Dec 6th to Dec 12th: 2nd Week of Advent – Becoming the Beloved, Part I

Reading: Becoming the Beloved, Enfleshing the Truth, I. Taken, II. Blessed (p. 43 to 83)

From the moment we claim the truth of being the Beloved, we are faced
with the call to become who we are. Becoming the Beloved is the
great spiritual journey we have to make. (p 43)

What a remarkable and wonderful first week of Advent! So many thoughtful and enriching comments! And the sharing of ideas and encouragement among participants is especially rewarding. We’re deeply grateful to each of you for joining us on this journey.

On page 44-45 Henri writes, “. . . we not only are the Beloved, but also have to become the Beloved; . . . If the spiritual life is not simply a way of being, but also a way of becoming, what then is the nature of this becoming?” We will be considering this core question for the next two weeks. Henri will use four words that he says summarize his life as a priest and as a Christian—taken (or chosen), blessed, broken, and given—to explore our becoming the Beloved.

Before moving on to our discussion for this week, here are two YouTube videos that were meaningful to me as we ponder Life of the Beloved. The first is the song You Say by Lauren Daigle (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBMHoFICOZA) that Grant Rickard mentioned last week. Grant said he turns to it in times of doubt or self rejection because it helps him to remember that he is the Beloved. And in this clip from The Lion King (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGQnGQzlAmA), Simba is told to remember who he is as he embarks on a journey to become what he is called to be—the Beloved child of his Father. Isn’t that our life journey too? You are invited to share your thoughts and comments on how these videos may be related to our being and becoming the Beloved.

Now let’s turn to this week’s reading. Once again, there is a wealth of wisdom to contemplate in these chapters about accepting our belovedness and becoming the Beloved. You are invited to share your thoughts and reactions to the reading. You may choose to reply to one or more of these questions or to share your reflections and whatever is on your heart.

  1. From all eternity, long before you were born and became a part of history, you existed in God’s heart. . . . you were already “chosen.” (p. 53-54). In the Letter to the Ephesians we read, “God chose us before the world began. . . He predestined us to be his adopted (children) though Jesus Christ, such was his will and pleasure.” (Ephesians 1: 4-5). What does it mean to you to be chosen by God and what is your response? Why is being chosen the first step to becoming the Beloved?
  2. (W)e have to dare to reclaim the truth that we are God’s chosen ones, even when our world does not choose us. (p. 57) Henri offers three guidelines in this struggle: (a) keep unmasking the world about you for what it is (p. 59); (b) keep looking for people and places where your truth (as the chosen one) is spoken; and (c) celebrate your chosenness constantly (through gratitude) (p. 60). What have you done to claim your your chosenness? How did you respond when confronted with difficulties or the voices in the world?
  3. To give a blessing is to affirm, to say “yes” to a person’s Belovedness. And more than that: To give a blessing creates the reality of which it speaks. A blessing touches the original goodness of the other and calls forth his or her Belovedness. (p. 69) When have you given or received a blessing? How did that make you feel?
  4. The feeling of being blessed is not, it seems to me, the feeling that we generally have about ourselves. (p. 73) Henri provides two suggestions for claiming our belovedness: prayer and presence or “attentiveness to the blessings that come to you day after day.” Try this exercise. Be intentional about following Henri’s two suggestions for the next three to four days. Then share your experience with the group to the extent you are comfortable.

We have another spirit-filled and fruitful week ahead. We are all God’s Beloved and we have the opportunity to grow spiritually and to support each other on our journey. Thanks for being here and we look forward to hearing from many of you.

I’m blessed to be walking with you through Advent.
Ray

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83 Responses to Dec 6th to Dec 12th: 2nd Week of Advent – Becoming the Beloved, Part I

  1. Christopher Ciummei says:

    “My second suggestion for claiming your blessedness is the cultivation of presence. By presence I mean attentiveness to the blessings that come to you day after day, year after year.”

    How often we forget to pay attention to the smallest and often most seemingly mundane of blessings. I have endeavored to focus on the smallest bits of our world in order to hopefully help the largest bits.

  2. Leslie says:

    Stunning. I feel wrapped in joy.

  3. Patrick Schmidt says:

    I have appreciated this weeks reading, especially the reminder to take some time to just sit still and be and remember than I have been chosen. Some good interior work happening for me.

  4. Cynthia says:

    If we acknowledge that self-rejection is the major obstacle then to accept being chosen embraces our intrinsic lovability, our beloved nature. This is the authentic whole being capable of giving our unique love through blessing and presence. Chosen was hard to grapple with, yet as I read the chapter, it began to make sense. Chosen implies a hierarchy, an outside/inside reverting to a duality but Henri described it as an active ever expanding acceptance of who we are outside of our self imposed expectations. The three strategies of awareness are resonating resources.

    The constant barrage of negativity in the face of the heroic work being done by our front line workers, and the deep care that exists when you pay attention is breathtaking. We just finished final exams. Being with my students is one of the places I feel most present. This is reciprocal, timeless and imbued with blessing. After this reading, the feeling became identified, intensified and can expand consciously.

    There is a synchronism to all of this which is universally growing with the practice of recognition. As I was reading, I thought about the St. Francis prayer and there it was in the next paragraph.

  5. Lucy S says:

    It touches my heart to know that God’s eyes were the first to see us and that he has never taken his eyes off of us since. And how important it is that we keep this truth that we are the beloved close to our hearts/minds in all that we say and do continually. As Henri Nouwen states it is so important that we have that quiet time before God to listen to him and hear his words of love. I find that prayer and solitude always centers me and I am filled with the peace of the Holy Spirit and his comforting love. Surrounding ourselves with people who speak life into us is so important because the voices of the world can quickly pull us down without these disciplines and safeguards in our lives. Thank you for these words of life and the simple but profound truth of being taken, blessed, broken and given.

  6. Lydia says:

    “A blessing touches the original goodness of the other and calls forth his or her Belovedness. ” This passage pulled forth a specific memory for me. A Mass on Mother’s Day. Sitting in the back pew with only my two toddler sons. The blessing for mothers at the closing of the Mass and a kind usher seeing how I was without a spouse and with my toddler children gently placed his hand on my shoulder to acknowledge the blessing. He called forth my worth in the world when I felt unseen. Never resist the most simple act of kindness to bless one another. This small gentle act could mend a brokenness and instill tears of gratitude 25 years on.

    • Brian says:

      This is a nice example of an unexpected blessing and well told. Thank you for sharing it. A small gesture that has stayed with you in memory.

