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JRS Online Retreat: Day 24 – Signs of new life with refugees
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: 'Rivers of living water will flow from within him.'"

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 the Father to draw you into a deep experience of the Risen Jesus who will call you to a life of deeper compassion.  

Reflections for Prayer

by Fr. Joe Hampson, S.J.
Jesuit Refugee Service Thailand

Mae Hong Son, 24 November 2010 – Let’s reflect on experiences of new life that anticipate life with the risen Lord. 

I work in northern Thailand with Burmese camp-based refugees. Our Jesuit Refugee Service team is composed of Buddhist, Catholic, Baptist and Methodist fellow workers, a mixture of faiths reflected in the nearby camp population, but quite different from the overwhelmingly Buddhist context of Thailand.

One Buddhist colleague working with me comes from a minority hill-tribe group.  She told me that joining Jesuit Refugee Service in its work of accompaniment was, quite simply, a source of new life for her. A close observer of Buddhist principles, she described for me an important principle for all Buddhists: they are called to respect new life wherever it is found. Yet the Buddha also taught that life is impermanent with an endless cycle of birth, suffering and death, and rebirth. Only through the practice of compassion and wisdom can Buddhists move beyond this cycle. So this transformative new life with JRS became a place for her to exercise compassion.

That same day I was in the refugee camp talking to the education staff about our large turnover of experienced teachers, as many refugees were taking up offers of resettlement in the U.S. I realized that for those going for resettlement this is another example of the experience of new life.  How often had I heard refugees speak of resettlement as the start of a new life! Though a resurrection experience for some refugees, resettlement also includes the shadow of the cross for others. Beginning a new life in another country can mean losing their old identities. To start life over again requires dying to their familiar past as well as leaving behind family members in Burma.

These dilemmas and dramas are played out in the lives of people enclosed in a controlled environment like a refugee camp, where the only big decision they are seemingly free to make is whether to opt for resettlement or not. JRS accompanies them during these moments of reflection and decision. JRS members try to deepen their own practice of compassion in accompaniment so that it becomes a transformative force for empowerment, rather than an oppressive force for greater control.

In the Gospel of John the early Christian community experienced Jesus as the One who brought them new life. With his gift of the Spirit they, too, became the source of birth and new life to others. As you read the text of John 7:37-39 below, pray for a discovery of new life in your own daily lives. Ask to be transformed by the power of the Spirit and to grow in commitment to a life of compassion.

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

John 7: 37-39

On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, "Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: 'Rivers of living water will flow from within him.” He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. 


"Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: 'Rivers of living water will flow from within him.” ~ Jesus of Nazareth