by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM July 1, 2023
Today is June 19, Juneteenth, the day when African Americans in Galveston, TX were told that they were free. We remember, this was almost 2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. 2 years later! So today is symbolic of the end of 400 years of slavery, and an invitation for all of us to reflect on how near or how far we are from God’s dream of a world where all are welcome and none are excluded.
What St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 6:1-10), he might have been saying to us as we come near the end of this retreat, or really, at any point in our lives: “As we work together with God, we urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” All this week, we’ve been praying for grace, haven’t we? So what are the signs that we’ve not received it in vain? Just how do we know if grace is effective?
I’d like to suggest that one of the signs of our cooperation with grace is the size and scope of our worldview. How closely is it aligned with the mind and practice of Jesus, where all are welcome and no one is excluded? Whom do we always have room for, or whom do we try to keep outside of our circle of belonging? If we made a list, who would be in and who would be out? I suspect those boundaries are a pretty good indication of the width and breadth of our worldview, of how well we look at the world with the eyes of Christ.
The mindfulness teacher Sharon Salzberg (On Being, May 31, 2017) tells a story about worldview, about how we look at the world around us. She says that when she was searching for a cover for one of her early books, her publisher sent her a depiction of a Van Gogh print. In that print, much of the space was taken up by a dull yellow sky. And way down in one corner there were a few crumbling huts. Salzberg looked at it and thought it was a scene of utter devastation. And she said, “This looks like it should be the cover of the Grapes of Wrath or something like that.” Her publisher looked at the same image and said, “This looks like a world that could use some love.”
A world that could use some love. On a global level, the world that could use some love is every place where love has been extinguished. It’s where we hold the tension between the world as it is and the world as it could be, God’s dream of abundant life for all of us.
Closer to home, the world that could use some love might be whatever realities we’re going to meet at the end of this retreat, or at any time in our lives. Our partner, our family, our friends, our community, our co-workers and beyond. In this world, we ask: What is the loving thing to do? How is the loving way to be?
In the Gospel (Matthew 5:38-42), Jesus reminds us to put away our calculators because God does not know to count or keep score. Jesus invites us to grow into this same largeness of heart. To do the counterintuitive and the seemingly impossible thing: “Turn the other cheek. Hand over your coat as well. Go for two miles instead of one. Do not turn your back on borrowers.” Stop counting! Stop keeping score in this world that could use some love.
And here’s the thing about that love: it’s unconditional! The writer, Jason Garner, asks the big question: “When we look around our world, with wars, terrorist attacks, people killing each other over race, religion, gender, sexual orientation…how can we possibly hold a space for loving everyone? But this is, in fact, exactly why we must.”
Because “We’re called to practice a love that is more courageous than all the terror we see in our world…so we love one another even when it’s seemingly impossible; we look for the humanity behind the acts of hatred; we find our own pain in the pain of the world; and we meet it all with an intensity of love that is fitting for our intense times.”
May the grace of God which we’ve received not be given in vain. May the graces of this retreat sustain us and inspire us and grow our worldview. May we go forth to be a healing presence in our beautiful yet wounded world, a world that could certainly use some love. May it be so!
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
You may wish to place before you a globe or an image of a person or place in our world where it appears that love has been extinguished.
Spend some time breathing healing and compassion into that part of our world.
When you are finished, open your arms wide in welcome.
Bow to the Holy One.
Featured Image: Ben White, Unsplash
As you may have noticed, this blog post is adapted from a homily I offered on June 19 while a guest director at Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, MA. Thank you for your prayer for all who were part of the directed retreat in that beautiful place by the sea.
Thank you also for your prayerful support of our IHM Associates’ Assembly, June 22-24. We’re still basking in the glow of being together.
Happy Canada Day (July 1) to all my dear friends to the North, and happy Independence Day (July 4) to my dear ones in the States. May our lives be given over to the healing of our beautiful yet wounded world.
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