  7. Irene says:

    I have so enjoyed the reading this week. And have been savoring little bits of it everyday. One image that has particularly stayed with me is deep currents versus surface waves:

    “When our deepest truth is that we are Beloved and when our great joy and peace come from fully claiming that truth, it follows that this has to become visible and tangible in the ways we eat and drink, talk and love, play and work. When the deepest currents of our life no longer have any influence on the waves at the surface, then our vitality will eventually ebb, and we will end up listless and bored even when we are busy.”

    This is such a beautiful image for me. It makes me remember how when I was a little girl, I used to love to go to our apartment swimming pool when no one was there and just swim under water. I loved the quiet and the freedom of my body moving in the water. I have gone to this image in my meditations – sinking into the deep currents of God’s love. I’ve also tried to remember it when I become caught up in the surface waves of my work and my daily life…

  8. Chaz says:

    I do remember a specific blessing I received that has come full circle as it should.I was traveling throughout Italy with my family. On this day we left Rome and took a fast train to Assisi. A typical tough travel day. Once we got settled in we walked over to St Francis Basilica . It was approaching 430pm. As we entered the info booth for tours the gentlemen informed me that the last tour was 4pm. My disappointment must have been evident.He then offered me a noodle. Yes a rigatoni noodle. There was a note inside. Wow an Italian fortune cookie.i pulled it out not having any idea what it was. The note read: May the Lord bless you and keep you. May he show his face to you and be Merciful to you . May he turn his regard towards you and give you peace.May the Lord Bless you.Now my joy from this Blessing must have been evident to this gentlemen. Then he fulfilled the blessing. He offered us a free personal tour of the Basilca since he was getting off at 430. A 1 hour tour full of all the information I was looking for.What a blessing. To complete the full blessing I ,to this day ,always have have a rigatoni noodle with copies of this Blessing stuffed inside available. From my pocket to the person I encounter who may need a blessing this reencounter from the land of St Francis is complete. So I have tried to become very attentive to my blessings in the day. This allows me to always put the curse under the feet of my abundant blessings.

  9. Karna Haugen says:

    I particularly resonated with Nouwen’s use of the word “taken,” which, while it seems like an odd choice of word, hearkens, I believe to the passage about “taking” the bread at the feeding of the five thousand, and at the Passover meal / the Last Supper. I think we are being equated to the bread in Christ’s hands, and it’s really lovely, compelling imagery.

    I am appreciating this discussion very much.

  10. Helene says:

    I so enjoyed this weeks chapters. They were balm to my soul.
    Also I watched : “A beautiful day in the neighbourhood “ on Netflix. Just a few days before I read the ‘Blessed’- chapter and I think its a wonderful illustration of this chapter.
    I’m in the Netherlands and not sure if the film is available everywhere but if you are able to see it: it’s a blessing.

    • Frank Pavlak says:

      Hi Helene:

      Yes that show is available in the States with Tom Hanks playing Mr. Rogers. Such a great film.

      Yes we are all Blessed with God within us.

      Frank

  11. Sharon says:

    In becoming aware of my identity as The Beloved and resting in that and meditating on it…I am ever so grateful for the newness that has come into that way of living. It does take reflection and as asked in the final question about prayer and presence I have found that I so appreciate that practice. I swim and I often pray and reflect and meditate as I swim. It allows me to be and slow my mind down on the truth of who I am and who God is for me and others. I also walk at the ocean and each time I am struck….I breath in, slow down….I see the vast expanse of the horizon and the many different colors of blue in the water, the consistency of the waves and the power of the water, the light flickering on the water, I am so mindful of our powerful all loving God who delights in me and knows how much I delight in that incredible creation that contains God’s nature….and I feel loved:). Grateful to share this with a community that desires to receive the truth that we are all uniquely loved and blessed.

    • Marybeth says:

      Thanks for your comment Sharon. I’m finally
      learning to trust, seeking His Guidance in my
      life… And I too get much comfort and awe in
      nature, there is something special about that
      connection 🙂 .

  12. Sharon C says:

    I too wonder why claiming that I am chosen, wanted, and desired doesn’t always resonate deep within my soul. I read the Bible and read these words and yet every day I still struggle. These chapters gave really good, simple, practice reasons as to why I struggle, and why I have to claim my chosenness continually.
    P. 48- The world persists in its efforts to pull us into the darkness of self doubt, low self esteem and depression.
    P. 49- you have to keep unmasking the world about you for what it is: manipulative, controlling, power hungry, and in the long run destructive.
    P.61- we easily hear an inner voice calling us bad,rotten, worthless, useless…
    P. 61- The curses, noisy boisterous, loud-mouthed as they may be- do not tell the truth, they are lies.
    I have to remind myself that the battle is real and that Satan roams around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. How thankful I am for the truths of this book, that I am chosen, wanted, and desired and it is this truth that sets me free.

  13. Michael D says:

    Beloveds of God I hope you are having a fruit bearing week

    “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last“ Christ Jesus

  14. Betty says:

    Priscilla,
    Thank you for your response; it was very comforting. I too have thought that my experience matches the will of God, but my sense of unworthiness sometimes interferes with this belief. I do believe that God has enabled me to continue my struggle and the lifelong journey.

  15. Cindy says:

    Getting in touch with our choseness becomes possible when we sit with the Lord in prayer and silence. I loved that being chosen is that you not competitive but it is for everyone, because we are all God’s children. Striving to see others through the lens that they are a child of God changes everything. The sentence “You have to keep looking for
    people and places where your truth is spoken and where you are reminded of your deepest identity as the chosen one” speaks to me as something I have learned is so vital to my peace and joy in life. Loving this book!

  16. Betty says:

    When I was younger, I experienced a sense of acceptance, being the Beloved, and a feeling of oneness with God. The God within me was as real as those in my physical world. But about fifteen to twenty years ago, ironically after a course that focused on The Prodigal Son by HN, I began to feel a greater sense of separateness and unworthiness in my lifelong relationship with God. I continued with everything I had been doing to sustain my faith, but the void within seemed to become larger and darker. Since then I have sought ways to overcome the great loss I felt, but nothing seems to fill the void. There are still moments of joy in my life for which I am grateful, but those do not seem to affect the self-rejection that is center to the overall sense of loss. I chose to join this book discussion, hoping that it will make a difference. Please pray for me.

    • Priscilla says:

      Wow, Betty. Thanks for sharing your relationship struggles with God. I have been in a similar distancing from God, and I have come to see this separateness as a gift from the Lover of my soul. This distancing has been going on for about 3 years, and I have missed the Lord’s presence in my life so much. We’re in a time of social distancing, but spiritual distancing is another story!

