on the suffering, dying, and rising of Jesus today.
Where in our world are you moved by the flight that is taking place?
What might be taking flight in you?

NOTE:
Thank you for your prayers and support for the many retreats and presentations I was privileged to offer during Lent.

Please remember in your prayer all who will be part of a faculty retreat day at Immaculate Conception School, Annandale, NJ, on May 5.

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As If for the First time

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, April 7, 2017

Have you ever heard words coming out of your mouth, words that perhaps you’ve said multiple times, and then suddenly been caught up in a deep knowing that you’re listening to and understanding those same words in a fresh way? Almost like a first, original hearing or an experience of deep mining.

Adults often insist that they’ll never use some of the sayings their parents repeated to them as they were children growing up. Count me among those adults who are one day stunned or startled to hear themselves uttering things like, “Because I say so” or “You’ll thank me later” or some other nugget of generations past. (Here, feel free to fill in the blanks with the utterance that surprised you as it came out of your mouth in an unguarded, spontaneous moment and that echoed an earlier generation who are now appreciated as amazingly wise).

During this year’s very full Lenten schedule of retreats, days of prayer, and presentations, I was often referencing the Paschal Mystery, the suffering, dying, and rising of Jesus in history. I also spent quite a bit of time reflecting and sharing how that same Mystery of Jesus’ Passion and resurrection is happening right here, right now, inEastercandles our time and place. I kept asking and inviting reflection around the question: “When, where, and in whom does Jesus continue to suffer, die, and rise in our beautiful, yet wounded world today?”

I offer profound thanks to the hundreds of people I met this Lenten season, people in Queens, Long Island, upstate New York and New York’s boroughs, New Jersey, eastern and western Pennsylvania, in cities and towns, in parishes and neighborhoods. You put flesh on the words I was saying. In your presence and your praying and your conversations, you made visible the contemporary Paschal Mystery. I listened intently as you shared your insights, as well as your hopes and your brokenness. Everywhere I went, you presented me with the reality of both crucifixion and resurrection.

Because of you, I experienced over and over an almost mystical state of being in the heart of the Holy. You made it easy to imagine how God—however we name the Divine—must be feeling as Jesus continues to journey to Calvary today, as he continues Easterandholyweekto endure pain and anguish, oppression and exclusion in the crucified peoples of our world. Because of you, I have a palpable sense of how Jesus continues to be entombed and waiting with those who are held captive by fear, imprisoned by doubt, their dreams deferred or buried with seemingly no hope of expression or release. Because of you, I also have an overwhelming sense of how Jesus continues to rise in our world, in you who give your lives over to being agents for authentic change, who work to restore right relationship, who refuse to let sin and death have the final word, who offer yourselves as a healing presence to tend Jesus’ wounds in our fragile neighbors.

Because of you, I have already seen and walked with Jesus through Holy Week. You have lifted up for me Palm Sunday’s delight in receiving praise and affirmation; Holy Thursday’s poignant breaking of bread, tearful good-bye, letting go; Good Friday’s anguish in feeling shamed or abandoned or a failure; the anxious waiting and the hopeful wondering about what’s ahead and what’s possible on Holy Saturday; and the bursting, undaunted, irrepressible hope that is Easter Sunday.

I am so profoundly grateful for what you have revealed to me for my own life. I hold you in my heart and prayer with great care and tenderness. And I pray that we may all continue to walk with Jesus beyond this season. That we may invite the Holy to continue to act in us to bring about God’s dream for our world that continues to suffer, to die, and to rise this day and every day.

Wishing you a happy Easter and all the blessings of new life!

Takeaway

Where in your own life or in our world, do you see or experience Jesus’ suffering and dying today? 

Where do you see signs of hope that point to the rising of Jesus in your family, relationships, neighborhood, country, world? 

What might be needed for you to live the truth that the resurrection of Jesus has truly taken place?

 

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