by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM December 29, 2019
Perhaps you’re among the families who spent some time over the holidays moved and entertained by the utter excitement and squeals of delight bubbling up in children around you. Their absolute joy and the way they often show more interest in the box or wrapping a gift arrived in call us back to simpler days, to our own times of wonder and amazement.
In my own family, as a new generation of little ones is being welcomed into the tribe, I often gaze into their faces and remember the words of Rabindranath Tagore:
“Every time a child is born into this world, it comes bearing a message of joy. And this is the message: God is not discouraged!”
I don’t know that I ever thought of the possibility of God being discouraged, and yet, in the life of Jesus, we can point to a number of instances when he was. When Jesus prophesied his death (Luke 18:31-34), “the disciples did not understand any of these things.” When he tried to find words to describe the love that exists in the Trinity and the truth that the beauty of that divine relationship resided in him as well (John 14:1-11), Philip’s utterance of “Show us the Father and it is enough for us” summoned this frustrated response from Jesus: “Have I been with you for so long, Philip, and you still do not know me?” And then there’s the scene in the Garden (Mark 14:32-42) where three times Jesus asks his disciples to stay awake and watch with him. We can easily imagine both Jesus’ frustration and his disappointment when those closest to him simply did not get it.
Could this be why Jesus especially enjoyed gathering babies and little children around him (Luke 18:15-17) even as his followers tried to shoo them away? Could it be because in birth, in new life, in the efforts of beginnings, the Holy One, like us, finds great encouragement?
I have to believe that every time we work to enlarge our spaciousness of heart, this is the message: God is not discouraged. Every time we move through our day breathing compassion and kindness that may never be acknowledged or honored, God is not discouraged. Every time we ourselves bear those messages of joy–“wasting” a day in acts of justice or imagination, forgiving or extending a hand in welcome, practicing outrageous love or audacious hope, God is not discouraged.
As we stand at the edge of a new year, may we continue to bear these messages of joy, even in and perhaps especially in the midst of pain and loss and heartache. May we continue to know and to experience that the God who walks beside us is a God who is not discouraged. Blessings of the New Year to you!
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Reflect on the signs of hope that you see around you.
Invite the Holy One to be with you as you name these encouraging moments, events, or people.
Give thanks, and hold in your prayer all those who at this moment are experiencing discouragement of any kind.
Please hold in your prayer some upcoming events and all who will be part of them:
A planning meeting for the observance of the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation of which I’m a member, the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Scranton, PA). I’ll be offering the keynote for the August 1st celebration of this anniversary for the Sisters of IHM (Immaculata, PA)
A guided retreat, “Many Voices Made of Longing,” that I’ll be offering for the Carmelite Sisters of Baltimore, MD.
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