      About 6 months ago, I completed a book study on a book called “He Calls You Beautiful,” by Dee Brestin. This book is a study of the Song of Songs, or the Song of Solomon. I implied some things from this book in my initial post to this week’s discussion. Brestin addressed something that has begun to set me free. Perhaps this will help you.

      Brestin saw three different “levels,” of intimacy between the lover and his beloved.

      First, there is the “first love” experience, when everything is euphoric, emotions are indicators that we have said “yes” to being chosen. It is like falling in love. You have described your first love experience in your post. This is found in Song of Songs 1:1 to 2:14.

      The second level of intimacy is referred to as the (ready?} “wilderness love.” Here the beloved refuses the lover, and runs away. She is afraid that the lover will see her imperfections, and she can’t bear to feel the sense of shame she would have over her lover deeply “knowing” her. So she tries to hide, but still wants to peek her head around the corner to see if he is still there. Which he always is, Betty. Even when we don’t “feel” God, he is always there. You can find the wilderness love in Song of Songs 2:15 to 8:4, which is most of the book. The afraid beloved spends most of her time in wilderness love, and it is here that her desire for her lover grows.

      The third and final level of love is found in Song of Songs 8:5-14, and is referred to as “invincible love.” As Dee Brestin says “This is the stage when you know your love is here to stay.” It is in invincible love where the bond between the lover and the beloved cannot be severed. In this final stage of love, the beloved is completely devoted to the one that has drawn her to himself.

      Betty, there is good news! You and I are in wilderness love where we are being shaped into the beloved, where we are becoming the beloved, as Nouwen puts it. We are on our way to invincible love. In our next reading, we are going to read about what Nouwen calls being “broken.” I suspect that I will see similarities between being broken and wilderness love.

      After the confirmation that I am receiving through Nouwen’s writings, I have come to see that I am exactly where God wants me to be. I am seeing that I cannot live without God’s love, and I am slowly surrendering to saying “yes” to being deeply and intimately chosen. Perhaps you are experiencing something similar. Be still and know that he is God, and he has carved you in the palm of his hand.

      Praying for you, dear Betty.

      Dee Brestin. He Calls You Beautiful: Hearing the Voice of Jesus in the Song of Songs. 2017. Multnomah Press.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Betty,
      Thank you for your honest and vulnerable sharing. I’m sure it was difficult to write, “I began to feel a greater sense of separateness and unworthiness in my lifelong relationship with God. I continued with everything I had been doing (emphasis mine) to sustain my faith, but the void within seemed to become larger and darker.”

      As I understand Henri’s core spiritual insight, God created and loves each one of us (i.e. “You are my Beloved) because God is Love. Our belovedness is an undeserved and unearned gift freely given by a loving God. We have worth because we beloved. God’s Beloved is who we are. That is our true self. The world tells us something different. The world says we have worth because of what we do and because of the wealth, popularity, and power that we gain as a result. For me, as as Secular Franciscan, I am called to daily “conversion”–to accept and live my belovedness by turning from the self-rejecting world and turning toward God who loves me. Does this mean I stop “doing” my daily responsibilities? Of course not. But it does mean that I strive to open myself to God’s presence throughout the day and to accept that my worth comes from who I am (created by God to be) and not what I do. And I struggle with this daily.
      Blessings,
      Ray

      • Betty says:

        Ray,
        I appreciate your response. I recognize that being Beloved is what each of us is when we are created. In my head I know that; unfortunately, in my heart I struggle to believe it. I often pray that God will give the grace to become the person I was created to be, but I also recognize that my “doing” will not make it happen. It will happen when it is God’s will.

        • Ray Glennon says:

          That’s for your thoughtful reply. I too struggle in my heart to believe I am the beloved. One of my favorite movie scenes (used each year with Confirmation candidates) is from the Empire Strikes Back when Yoda uses the Force to raise Luke’s x-wing fighter from the swamp after Luke tried, had initial success, lost hope, and then failed. Luke says to Yoda, “I don’t believe it.” Yoda replies, “That is why you fail.” When I explain this to the teens, the Force can be a metaphor for God’s grace. For me, the Force is also “being the Beloved.” And when I don’t believe it, that is when self rejection sets in, I lose hope, and I, too, can fail to, as you said above, “become the person I was created to be.”

          Thanks again.
          Ray

    • Patricia Hesse says:

      I have always found these thought helpful in dark times –I believe that the fact we have those actually shows a tender, vulnerable closeness to God. If we didn’t believe, we would not be troubled by the sense of loss and separation. We don’t miss those we don’t know very well when they are gone –we miss those we are in a close relationship with. Maybe some of these will be a candle for you as they are for me.

      “I know the Lord will help – but help me Lord, until You help.” (Hasidic prayer)

      What Would You Say If
      God Asked You…“Will you love Me and worship Me even if I never answer your prayers and if you never receive another blessing from me?

      We are not alone…
      “In the Ashes” (Noah benShea) from “Jacob the Baker” –(you see, we have all felt like you and been where you are and may return there again)

      When Jacob woke, he opened his eyes cautiously. He reassured himself by measuring his pace in each word of his morning prayer. He was anxious to get to the bakery while it was still dark, to lay his cheek on the warming oven. Nevertheless, halfway to the bakery, Jacob decided to stop at Mr. Gold’s, hoping he would be awake. Under the lamp post of a full moon, Jacob rapped gently on the shutters closeting Mr. Gold’s window. Mr. Gold heard the sound and thought he was a young man again, being called to prayers. “I’m coming! I’m coming!” he shouted to the dawn.

      Jacob was touched to see memory capable of drawing Mr. Gold out of the darkness. When he saw it was Jacob, Mr. Gold motioned for his friend to come in and grew a smile for his company. Then just as quickly, Mr. Gold’s head dipped downward.

      “Do you know who I am, Jacob?” He didn’t give Jacob an opportunity to speak. “I am an old man, and I am dying.” Mr. Gold seemed to sink beneath his sadness.
      “Tell me, Jacob. Is this it?” He motioned around the room. “Is there nothing more? We become attached to this life only to be torn from it like some crude joke in the stars.”

      “We make life not only crude but cold,” said Jacob, “by dressing ourselves in a nakedness woven from our own ignorance.” Then Mr. Gold spoke again from behind his sadness. “It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Our days amount to nothing!”

