Sep 14

Back in January, one of my fellow bloggers discussed the trend to find your word for the year – a directive, inspiring you for the year. Back then I had no ideas and, until now, had no word which stuck to me. For the last few days, however, I have one word embedded in my head and my heart. It is “behold.”

Webster defines it as “to observe or to see,” but my understanding goes further. It is to see with attention and to observe with care. To “notice” is not an accurate synonym or comparison. The King James Version of the bible has 1,298 Instances where “behold” is used. The one which stands out in my mind is John 19:26-27 “When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!”  Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” Jesus was not inviting simple observation. It was an invitation for much more.

At Mass, I think is the one of the really important changes which occurred when the language we use was revised. The priest used to say, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.” Now he say, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”  “Behold” is far better, far stronger, and an invitation to focus.

Fr. Paul F. Morrissey has written, “In South Africa, the people greet one another on the road by saying, “Sawubona.” It means, “I see you.” The answer is “Here I am.”… John Prine (songwriter) calls for the same kind of recognition:

So if you’re walking down the street sometime

And spot some hollow ancient eyes,

Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare

As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello.”

This too is an invitation – to go beyond the perfunctory, the routine or our too common superficiality. It is incredibly important. I do not simple see you; I know your value; I appreciate your existence and your contribution to this world.

There are so many reasons we have to “behold” each other. Tuesday was World Suicide Prevention Day. We need to behold people and see their pain. However, even if we cannot, we can tell people what they mean. Wednesday was the anniversary of 9/11.  Spirit 92.9 shared on its Facebook page on the eve of this anniversary that “On this day 18 years ago, 246 people went to sleep in preparation for their morning flights. 2,606 people went to sleep in preparation for work in the morning. 343 firefighters went to sleep in preparation for their morning shift. 60 police officers went to sleep in preparation for morning patrol. 8 paramedics went to sleep in preparation for the morning shift of saving lives. None of them saw past 10:00 a.m. Sept 11, 2001.” The family members, I am sure, would like one more minute of time to behold the person they lost. However, too often we only remember this on occasions like these and then it passes until we are jolted into understanding because of tragedy.

I think it is an empathy deficit – not stepping outside and tuning in to what other people are experiencing or feeling, especially those who act or think differently.  We live centered lives – focused on our bubble.

Morrissey went further and challenged us to “not simply be passively invisible. We need to help each other know what this invisibility means.” That is really hard. To admit that we do not appreciate being invisible and left out opens us to vulnerability and even deeper hurt when it is not acknowledged. We do not step up and say “here I am” before someone says “I see you” or when they purposely look away. But in retrospect that is exactly what Jesus did day after day and continues to do each day in our lives.

However, regardless of what other people do, I can commit to my new directive to “behold.” It is not January anymore and we are almost ¾ through the year, but I think I can start my word for the year anytime. Besides, I should commit to it far longer than a year anyway. As I was researching the word “behold,” one website called it “old fashioned” and “fancy.” To behold each other and have genuine interest and inclusion is not old fashioned. It is not reserved for fancy people or special occasions. I am going to be a beholder. Less phone, more beholding. More eye contact, and more saying the things which should be said, before I lose my opportunities to “behold.”

Genesis 28:15 “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go…”

Sheila Hellermann is a member of St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments. Read more about Sheila on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

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