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 the 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.
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!
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.
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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