      Jacob’s eyes listened without arguing or agreeing. He thought of the pain festering in Mr. Gold’s words. When Jacob spoke, his voice unfolded with the attitude of a man not filled with knowing but caring. “Mr. Gold, all passes, nothing stops. Our days do amount to nothing, but that is because we are not a collection. We are a process. The truth about the seasons is that the seasons change. While everything appears to live and die, it is only the appearance of things which lives and dies. The dead are buried. Their memory is not.”

      Mr. Gold’s voice considered Jacob’s words. “You know, Jacob, you are wise, and I am old.”

      “Then you already know, Mr. Gold, that the roots of time hold both memory and promise.”

      “Will you remember me, Jacob?”

      “I promise, one day, I will join you, Mr. Gold.”

      Mr. Gold’s laughter sounded like a trumpet and brought light to the corners of the room. Then the silence regained its balance, and the two men sat there, making music from the quiet between their notes. It was Mr. Gold who counted time and eventually spoke first.

      “Jacob, where do you find the strength to carry on in life?”

      “Life is often heavy only because we attempt to carry it,” said Jacob. “But, I do find a strength in the ashes.”

      “In the ashes?” asked Mr. Gold.

      “Yes,” said Jacob, with a confirmation that seemed to have traveled a great distance. “You see, Mr. Gold, each of us is alone. Each of us is in the great darkness of our ignorance. And, each of us is on a journey. In the process of our journey, we must bend to build a fire for light, and warmth, and food. But when our fingers tear at the ground, hoping to find the coals of another’s fire, what we often find are the ashes. And, in these ashes, which will not give us light or warmth, there may be sadness, but there is also testimony. Because these ashes tell us that somebody else has been in the night, somebody else has bent to build a fire, and somebody else has carried on. And that can be enough, sometimes.”

      Go Ahead, Complain!
      You’re in Good Company!

      Lord, why are you standing aloof and far away? Why do you hide when I need you the most? Psalm 10

      How long will you forget me, Lord? Forever? How long will you look the other way when I am in need? How long must I be hiding daily anguish in my heart? How long shall my enemy have the upper hand? Psalm 13

      O Lord, have mercy on me in my anguish. My eyes are red from weeping; my health is broken from sorrow. I am pining away with grief; my years are shortened, drained away because of sadness. My sins have sapped my strength. I stoop with sorrow and with shame. Psalm 31

      I think of God and moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help. I cannot sleep until you act. I am too distressed even to pray. Psalm 77

      David was honest about his doubts and brought them straight to God. He was also honest about his complaints which helped him to grasp the truth about what was going on in his life. If we hide our doubts about God, we will be sure to drift away from Him. But, if we honestly express them, even complaining about what we see as His apparent failures in our life, we will discover that our faith is renewed. As happens with the psalms of David, his complaints were always followed by words of praise, for God never left him.

      We must lay before Him what is in us,
      not what ought to be in us.
      (C.S. Lewis)

      Getting Rid of the Poison

      In hard times we use words like “depression” in an attempt to describe the inner place of our anguish, but the Psalms use words like “pit” and “darkness.” We speak of “loss,” but the Psalms talk about walking through “the valley of the shadow of death.” No clinical language is as visceral and powerful as these lines from Psalms 22: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it is melted away within me …my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.”

      God allows us to pour out our hearts to him, and get rid of the poison, regardless of how much there is, so that it can be diluted in the ocean of His love. Whether expressing praise or rage, prayer does accomplish at least one thing –it pushes us toward God. (Jerry Sittser)

      Thank you Betty for returning me to these passages that I’ve visited often in my life. You have touched us with your heart.

      • Betty says:

        Patricia,
        The responses from Pricilla, Ray, and you are blessings, and I thank each of you. The “ashes”story and the psalms you share reflect my struggle, and it is comforting to know that I am not alone.

      • Cindy A says:

        Patricia,
        These are marvelous quotes that will encourage me to go on, even when I am weak in spirit or resolve. God is with me.

  17. Lisa Aikins says:

    Having been at home and alone, for the last 8 months, I have been learning to let go of busyness. It has been a difficult process as it seems I’ve kept busy in order to avoid my self; avoid feeling pain. I have become increasingly aware that I’ve lived a life of pretense and this has had consequences of broken relationships and loss of my true, core self. I have chosen this time in isolation to be contemplative, finding a deeper “knowing”of and respect for myself as part of God’s creation and His eternal Beloved. How beautiful is that? ; – )

    • Frank Pavlak says:

      Nice reflection Lisa!

      My daily mantra is:
      Let go
      Let be
      Let God

      Frank

      • Elaine M says:

        Thanks, Frank. I can certainly benefit from this mantra: so simple and yet so profound. I constantly struggle with knowing when I am impelled to action and when I should just let go and let be. My Martha side calls me to make daily “to-do” list, but these days I am more comfortable reconciling that side of my personality when my self-assigned tasks are to write letters of affirmation (blessedness) to friends, family, and colleagues and not to just get jobs “done.” Is this aspect of my Martha-ness part of what I was “chosen” to be, or does my busyness prevent me from fully hearing that small, still voice–and then just be?

        And so I turn once again to the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

        • Frank Pavlak says:

          Hi Elaine:

          Yes trying to balance what you reflected on is not easy to do. I like your writing affirmations to others. I send my connected people photos of sunrises from my daily walk, songs from “you tube” that might be appropriate, or just a short note (maybe a funny) to chk in with them. But affirmations would be good for me to try also. Thanks. I have a number of “things” I do daily that I came up with from my past therapy sessions which I needed because of the difficult life situation I am in.
          Things are so hard nowadays because “It is COVID outside”.
          Later

  18. Henri’s chapter on being “blessed” sparked my attention. Especially in Covid isolation causing depression for so many. Setting my mind on blessing became a blessing.

    Wiki says forms of the word “bless” are mentioned over 500 times in the Bible. In the New Testament the word eulogio means to “speak well of” much like the Latin Henri references (68). The Old Testament has two root words for “bless:” 1) kneel; 2) pool. Essentially it illicited a picture of camels tired from the day kneeling at a pool for refreshment and rest.

    The Talmud for the Jewish faith took it a little father suggesting that blessing is like looking into a pool beyond the surface and seeing something deeply. The idea is that blessing sees something other’s can’t, and speaks forth a transformative word that “creates the reality of which it speaks” (69). Summarily, a blessing speaks well of self and others, sees deeply in both and calls forth a healing reality. Not unlike Jesus seeing deeply into Simon and calling him Peter “upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). What a powerful perk that must have been for Peter’s confidence.

