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A Seminary of Life

Wisdom

A Seminary of Life
Sunday, February 21, 2021

To understand the world knowledge is not enough, you must see it, touch it, live in its presence. —Teilhard de Chardin, Hymn of the Universe

Suppose a superstar of knowledge moves into your house as a boarder. With three PhDs after his name, he sits at your supper table each evening dispensing information about nuclear physics, cyberspace, and psychoneuroimmunology, giving ultimate answers to every question you ask. He doesn’t lead you through his thinking process, however, or even involve you in it; he simply states the conclusions he has reached.

We might find his conclusions interesting and even helpful, but the way he relates to us will not set us free, empower us, or make us feel good about ourselves. His wisdom will not liberate us, it will not invite us to growth and life; indeed, it will in the end make us feel inferior and dependent. That’s exactly how we have treated Jesus. We have treated him like a person with three PhDs coming to tell us his conclusions.

This is not the path to wisdom nor is it how Jesus shared his wisdom with those who wanted to learn from him. Rather Jesus teaches his disciples through his lifestyle, a kind of “seminary of life.” He takes them with him (Mark 1:16–20) and watching him, they learn the cycle and rhythm of his life, as he moves from prayer and solitude to teaching and service in community. As Cynthia Bourgeault explains in her book The Wisdom Jesus, he taught as a moshel moshelim, or a teacher of wisdom. [1] He doesn’t teach his disciples mere conceptual information as we do in our seminaries. Rather, he introduces them to a lifestyle and the only way he can do that is to invite them to live with him. He invites us to do the same (see John 1:39).

“But the crowds got to know where he had gone and they went after him. He made them welcome and he talked to them about the kingdom of God and he cured those who were in need of healing” (Luke 9:11). Can’t you just see the apostles standing at Jesus’ side, watching him, noticing how he does things: how he talks to people, how he waits, how he listens, how he’s patient, how he depends upon God, how he takes time for prayer, how he doesn’t respond cynically or bitterly, but trustfully and yet truthfully? Can you imagine a more powerful way to learn?

Luke tells us that Jesus walked the journey of faith just as you and I do. That’s the compelling message of the various dramas where Jesus needed faith—during his temptation in the desert, during his debates with his adversaries, in the garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross. We like to imagine that Jesus did not doubt or ever question his Father’s love. The much greater message is that in his humanity, he did flinch, did ask questions, did have doubts—and still remained faithful. This is the path of wisdom.

References:
[1] Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind—A New Perspective on Christ and His Message (Shambhala: 2008), 23.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self (Crossroad Publishing: 2015), 14, 108, 118.

Story from Our Community:
In reflecting on the non-dualistic view of Jesus (and ourselves) as human and divine, I was reminded of the quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.” Thank you to all at CAC; your beautiful work is changing my life and so many others. —Bob B.

Image credit: Mark Kauffman, Howard Thurman (detail), photograph, copyright gettyimages.com, used with permission.
Image inspiration: Pictured here are the hands of the Howard Thurman, revered theologian and inspiration for civil rights in the 20th century. We see a profound gentleness in the way Thurman holds his glasses; the same timeless and human gentleness that permeates his writings and teachings.
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