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,
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
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 moving 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.
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?
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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