    Henri’s invitation to cultivate blessedness by both sitting in silence and listening to the voice of God (75), and practicing presence by hearing the blessings offered to us by others (79), is a powerful practice that will keep us centered in our True Selves.

    What I love about this whole idea Henri develops is that the net result is not to bask in our own blessedness, but to pay it forward to others. The idea is to fill our own well with Living Water so it will spring up with refreshement for others moving past judging faults to seeing genuine needs. It’s a spiritual movement spurred by Grace with the power to pull another off a precipice and guide them on a path toward life.

    Blessing is so much more than just offering kind words. It brings people back from the brink and says with utmost confidence: “You Belong. You are worth it.” Because “all …people yearn for a blessing. That blessing can be given only b y those who have heard it themselves” (83).

    • Barry Sullivan says:

      Hello Beverly,
      Thanks so much for these in-depth reflections on the reading in Nouwen’s book plus other sources you employed so well in sharing these insights.

      As you expressed in your second to last paragraph, a key focus should be “not just to bask in our own blessedness, but to pay it forward to others. The idea is to fill our own well with Living Water so it will spring up with refreshment for others…” Yes, that is a major point we need to grasp, one that may get lost in our highly individualistic society where our concerns and focus may end once we feel blessed (when our well seems filled). We need to be concerned for the other as well as the self!

      Thanks
      Barry

    • Rodney Page says:

      “a blessing speaks well of self and others, sees deeply in both and calls forth a healing reality.” A powerful, transformative statement and experience. It also communicates “I see you.” And yes, “You Belong, and You are Worthy.” All are powerful healing agents and medicine. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    • Marybeth says:

      As a nurse, I love the analogy that the blessings
      we are given, enable us to see the need, and
      become a part of the healing…
      Thanks!!

  19. Roger Snyder says:

    I appreciate all these comments! Checking in everyday helps me to check in with God everyday. Continuing on the theme… Worldly life is like “Woosh” trying to suck us in its vacuum. A teen I was working with said “Drama is like a maze, it pulls you in and it’s hard to get back out!”-Braydon Barnes. Just taking time to realize our belovedness… take, blessed, broken and given is setting the reset button on my relationship with God. I’m grateful I’ve lived long enough to experience this escape from the worldly suction!

  20. Michael D says:

    Guideline 3: Celebrate your chosenness constantly This means saying “thank you” to God for having chosen you, and “thank you” to all who remind you of your chosenness.

    Advent “choseness” liturgy: Ephesians 1

    Choseness: You are blessed in the heavenly realm with every spiritual blessing. E1:3

    Response: Father thank you for choosing me

    Choseness: You were chosen in Him before the creation of the world. E1:4

    Response: Father thank you for choosing me

    Choseness: You are lavished upon with His Grace: adopted, forgiven, redeemed E1:8

    Response: Father thank you for choosing me

    Choseness: You have been given all wisdom and understanding of the mystery of His will. E1:9

    Response: Father thank you for choosing me

    Choseness: You were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. E1:13

    Response: Father thank you for choosing me

    Choseness: You were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. E1:14

    ‭Response: Father thank you for choosing me

    Blessing: I see the choseness in you.

    Response: Thank you

    Have a Spirit filled and fruitful day

    • Roger Snyder says:

      Thank you Michael

    • Greta Downs says:

      My church has been studying Ephesians and slowly breaking it down. We were encouraged to read through Ephesians each week. (We are taking a break during Advent). I have been using a Spurgeon Commentary and reading a different translation each month. There is so much richness in this book.

      Thank you for this advent blessing.
      Greta

    • Marybeth says:

      Awesome!! Thank you for your blessings
      and blessings back to you too

    • Cindy A. says:

      This is a memorable way to give thanks using Ephesians, especially chapter 1. Thank you for sharing this.

  21. Sharon says:

    There were several points that resonated with me:
    -someone has noticed me in my uniqueness and has a desire ion know me.
    -When you lose touch with your choosiness, you expose yourself the temptation of self rejection
    . There are dark voices telling me that I am nothing special
    -I must keep unmasking the world abut you for what it is manipulative, controlling, self destructive.
    -we need an ongoing blessing that allows us to hear in a new way that we belong to a loving god that will never leave us alone.
    I think it al comes down to choosing, choosing to see the negative voices that tell me I’m hopeless and have no where in live to go. I must turn away from destructive thought to life giving thoughts. I am chose, I am unique, I have a purpose and I matter to God. I am not abandoned.

  22. Priscilla says:

    Hello everyone! Nice to read all of the ways that God is using this week’s readings to awaken our spiritual minds and hearts. I, too, pondered many of the things Nouwen stated and aligned them with the life events that happened this week.

    First of all, I pondered and applied the word “taken” to my personal life events. I do not like this word used in the context of God choosing us. To be taken reminds me of some terrible things that happen far too often in life, specifically kidnapping, rape, and sex trafficking. I wish Nouwen was alive today because I’d like to know what ever could have prompted the use of the word “taken” as it pertains to God’s power in choosing his beloved.

    I like the word “chosen,” but even then I ask, “Do we have the power to refuse to be chosen?” I think we do. What I find so amazing is God’s approach to us, which does not remove our power of refusal. In my life, God has been a pursuer, someone who has wooed me to him by his gentle love. God has made me want him, much like a beloved marriage partner woos the other. This is why I so love the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon), a precious and often overlooked biblical book. Song of Songs shows the dynamic and patient wooing of the beloved by the lover. Even when the beloved rejects the lover by running away, the lover waits for her.

    This brings me to the second notion that struck me this week: Nouwen’s ideas of “presence” as one of God’s ways of of pursuing the beloved in such a way that we become those whom God desires. In my life, I have had this continual sense of God being there. Not that God has done things for me, which is another story. But God has always been lurking, just close enough that his “tug” has been real to me. Sometimes I have trouble trusting God, and I want to push him away. But no matter, God continues to lurk. At the end of God’s lurking pursued are the words “Come away my beloved.” My response is thus: “What? You think I am your beloved? Really?”

    I am not taken. I am not even chosen. I am wooed into God’s presence, which is where I belong, which is where I become God’s beloved, which is where I am free to dance.

    I think this is a message that can enhance Nouwen’s perspective. God woos us to himself and shows us that we can trust his love. This is the Song of all songs.

    I love worship music, and here are links to a couple of songs that represent my ideas better than I can ever say. I hope these songs speak God’s love to your hearts, as they have to mine.

