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A Church on the Margins

Mystics and the Margins

A Church on the Margins
Monday, September 28, 2020

We’ve tended to soften Jesus’ conflict with the system, or the established powers, but Jesus’ ministry took place on the margins! In the year 313 A.D., with the Edict of Milan, the Church dramatically changed sides and Christians officially became the Church of the establishment. Before that decree, the Church was by and large of the underclass. It identified with the poor and the oppressed, and the Church itself was still being oppressed and persecuted. The early Church read and understood its history from the catacombs—literally from underground. Such a position will always give us a different perspective than that “found in palaces” (see Matthew 11:8).

I’m sure the Emperor Constantine thought he was doing Christians a favor when he ended official persecution and made Christianity the established religion of the empire. Yet it might be the single most unfortunate thing that happened to Christianity. Once we moved from the margins of society to the center, we developed a new film over our eyes. After that, we couldn’t read anything that showed Jesus in confrontation with the establishment, because we were the establishment, and usually egregiously so. Clear teaching on issues of greed, powerlessness, nonviolence, non-control, and simplicity were moved to the sidelines, if not actually countermanded. These issues were still taken seriously by those who fled to the deserts of Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Cappadocia. Their practices grew into what we now call “religious life” as observed by monks, nuns, hermits, and anchorites who held onto the radical Gospel in so many ways.

As long as the Church bore witness from the margins in some sense, and as long as we operated from a minority position, we had greater access to the truth, to the Gospel, to Jesus. In our time we have to find a way to disestablish ourselves, to identify with our powerlessness instead of our power, our dependence instead of our independence, our communion instead of our individualism. Unless we understand that, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) isn’t going to make any sense.

We see in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus intended for us to take the low road. He intended us to operate from the position of “immoral” minority much more than the moral majority. When we’re protecting our self-image as moral, superior, or “saved” persons, we always lose the truth. The daring search for God—the common character of all religion—is replaced with the search for personal certitude and control.

As soon as people are comfortably enjoying the fruits of the established system, they don’t normally want any truth beyond their comfort zone. Yet those who are not enjoying those benefits, those who have been marginalized or oppressed in any way, are always longing and thirsting for the coming of the Kingdom, for something more. The Gospel always keeps us in a state of longing and thirsting for God. Grace seems to create a void inside of us that only God can fill.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr with John Bookser Feister, Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount (Franciscan Media: 1996), 53–54.

Image credit: White on White (detail), Kazimir Malevich, 1918.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The secret places of the heart cease to be our noisy workshop. They become a holy sanctuary of adoration and of self-oblation, where we are kept in perfect peace, if our minds be stayed on God who has found us in the inward springs of our life. —Thomas Kelly

Margins Create Liminal Space

Mystics and the Margins

Margins Create Liminal Space
Sunday, September 27, 2020

When we are content and satisfied on the inside of any group, we seem to suffer from a structural indifference. We do not realize that it is largely a belonging system that we have created for ourselves. It is not until we are excluded from a system that we are able to recognize its idolatries, lies, or shadow side. It is the privileged “knowledge of the outsider” that opens up the playing field. People can be personally well-intentioned and sincere, but structurally they cannot comprehend certain things. In his ministry, Jesus quotes the call of Isaiah to describe this collective social disregard: “You will hear and hear again, and not understand, see and see again and not perceive . . .” (Isaiah 6:9; Mark 8:18). Insiders are by nature dualistic because they divide themselves from the so-called outsiders.

I believe it is for that reason that so many saints and mystics and even everyday people have chosen to live their entire lives at the edges of most systems. They take their small and sufficient place in the great and grand scheme of God by “living on the edge of the inside.” They build on the solid tradition (“from the inside”) but from a new and dynamic stance (“on the edge”) where they cannot be co-opted by a need for security, possessions, or the illusions of power.

People such as Francis and Clare of Assisi try to live on the margins so they will not become enamored by the illusions and payoffs of prevailing systems. They know this is the only position that ensures continued wisdom, ever-broadening perspective, and even deeper compassion. Such choices may be seen in the lives of monks, nuns, hermits, or Amish communities. There are softer forms, too, like people who do not watch TV, people who live under the level of a taxable income, people who make prayer a major part of their day, people who deliberately place themselves in risky situations for the greater good. It is ironic that we must go to the edge to find the center, but that is what prophets, hermits, and mystics invariably do.

I want to acknowledge that there is a difference between being marginalized—forced (usually by prejudice and systemic discrimination) out of the common benefits and goods that come from living in mainstream society—and choosing to live on the margins. Both can be privileged places for spiritual growth and transformation. This week we will offer examples from the broad tradition of Christian mystics and communities who sought or accepted their location on the margins as a place of creativity and interior freedom. Through their insights, writings, rituals, and art, these men, women, and movements inspire us to cease protecting the surfaces of things and fall into the core of our own souls and experiences.

References:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Adam’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2004), 136;

Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), xxi, xxii, 34; and

Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (St. Anthony Messenger Press: 2008), 92.

