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Rays of Hope by Henri Nouwen
Dear Lord, risen Lord, light of the world, to you be all praise and glory! This day, so full of your presence, your joy, your peace, is indeed your day.
I just returned from a walk through the dark woods. It was cool and windy, but everything spoke of you. Everything: the clouds, the trees, the wet grass, the valley with its distant lights, the sound of the wind. They all spoke of your resurrection; they all made me aware that everything is indeed good. In you all is created good, and by you all creation is renewed and brought to an even greater glory than it possessed at its beginning.
As I walked through the dark woods at the end of this day, full of intimate joy, I heard you call Mary Magdalene by her name and heard how you called from the shore of the lake to your friends to throw out their nets. I also saw you entering the closed room where your disciples were gathered in fear. I saw you appearing on the mountain and at the outskirts of the village. How intimate these events really are. They are like special favors to dear friends. They were not done to impress or overwhelm anyone, but simply to show that your love is stronger than death.
O Lord, I know now that it is in silence, in a quiet moment, in a forgotten corner that you will meet me, call me by name and speak to me a word of peace. It is in my stillest hour that you become the risen Lord to me.
Dear Lord, I am so grateful for all you have given me this past week. Stay with me in the days to come. Bless all who suffer in this world and bring peace to your people, whom you loved so much that you gave your life for them. Amen.
Ode To the Passionflower
by Helen Losse
growing in Mary’s Garden—
your lavender flowers prophetic in unction:
Your tendrils are shown forth
as Christ’s scourging, the three top stigma the nails,
the five lower anthers the wounds, the radial
filaments the crown of thorns,
placed on the head of the “King of the Jews.”
O, teach us, teach us, little reminder—
for red stains are His blood, shed,
the style to mock, to offer Him vinegar:
Your fragrance all spices that anoint,
and like the dogwood, your taller neighbor,
with each flower Calvary’s cross, your
blossoms focus on the sadness:
For, while gladly we walk in the garden,
the joy of heaven has yet to come.
first published in Flutter
Smiles Breaking Through Tears by Henri Nouwen
Dying is a gradual diminishing and final vanishing over the horizon of life. When we watch a sailboat leaving port and moving toward the horizon, it becomes smaller and smaller until we can no longer see it. But we must trust that someone is standing on a faraway shore seeing that same sailboat become larger and larger until it reaches its new harbor. Death is a painful loss. When we return to our homes after a burial, our hearts are in grief. But when we think about the One standing at the other shore eagerly waiting to welcome our beloved friend into a new home, a smile can break through our tears.
Where Mourning and Dancing Touch Each Other by Henri Nouwen
“[There is] a time for mourning, a time for dancing” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). But mourning and dancing are never fully separated. Their “times” do not necessarily follow each other. In fact, their “times” may become one “time.” Mourning may turn into dancing and dancing into mourning without showing a clear point where one ends and the other starts.
Often our grief allows us to choreograph our dance while our dance creates the space for our grief. We lose a beloved friend, and in the midst of our tears we discover an unknown joy. We celebrate a success, and in the midst of the party we feel deep sadness. Mourning and dancing, grief and laughter, sadness and gladness – they belong together as the sad-faced clown and the happy-faced clown, who make us both cry and laugh. Let’s trust that the beauty of our lives becomes visible where mourning and dancing touch each other.
“God is our refuge and our strength . . . ” Psalm 46:1
The Path of Waiting by Henri Nouwen
Passion is a kind of waiting – waiting for what other people are going to do. Jesus went to Jerusalem to announce the good news to the people of that city. And Jesus knew that he was going to put a choice before them: Will you be my disciple, or will you be my executioner? There is no middle ground here. Jesus went to Jerusalem to put people in a situation where they had to say “Yes” or “No”. That is the great drama of Jesus’ passion: he had to wait for their response. What would they do? Betray him or follow him?
In a way, his agony is not simply the agony of approaching death. It is also the agony of being out of control and of having to wait. It is the agony of a God who depends on us to decide how to live out the divine presence among us. It is the agony of the God who, in a very mysterious way, allows us to decide how God will be God. Here we glimpse the mystery of God’s incarnation. God became human not only to act among us but also to be the recipient of our responses.
. . . And that is the mystery of Jesus’ love. Jesus in his passion is the one who waits for our response. Precisely in that waiting the intensity of his love and God’s is revealed to us.
What is your response? Is this week holy for you?
Sharing Our Solitude by Henri Nouwen
A friend is more than a therapist or a confessor, even though a friend can sometimes heal us and offer us God’s forgiveness.
A friend is that other person with whom we can share our solitude, our silence, and our prayer. A friend is that other person with whom we can look at a tree and say, “Isn’t that beautiful,” or sit on the beach and silently watch the sun disappear under the horizon. With a friend we don’t have to say or do something special. With a friend we can be still and know that God is there with both of us.
What a fantastic definition of friend: a person with whom “we don’t have to say or do something special, ” one with whom “we can be still” and leave it to God to abide with us.
The Infinite Value of Life by Henri Nouwen
Some people live long lives, some die very young. Is a long life better than a short life? What truly counts is not the length of our lives but their quality. Jesus was in his early thirties when he was killed. Thérèse de Lisieux was in her twenties when she died. Anne Frank was a teenager when she lost her life. But their short lives continue to bear fruit long after their deaths.
A long life is a blessing when it is well lived and leads to gratitude, wisdom, and sanctity. But some people can live truly full lives even when their years are few. As we see so many young people die of cancer and AIDS let us do everything possible to show our friends that, though their lives may be short, they are of infinite value.
Remembering my mother, Elsie R. Jones (May 13, 1921 – March 12, 2013), who lived a long and fruitful life.
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. John 15:9
Unconditional Love by Henri Nouwen
When we freely allow fear to dominate and change us, we live in misery far from our home of unconditional love.
Meanwhile Jesus, our example, says to the disciples and to us, “Don’t be afraid. Perfect love casts out fear.” He walked freely, lived freely, and carried on an intimate relationship with the One who sent him into the world. Throughout the nights or early mornings Jesus spent time communing with the One who loved him. Among his last words he tells us, “As the Father has loved me, so I also love you. . . . If you keep my word, the Father and I will come to you and we will make our home in you. . . . I will send you my Spirit, who will dwell with you forever, and will remind you of all I have said to you.” Jesus came to convince us that Our Maker’s love is pure gift, unearned and free.
We are free to relate with the Source of all life or not. A great love embraces all the love that you and I have ever known, from father, mother, spouses, brothers, sisters, children, teachers, friends, partners, or counsellors.
Welcoming unconditional love automatically makes us more like the Unconditional Lover. Divine love lasts forever.
Excerpt from Henri J.M. Nouwen’s Home Tonight: Further Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Doubleday. Scripture quotation from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989, 1993 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America.