    In Your Presence by Lynn DeShazo
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAULXBPfQbA

    Dance With Me by Paul Wilbur (Updated link)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5C4hc-rbo9k

    Have a good week in God’s intimate presence.

    • Grant Rickard says:

      Dance with me is one of my favorite songs. I love it

      • Priscilla says:

        I agree, Grant. It’s a request to the lover of our soul to dance to the song of all songs. I’m glad this song brought meaning to your life.

    • Marybeth says:

      I’m Grateful to be Wooed as well…
      Thanks for your on target point, like
      Cupid’s Arrow!

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Priscilla,
      Thanks for your beautiful sharing. I have a slightly different perspective. You wrote, “I am not taken. I am not even chosen. I am wooed into God’s presence, which is where I belong, which is where I become God’s beloved, which is where I am free to dance.” I think Henri is emphasizing that it is God’s initiative. From that perspective, we are beloved because we are chosen by God. Our belovedness is a gift. And God chooses out of love–whether we accept it or not. Yes, God is also calling and wooing us into his presence. We have free will and it is up to us to make a choice. We can choose to accept the gift of our belovedness or not. But we cannot choose to “do” something that will make us Beloved. We can only choose to accept the gift we have been given. And it’s the most priceless gift of all–You are the Beloved.
      Blessings,
      Ray

    • Cindy A. says:

      These two songs are wonderful to bathe in God’s love and presence. I have bookmarked them, so that I might use them in worship/prayer time. Thank you!

    • Brian says:

      Priscilla,

      Your point about how the word “taken” can be “taken” the wrong way is a good one and thought-provoking. I think this may be why Nouwen pivoted to using the word “chosen” as a more friendly alternative.

      It’s also worth remembering that “taken” comes from two New Testatment events, the “taking” of the loaves and fishes by Jesus when he fed the multitude and the “taking” of simple bread to teach the apostles at the last supper. In the first case, Jesus was putting to use an offering that the apostles said could not possibly be of help with a crowd so large. And it was taken, blessed and distributed as a miracle. In the Last Supper, Jesus uses something commonplace, ordinary bread, to foretell the meaning of his death and resurrection.

      So, too, then, I see in Nouwen’s words a notion that we ordinary people who often might feel that we are enough to make a difference — we in our imperfect, small selves, are important to God. That is a mystery. And an encouraging one.

      Thank you for your sharing. It was very helpful in thinking about and challenging the text.

      Brian

  23. Barry Sullivan says:

    A theme that I think is of special importance (one that I often forget) is to “(c) celebrate your chosenness constantly (through gratitude) (p. 60),” posed in Ray’s Question 2.

    A noted Ted Talk that captures the central role gratitude should play in our lives is from Br. David Steindl-Rast. From the introduction:
    The one thing all humans have in common is that each of us wants to be happy, says Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar. And happiness, he suggests, is born from gratitude. An inspiring lesson in slowing down, looking where you’re going, and above all, being grateful.
    https://youtu.be/UtBsl3j0YRQ

    Gratitude is a source of true happiness! Than means being grateful even when it seems things are not going well, as we are brought low by a pandemic (and other illnesses), wars, oppression, corruption, and many other things. Henri addresses this as he discussed the need to “claim the light” and express our “thank you.” A key message from Henri: “What fascinates me so much is that every time we decide to be grateful it will be easier to see new things to be grateful for. Gratitude begets gratitude, just as love begets love” (p. 62).

  24. Marybeth says:

    I enjoyed watching the videos that Ray provided,
    showing that God’s message is in our world in many
    forms, if we maintain the Presence that Henri describes.
    What was comforting to me in the song was believing
    that God “holds me”, as I need that Embrace during
    lonely times. The film clip as a reminder that our
    Father (Son & HolySpirit) are a part of me that must
    be remembered and shared. As Henri writes at the
    end of both Taken and Blessed chapters: the desire to
    reveal to others their choseness and offer blessings to
    them is part of that “becoming the Beloved”. Sharing
    God’s promise of Love to all… broken, seeking, lost.
    I wholeheartedly believe, as others have commented,
    in the importance of being open to change in me. As
    I practice the prayer of silence that Henri so clearly
    describes, it helps me to feel safe in that Embrace, to
    let go of the business in my head with all my agendas,
    and practice daily trusting His plan, waiting…
    without knowing… open to the Love

    • Sharon says:

      Yes …wow…waiting without knowing ….that is so true …and being ok with that must mean that we are secure…safe in being and identifying in the reality that we are The Beloved from the beginning and now after all that has transpired in my life or any life. And open to change!!! Again I resonate with that because if I had not been open to change I don’t know if I would have been able to see how loved and precious I am and how others are as well. Change can be scary …it goes back to being safe and secure and knowing that God accepts me and is with me always…never leaves never forsakes. I appreciate what you shared. Thank you.

    • Brian says:

      “Waiting without knowing.” Very nicely said.

  25. Ty Sharron says:

    Q1) From all eternity, long before you were born and became a part of history, you existed in God’s heart. . . . you were already “chosen.” (p. 53-54). In the Letter to the Ephesians we read, “God chose us before the world began. . . He predestined us to be his adopted (children) though Jesus Christ, such was his will and pleasure.” (Ephesians 1: 4-5). What does it mean to you to be chosen by God and what is your response? Why is being chosen the first step to becoming the Beloved?

    ANSWER: Being chosen by God means I am enough just as he created me. That said, I seldom understand that in my day to day, and I definitely don’t live and respond from that place. Many of my troubles are based on my own subjective lens of reality that sees myself as not enough, as unworthy. If I am to ever learn to respond to the world from a place of chosenness and receive God’s love and reciprocate it to others, that would change so many things positively in my life. This is what I aspire to.

    Q2) We have to dare to reclaim the truth that we are God’s chosen ones, even when our world does not choose us. (p. 57) Henri offers three guidelines in this struggle: (a) keep unmasking the world about you for what it is (p. 59); (b) keep looking for people and places where your truth (as the chosen one) is spoken; and (c) celebrate your chosenness constantly (through gratitude) (p. 60). What have you done to claim your chosenness? How did you respond when confronted with difficulties or the voices in the world?

    ANSWER: As an avid people-pleaser for most of my life, I am just starting to learn the idea of deriving my chosenness from a perfect source, that is, God himself. I resonate a lot with Henri’s observations about our fast-paced world and how it’s hard to slow down and even think and mediate on these realities, but I need to start doing it so I can learn to “claim my chosenness.” Traditionally I have not responded well when confronted with difficulties or voices in the world. Even just today, I found myself in a low-grade depression over feeling unwanted by some people in my life.

