Presence across time and space

Blog Published: March 31, 2021
By Sister Chris Koellhoffer, IHM
Blog: Presence across time and space

In this year of living in a pandemic, life as we knew it has changed and we’ve changed as well. We’ve had to alter our ways of being, especially being together when the basic ways of relating were no longer available to us—hugs and kisses, meals with friends and relatives, the ability to travel freely. We witnessed our care and concern for one another morph into what sometimes felt like a pulling back—the masking and keeping safe distances from cherished family and friends. The big question became: how do we keep the relational alive when we can no longer be in the same space as the people we love?

The pandemic has invited us to live more deliberately, carefully, mindfully. To engage in fresh thinking. To find creative ways to be present over space and time. Perhaps we found new ways to pray or to worship. Perhaps we embraced social media or moved to a new address in the Zoom Universe. Perhaps we spent more time on the old reliables of email, phone calls, and yes, maybe even a return to snail mail, all with a desire to stay connected to the human family and to all of creation.

I suspect that the same question was in Jesus’ mind as he approached his final hours: how to keep the relational alive when he could no longer be physically present in the same way he once was?

I imagine him at his Last Supper, reflecting on the way life had been and feeling a deep, intuitive knowing of the way life was about to change. He looks around the Passover table and looks into the fearful, confused faces of his disciples. He offers them the poignant gestures of a tender God: Feet are washed, bread is broken, love is passed around the table. He promises them the gift of his presence: “This is my body that is for you.” Remember me. Re-member me, that is, make me part of you, return me to your mind and heart over and over. Take within you my enduring presence in the Eucharist, for in this way I will always remain with you. Re-member me in lives given over to service and compassion. Love is writ large all over this night.

From that tender farewell meal, Jesus goes out to Gethsemane where his agony is so intense and his fear so overwhelming that he cries out for the company of his friends, who fall asleep. Where he feels that perhaps even Abba God has deserted him. And from that place of suffering, Jesus begins the torturous way of the cross, condemned, alone, abandoned. From the depths of his pain, Jesus asks us again to remember him, to accompany him by recognizing those in whom he continues his journey to Calvary today. To re-member him, to see him again as he continues to endure pain and loss, oppression and anguish in the crucified peoples of our world.

In the silence of Holy Saturday, Jesus offers us a new kind of presence, an emphatic reminder that, even when sin and death seem to triumph, we are not alone in the grave of our despair. Jesus’ waiting with us challenges us to trust that, even if our dreams for a more just and loving world seem temporarily entombed, they are still held in the loving arms of the Holy One. And Jesus, the Holy One of God, is about to break out of that tomb into the fullness of risen life.

Though the events of these days we call “holy” happened in history, they continue to unfold and resonate today in our time and place. How will the Paschal Mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection transform our lives so that we become agents of healing presence for a world that is both beautiful and wounded?

About our blog writer:
Sister Chris Koellhoffer, IHMSister Chris Koellhoffer, IHM, is a Sister, Servant of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Scranton, PA, an author, presenter, and spiritual guide. She has a background in communications and spirituality through Fordham University and the Center for Spirituality and Justice, New York City. She is a longtime contributor to Living Faith and the author of several books, including Longing for the Endless Immensity: Reflection and Prayer for Living a Life That Matters. Sr. Chris engages in mobile spirituality ministry throughout the United States and Canada, offering retreats and presentations on the road. Please visit her blog, Mining the Now.

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