Always Listening — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Always Listening

Disciples, Prophets, and Mystics

Always Listening
Sunday, March 15, 2020

Paul writes, “May the mind that is in Christ Jesus also be in you” (Philippians 2:5). This is the truest depth of our Christian tradition, what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus. We are called to recognize, surrender to, and ultimately be identified with the mystery of God utterly beyond all concepts, all words, and all designations. This is our destiny. —James Finley [1]

We have to remember that Jesus says nothing to us that he hasn’t somehow heard from God. Jesus is totally faithful to his relationship with God, whom he called “Abba.” It was because of the familial nature of their relationship that he was able to teach, heal, bless, and create the spiritual family we call the church. To be disciples of Jesus, we have to let ourselves be loved as he did. It is in receiving that love that we find our strength and power.

For Jesus, “discipleship” is about being in an intimate, loving, and challenging relationship, much like that between parent and child. There is a unique nature to the healthy parent-child relationship, and each person has a role to play. Ideally, the parent employs the gifts of experience and knowledge to care for, nurture, and protect the child. In turn, the child can depend on and trust the parent for sustenance, well-being, and guidance in a world of unknowing. Discipleship follows that sequence. First, we must learn how to be God’s children, allowing ourselves to receive love, to be loved, to be cared for, and believed in, so that we can be entrusted to go about our “Father’s business” as Jesus did (see Luke 2:49).

In the beginning, Jesus steps into his ministry as a child of God, not as the parent or authority figure. Rather, he lets himself be the recipient, and he trusts God to lead him. Because Jesus is always listening to God and experiencing God’s presence, God is able to continually teach him. Jesus doesn’t begin his life full of power and authority. He is born helpless and vulnerable like all of us, but throughout his life, he continues to grow in love and wisdom (see Luke 2:52). Like every true disciple, Jesus comes into the fullness of his being by faithfully following and listening to his Great Teacher, the unspeakable YHWH.

At the end of prayer in Jesus’ Judaism there is a beautiful and powerful expression of affirmation, “Amen,” which Christians adopted. Yet Jesus, a devout Jew, puts it at the beginning of everything important he says. Why would he do that? When Jesus says “Amen, Amen,” [there are numerous examples in John’s gospel] I believe he is seconding the motion: “Amen” to what he has first heard from God and a second “Amen” to the authority with which he holds and passes on that same message to us. Like good disciples, in loving relationship with God and companions with Jesus, we must pray for the confidence to also say, as it were, “Amen, Amen.” What I have heard from God is now mine to pass on to you—on the level of inner experience more than the level of knowledge.

[1] Adapted from James Finley, Jesus and Buddha: Paths to Awakening, disc 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008), CD, DVD, MP3 download. See also Jim’s podcast, Turning to the Mystics.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2015) 110, 111-113.

Image credit: Santa Teresa de Jesús (St. Teresa of Ávila) (detail), José Alcázar Tejedor, 1884, Museo del Prado, Madrid, España (currently at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, España).
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: [A] notable characteristic of the mystical tradition has been the very large number of women who feature prominently in it, women who wrote extensively about their mystical experiences and acted as advisers and counselors to men and women of all kinds. —Richard Rohr
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