    Q3) To give a blessing is to affirm, to say “yes” to a person’s Belovedness. And more than that: To give a blessing creates the reality of which it speaks. A blessing touches the original goodness of the other and calls forth his or her Belovedness. (p. 69) When have you given or received a blessing? How did that make you feel?

    ANSWER: I loved the chapter on blessing. It really re-framed a lot for me. I have always assumed (and witnessed) blessing as a representation of a desire for people to get “things” (specifically material things) from God. “This car was a blessing.” “Father, bless me with more money,” or “more opportunity,” etc. Not that those are necessarily always completely wrong or inaccurate, but to understand blessing in the way that Henri teaches about it is powerful. I have both given and received blessings in my life, and I must say, few things do speak as powerfully to the core of my being, especially when the blessing is well-timed and to/from the right person.

    Q4) The feeling of being blessed is not, it seems to me, the feeling that we generally have about ourselves. (p. 73) Henri provides two suggestions for claiming our belovedness: prayer and presence or “attentiveness to the blessings that come to you day after day.” Try this exercise. Be intentional about following Henri’s two suggestions for the next three to four days. Then share your experience with the group to the extent you are comfortable.

    ANSWER: Will work on this and get back to everyone.

  26. Roger Snyder says:

    “A blessing touches the original goodness of the other and calls forth his or her Belovedness.” (p. 69)

    Nouwen, Henri

    I posted this quote on our active church facebook. I followed the quote with an invitation to blessing through messenger. Hmmmm… curious if this nice twist in ministry finds some receivers!

  27. Michael D says:

    What stood out to me most in this week’s blog is your statement at the end“ We have another spirit-filled and fruitful week ahead.” I’ve never said that before on a Monday. It’s my mantra this week. It postures wonderfully as a guide to our blessings in Ephesians 1. I am experiencing Ephesians 1 in a new blessed, grateful, prayerful and presence-full way. I hope to continue to meditate on Ephesians 1 along with the mantra this week.

  28. Sharon K. Hall says:

    The two suggestions for cultivating our blessedness–prayer and being attentive to presence are very welcomed by me because they were concrete things for me to work on. In Henri Nouwen’s chapter, I was impressed by Janet and the way that she asked Henri for a blessing she could really feel blessed by. Sounds like she knew how deep a genuine blessing could go into her soul and when she felt she was being let down. For quite a few years now I have been experiencing blessings from the Franciscans and also when they have their annual Blessing of our pets, bring my pet over to the prayer garden to be blessed in a very nice service. Bei Ling even gets a Franciscan medal to wear on her collar which I consider something akin to a scapular. A couple of years ago a Protestant church in town decided to do a drive-by pet blessing, pets being blessed through the car windows, and my Protestant church decided to do a pet blessing during the worship. Some people didn’t want to bring their pets to the outdoor service but did go forward with pictures on their cell phones for their blessings. I must confess I was sort of contemptuous–do these people even know what they are doing, it felt so trivial. But during this pandemic, with all the virtual stuff going on, one book I recently read was a person (Protestant) witnessing to how virtual worship, blessings and so forth really helped her feel healed as she has a very disabling chronic illness. Now I am reading another book on virtual worship, communion and so forth written by a Catholic author and rather than looking so much on how people of faith are blessing people and pets, I am rather of a strong opinion that there is a whole wave of people hungering for theology of blessing and the Catholic tradition, so strong on the subject (I even understand that back in some much earlier century, people refrained from communion but participated vigorously in blessings and Eucharist Adoration and so forth. Seems like a lot of people want this more sacramental theology now but will also want–as Janet wanted and as I also want–for the blessings to feel heart-felt, sincere, genuine, Soul-building, have integrity, come from a well of authenticity that helps us transcend the Soul-destructive tendencies within and around us. They have to be mediated from Jesus I think. I was impressed by Janet and Henri Nouwen both being able to have a relationship like that and not just have the blessing be a ritual or something someone does passively or individually or for other reasons than real need of human beings and pets needing these blessings.

  29. Marija Cachia says:

    In our community of Youth Catholic Action I’ve had different experiences of receiving and giving blessings – in retreats/seminars we sometimes close off by writing a message to every participant. I still keep mine even from more than 10 years ago and sometimes I re-read them to see the way others see me or how I’ve helped them even when I didn’t think I was able to do anything good or spectacular. It is also for this reason that I’ve come to value a lot writing down something, even for no reason at all, just a simple message. I know what it feels like to receive this kind of blessing – a message of thanks, of encouragement for who I am. So I offer it back particularly to those younger than I with the hope that they might find some comfort in knowing they mean somethign to someone.

  30. Patricia Hesse says:

    Pollyanna was originally published in 1913, by Eleanor Porter. Most know the story from the book, movie, or from the somewhat negative expression, “Well, aren’t you a Pollyanna?” One day Pollyanna’s father, who was a church missionary supported by donations from the Ladies’ Aid Society, received a long-awaited donation box for his family. Pollyanna had been wishing with all her might for a doll, but the only thing for her to play with was a broken pair of crutches. When she started to cry, her father promised her that if she stopped crying he would teach her to play a game that would bring her more happiness than any doll ever could. He taught her that in every situation, no matter how bad it might seem, you could always find something to be glad about if you looked hard enough. Pollyanna decided she was “glad” she didn’t need the crutches and could run and play. Pollyanna and her father played that game every day, looking as hard as they could to find the thing they could be glad about in every situation. The more difficult the situation, the more fun and challenging it was.

    After a while, the game became automatic to Pollyanna. She often didn’t even realize she was playing it. She had just trained herself to see what she could be grateful for, in every situation.

    On page 61, Henri says, “Where there is reason for gratitude, there can always be found a reason for bitterness. It is here that we are faced with the freedom to make a decision. We can decide to be grateful or to be bitter. …When we keep claiming the light, we will find ourselves becoming more and more radiant.” As Henri so beautifully shares –herein lies a most joyful pathway to embracing our belovedness –open eyes that intentionally seek God’s embracing love in all circumstances, filling us with gratitude.

