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!


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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