This time of year can be bittersweet for parents and schoolchildren, as are all shared transitions. So much of relationships and life involves rhythms of letting go and starting anew with all of the accompanying uncertainty. And when we feel things like control and familiarity slipping out of our grasp, we instinctively try to tighten our grip.
Counterintuitively, we have learned to be more accepting of those changes that we never had any control over. In this season of discontent, I have been struck by the ways the greater majority of people have adopted the new norms of social distancing and hygiene. I know that the motivation is probably 50/50 self-preservation and common good, but that’s a remarkable record — for us. Because, I am also struck by the ways that we pretend not to have agency. We have chosen to adopt a narrative that has allowed us to accept the heinous and lethal effects of racism on thousands upon thousands of human kin; men, women, children, and parents; generation after generation; system after institution; person after person.
I have lived long enough to have said and heard on several occasions, “maybe this time…” we will, or won’t, get over it so quickly. Maybe this catalyst or that killing will compel us to let go of our grip on relative normalcy and power. Then we waited, in degrees of comfort, for something to happen. We are in transition again. This time…I wonder what we will be able to let go of, and what we will accept. What and who will we passively reject or genuinely welcome?
Interim Program Manager, Children and Families
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Contemplative photo by Kathy Bozzuti-Jones
You Are Dechomai
Bob Scott, Director, Faith Formation and Education
When have you felt truly welcomed? When have you genuinely welcomed someone?
The brevity of today’s gospel reading shines a laser-like focus on welcome. Not merely a casual or tolerant gesture, but an open-hearted embrace. The Greek word dechomai implies welcome as a demonstration of an inner decision.
Jesus names three types of person we need to receive in his name:
- The prophet — In the Jewish tradition, prophets were known for what we today call “speaking truth to power.” They were persecuted and even executed for holding the authorities accountable to God’s vision of justice, equity, and mutual love and care.
- The righteous person — a term that today we can easily roll over into self-righteousness. For the prophets, though, righteousness meant right action, living an ethic based in love. Without righteousness, the most spectacular worship was meaningless.
- The little ones — Notice that the act he names is a little one itself, “give a cup of water” (10:42). He wants us to know that both have significance.
Where do we see those today?
The prophets are out in the streets, protesting for justice, holding our society accountable for systemic inequities, whether expressed with overt violence or the harsh grinding of skewed laws and social practices. Prophets have never been socially popular (“Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” says the king to the prophet Elijah). How we welcome these tellers of harsh, vital truths will determine our future. “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
And how about those whose actions seem shockingly and disruptively out of step with the way we’re used to doing things? These righteous people may annoy and offend even (or perhaps especially) when we sense the truth in them. They may not say things as we’d like to hear them, or take actions at a convenient time for us. Our salvation depends on getting over that.
And the little ones? The “least of these”? The ones lacking in privilege or power or defense? They are everywhere. We choose whether to see them. And I feel grateful that Jesus finds meaning even in small actions. He’s clear that his disciples are to change the world with boldness, conviction, and willingness to give all. But don’t forget the little things. Every one of us has a chance every day to do them, without forgetting the big stuff.
Welcoming all these isn’t easy. It takes openheartedness, patience, and willingness for self-examination. But it’s choosing life.
- Recall a time you’ve felt welcomed. How did it make you feel? Did it enable you to be more of who you are?
- When have you had a difficult time welcoming another and later found that your relationship with that person was gift to both of you?
- What ideas or people or actions do you have a difficult time welcoming today? Can you relate them to any of the categories Jesus mentions — prophet, righteous person, little one?
Welcome, welcome, welcome. I welcome everything that comes to me today, because I know it’s for my healing. I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions. I let go of my desire for power and control. I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure. I let go of my desire for survival and security. I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person, or myself. I open to the love and presence of God and God’s action within. Amen.
—Fr. Thomas Keating
This prayer, grounded in a full practice, may be found here.
Contemplative photo by Kathy Bozzuti-Jones
How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?
Dr. Kathy Bozzuti-Jones, Associate Director, Faith Formation and Education
God is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
How can you mend a broken heart? Welcome it. Yes, it is counterintuitive, but then, so is much of living faithfully. Our witness to George Floyd’s killing on video was traumatic and brought into relief all the murders of Black men and women endured or ignored for centuries. Our hearts are broken. How can we welcome the depth of this sadness and outrage? And why should we?
When it comes to brokenheartedness over the damage caused by systems of violence and power, the first movement of the heart must be to welcome and accept what is actually happening. Not because we condone it or approve of it. But because, once we begin to accept our experience, teaches Lama Rod Owens (Tricycle Online, 6/23/20), we can begin to move into the world in a way that is less fearful. We begin to touch reality. Why practice feeling a broken heart? “I am trying to love even what is unlovable,” he says.
Embracing the quiet and becoming present to our brokenheartedness, we are practicing love as a deep, nonjudgmental acknowledgement of what is — including racism, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, ageism — all of it. Fear can keep us from acknowledging or accepting the truth of what is present. Fear is the opposite of love. In love, we can meet what is happening, touch into truth, and gain clarity about how to respond. Prayerful attention to our broken hearts releases us from fear and draws us into love. From this mindful place, we choose to tap into the power of love to shape our lives and our work for the common good. Fear is what got us here. Love will clarify our intentions and make our actions against hatred and greed more skillful.
In an essay about biblical lament, womanist ethicist Emilie M. Townes of Vanderbilt Divinity School invokes the biblical call to “dig deep into our innards to tell the truth of what we see, feel, hear, and experience…it reminds us that we must always show up in the face of relentless evil, particularly in such times when it appears so normal and natural in our midst.” This is an invitation to embrace the work of the heart and allow the brokenness of the world to present itself for healing.
The “Welcome Prayer” of Fr. Thomas Keating reminds us that when we welcome reality, we also open to and welcome the love and presence of God’s action within. When we sit quietly and welcome our broken hearts — when we welcome our experience — we welcome God into all of it. Learning how to love begins with tender, caring attention to our own heart’s experience. And now more than ever, this is what we are called to do: to be people of the heart. To be people who can extend love into a troubled world. So that we can create a space for the experience of others, too. It is really quite simple, when you get quiet enough to listen with compassion: Welcoming all of it is welcoming Christ.
- Unison Benediction by May Sarton
- Van Jones on the miracle: “Somebody killed a black man and everybody cares.”
See Family Worship: Home Edition to see this week’s resources for children and families.
Each week, we’ll share a song of the week to help you go deeper with each Sunday’s theme. The playlist will be updated weekly, and the song of the week will sit on top.