    Many Novembers ago, the first year SAM’S CLUB opened in my area. The store had a large nativity set for sale, that I envisioned on my front porch with amber spotlights shining on it at night, and it became mine. But there was a problem: we live so far off the road that even though the figures were large, they were difficult to really see. After several years, I finally realized that this nativity was never meant for my porch, but was truly meant for our church. Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the Wisemen, the angel, and the shepherd have been part of our sanctuary decorations for quite a number of years now –however, the view I see of them remains obscured. I play the organ and where it is located, I only see the back of the stable. I still can’t see the beautiful figures…

    The second Christmas it dawned on me that perhaps my view of only the back is the perfect Christmas lesson. We may be unable to physically go to His manger, we may be unable to see the Wisemen kneel, and the shepherds bow their heads; we may be unable to see Mary holding the Savior to her breasts, but we know they were there… just like I know beyond a doubt what lies on the other side of the back wall of the stable. Yet, I see it.

    Dear Lord, open our eyes to see Your radiant light in all things –even the back of a stable, and there, find our belovedness.

    • Roger Snyder says:

      Thank you for the illustration and back story on Pollyanna! I’ll put that story in my toolbox as a tool when I need it!

    • Frank Pavlak says:

      Thanks Patricia:

      I have always tried to look at the good of any situation no matter what may have happened. Sometimes there it’s a struggle to find the positive in certain situations but as you have brought out there are benefits and a good habit to develop.

      Frank

    • Cindy A. says:

      The “glad game” keeps us grateful and could be intentional ways we look for God, so that we can say, “Thank you, Lord!”

  31. Al Negron says:

    In my Christianity, I have often thought that there is more “doing” than “being”. Yet Nouwen does one better by adding “becoming”. I can’t just “be”, I must also become. This is a transformational journey. If I embark, I must also reckon that I will be changed. This is not about the status quo or maintaining it, but it is about welcoming the many and deep changes that will result in my becoming (functioning daily as) the Beloved.

    • Patricia Hesse says:

      I heard once that if we aren’t changing, our journey has stagnated. I will remember you passage, “welcoming the many and deep changes.”

    • Rick Strong says:

      Al
      I like your comment about “doing” and “being” As a Spiritual Director I have studied the Enneagram. It is more than a personality study. It talks about our doing and being. I struggle with my doing and being all the time. Doing sometimes can make us feel important, accepted, and successful. Being let us leave those thoughts so that we can become who God created us to be. It is the process of change you talked about from Nouwen’s reading about the Beloved. Thanks for pointing that out to us.

    • Michael D says:

      Yes. Henri also helped me discover my journey from transformation to incarnation

  32. Robin Oickle says:

    These readings come to me as a breath of air in a stagnant universe. It is not stagnant as the breath of Spirit roams the whole universe. For me, however, it is these words of “ belovedness. by the Beloved, that lifts my head up…….lifts my voice up….lifts my dreams up…….up and up ,until they become my whole being…..
    Yes, dear ones, we are the Beloved of the Beloved Shepard.
    Thank you, this day and may you be blessed as you read these words and write them.
    Amen

  33. Roger Snyder says:

    Bad news travels quicker than good news??? Why am I so likely to hang on to the derogatory, but the positive seems fleeting? I can acknowledge the positive and even feel it but the sense doesn’t last. When I get frustrated, I can dwell on the negative while my brain struggles to process the pain. However, I should spend as much time, actually more on the blessings! I look forward to spending time in prayer considering “being chosen”, “made in God’s image” and the inherent blessings.

  34. Margaret Mary Bissember Downey says:

    I was given this blessing by an elder and have taken it with me (and blessed others with it) many times since. It is the holiest, most whole, and grounded I’ve felt: [Name], I anoint you with oil and I lay my hands on you, beseeching God to uphold you and fill you with His grace. May the love of God, which is abundant and merciful and tender beyond our understanding, renew and heal you. May you be released from suffering and restored to all health and walk in the fullness of Spirit.

  35. Darren says:

    Q1: We cannot realize our belovedness unless we also see that the love is intended or willed. That love is chosen. Nouwen insists that our belovedness presupposes we have been chosen, or taken. While his use of “taken” first struck me as odd, I realized this is the language of marriage. Spouses take the other as husband or wife. In so taking, each abides with the other as one who is their beloved. Marriage serves as a reflection of the abiding love God gives to each of us. It then makes sense that a first step in becoming the Beloved, we need to see that God has taken (or chosen) us into an unbreakable covenant of love.

    Q2: Reclaiming our chosen Belovedness through the practice of gratitude also struck me. Here too, I felt a bit puzzled at first. Gratitude is a staple of my spiritual life, yet I paused when connecting it to being the Beloved. This connection I realized, gives greater significance to gratitude, so it is not for its own sake. Rather, the gratitude serves to enable us to grow as the Beloved whom we are. This awareness connects an act of gratitude to realizing we have been taken / chosen. Giving thanks for some gift or grace prompts me now to see that this goodness is willed by an other — ultimately by Divine Love.

  36. Elaine M says:

    It is easier to believe in the “chosenness of others” when we see people we know, when their good intentions are clear despite human frailty, when others share our intrinsic values. It is harder to see chosenness in those who appear to be only self-serving and who cause great harm to others. I do believe that God may forgive just as he does the repentant “good thief” on the cross, and I do know that an evil doer may eventually mend his ways, but it is harder to see that chosenness in the throes of a current bad situation. It is easier to see in someone like Helen, especially as Henri describes his efforts to see beyond her handicaps and delve into and appreciate her intrinsic value as a human being and child of God.

    I love that Henri points to gratitude as “the most fruitful way of deepening [our] consciousness that [we] are a divine choice.” That sense of gratitude envelopes me as I consider the sacrifice of my children shopping for my husband and me during the pandemic despite their many other daily responsibilities, the hours spent by our St. Vincent de Paul conference members working to keep neighbors in need from eviction and food insecurity, the prayers and thoughtful little gifts my husband received during his cancer treatments, the unflagging efforts of medical personnel and first responders, teachers doing double or triple duty to teach students in person and remotely and through home visits. Their “chosenness” is so clear, each one a piece of the mosaic of God’s belovedness. I feel gratitude when I too can rise to the occasion and respond in kind or when I know that I can still seek forgiveness and another chance when I fail.

    Note to self to review the previous entries in my gratitude journal lest I forget the many evidences of belovedness in even (or maybe especially in) the “commonplace of my daily existence.”

    • Irene says:

      @Elaine M you’re so right. “It is harder to see chosenness in those who appear to be only self-serving and who cause great harm to others.” I struggle with that as well. It’s easy to see chosenness in those I love, or those who are doing good work, even those who are struggling and in pain. I really find it challenging to see “chosenness” in those who are consumed by love and promotion of self at great cost to others. Intellectually, I can understand their chosenness, but my heart just doesn’t go there.

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