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JRS Online Retreat: Day 7 – Growing in tenderness
Sunday, November 07, 2010

“Tenderness is strength at its fullest.”

As you begin your prayer today, remember that you are in God’s holy presence. Become aware of how God gazes on you all the time, how tenderly and powerfully God regards you. Ask God for what you want in prayer:

Ask God to help you experience the reality of evil in the world, its sinful structures, and your own part in the world’s brokenness. 

Reflections for Prayer

By Alvar Sanchez
Jesuit Refugee Service – Rwanda, Gihembe Camp Project Director

Madrid, 7 November 2010 – There was no possible excuse. For too long the children in the camp kindergarten had been chasing each other all over the place during break-time. We had warned them many times: during recess the pupils must be supervised by their teachers. The teachers were to suggest  games and prevent the children from running down the road. Nonetheless, the previous week some small children grabbed hold of the spare tire on the UNHCR car as it was driving up the hill leading to the school. One of the little ones slipped and broke his leg.

When the desired change of attitude did not materialize, each teacher received an explanatory letter as a warning – a letter they declined to respond to.

I called a meeting with them in the afternoon after school. I remember how I felt climbing the hill. In my head I imagined a quick meeting, a clear message – forceful and undeniable. I knew how to settle the issue, which arguments to use. There were no possible excuses and no attenuating explanations.

Now I realize that that afternoon, in one fleeting moment, we were spared from confusion, misunderstanding and the difficulty of falling into inflexible positions. Waiting for all the teachers to arrive, seated in those tiny chairs, we stared at one another. Although I still do not know how, we managed to understand each other. Perhaps it was the look of exhaustion on their faces, perhaps that shadow of despair, perhaps the despondency of embarking on a fruitless discussion. That silence contained all the truth beating in the hearts of these women and their daily goal of giving their best to their pupils. Never before had I felt the elemental force of this truth.

Neither do I know why the first words that came from my lips were an apology and an acknowledgement. But that changed everything. The only thing I can say is that they spoke and I understood them. Since then we have been closer.

I am thinking of the change of attitude of Jesus when he met that Greek woman born in Syro-Phoenicia (Mark 7:24). I think of all the beauty that Simon the Pharisee could not see the afternoon he spent with Jesus when the sinner came to the house (Lk 7:36). I think of all the invitations, subtle yet constant, which call us daily to live with greater tenderness.

While our personal and collective limitations are numerous, I believe there is a torrent of tenderness which cuts through time and space, opening a way through history to bring us back that heart of flesh we all form part of.

Address God as a friend speaks to a friend. 

Talk to God about your response, your own needs and your deepest desires.

End your prayer with the Our Father, the prayer Jesus taught us.

Suggested Reading for Prayer

Ezeqiel 36:24-26

I will take you away from among the nations, gather you from all the foreign lands, and bring you back to your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. 

"Tenderness is strength at its fullest." ~ Pope John XXIII