Image credit: White on White (detail), Kazimir Malevich, 1918.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The secret places of the heart cease to be our noisy workshop. They become a holy sanctuary of adoration and of self-oblation, where we are kept in perfect peace, if our minds be stayed on God who has found us in the inward springs of our life. —Thomas Kelly

Interspiritual Mysticism: Weekly Summary

Interspiritual Mysticism

Saturday, September 26, 2020
Summary: Sunday, September 20—Friday, September 25, 2020

The loving and universal scope of Jesus Christ provides us with a model of how to recognize and celebrate truth on the many different paths to God. (Sunday)

The proof that you are a mature Christian is that you can see Christ everywhere else. (Monday)

We are asked not only to tolerate the other, but also to actively engage the love that transmutes the lead of ignorance and hatred into the gold of authentic connection. —Mirabai Starr (Tuesday)

Not only do many young people believe that there is one underlying reality at the foundation of all major world religions but they are also convinced that different traditions and their unique approaches to God complement each other. —Adam Bucko (Wednesday)

I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul. —Bede Griffiths (Thursday)

One of the greatest needs of humanity today is to transcend the cultural limitations of the great religions and to find a wisdom, a philosophy, which can reconcile their differences and reveal the unity which underlies all their diversities. —Bede Griffiths (Friday)

 

Practice: God In My Breath

Anthony de Mello (1931–1987) was an East Indian Jesuit priest, psychotherapist, writer, and public speaker. He was beloved for his ability to use stories to teach the spiritual truths of both the East and West. He taught that:

In the practice below, De Mello invites us to cultivate an awareness of our breathing as a way to deepen our connection to the divine.

Close your eyes and practice the awareness of body sensations for a while . . .

Then come to the awareness of your breathing . . . and stay with this awareness for a few minutes . . .

I want you to reflect now that this air that you are breathing in is charged with the power and the presence of God . . .  Think of the air as of an immense ocean that surrounds you . . . an ocean heavily colored with God’s presence and God’s being . . . While you draw the air into your lungs you are drawing God in . . .

Be aware that you are drawing in the power and presence of God each time you breathe in . . . Stay in this awareness as long as you can . . .

Notice what you feel when you become conscious that you are drawing God in with each breath you take . . .

There is a variation to this exercise. Another reflection, this one borrowed from the mentality of the Hebrews as we find them in the Bible. For them a human’s breath was life. When people died God took their breath away; that is what made them die. If someone lived it was because God kept putting [God’s] breath, God’s “spirit” into this person. It was the presence of this Spirit of God that kept the person alive.

While you breathe in, be conscious of God’s Spirit coming into you . . . Fill your lungs with the divine energy God brings . . .

While you breathe out, imagine you are breathing out all your impurities . . . your fears . . . your negative feelings . . .

Imagine you see your whole body becoming radiant and alive through this process of breathing in God’s life-giving Spirit and breathing out all your impurities . . .

Stay with this awareness as long as you can without distractions . . .

References:
[1] Anthony De Mello, Walking on Water (Crossroad Publishing: 1998), vii.

Anthony De Mello, Sadhana: A Way to God: Christian Exercises in Eastern Form (Image: 1978, 1984), 36‒37. Note: Minor edits made to incorporate gender-inclusive language.

For Further Study:
Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox, Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation (North Atlantic Books: 2013).

Generation Y, Spirituality and Social Change, ed. Justine Afra Huxley (Jessica Kingsley Publishers: 2019).

Bede Griffiths: Essential Writings, ed. Thomas Matus (Orbis Books: 2004).

Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019).

Mirabai Starr, God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Monkfish Book Publishing: 2012).

Wayne Teasdale, Bede Griffiths: An Introduction to His Interspiritual Thought (SkyLight Paths: 2003).

Wayne Teasdale, The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religious Traditions (New World Library: 1999).

Image credit: Spärlich Belaubt (detail), Paul Klee, 1934.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul. —Bede Griffiths

Our Common Heritage

Interspiritual Mysticism

Our Common Heritage
Friday, September 25, 2020

Today’s meditation continues with reflections from interspiritual mystic Bede Griffiths who I introduced yesterday. I invite you to read his words with an open mind and heart.

It is only today that these different religious traditions are beginning to mix freely all over the world and are seeking to relate to one another, not in terms of rivalry and conflict, but in terms of dialogue and mutual respect. One of the greatest needs of humanity today is to transcend the cultural limitations of the great religions and to find a wisdom, a philosophy, which can reconcile their differences and reveal the unity which underlies all their diversities. This has been called the “perennial philosophy,” the eternal wisdom which has been revealed in a different way in each religion. . . .

The different world religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—have themselves to recover the ancient wisdom which they have inherited, and this has now to be interpreted in the light of the knowledge of the world which Western science has given us. . . . [1]

According to the Letter to the Colossians, in Christ “all things were created, in heaven and on earth . . . all were created through him and for him” [1:16]. This is truly a cosmic vision embracing the whole created world, which we now know to be an integrated whole, and this forms a body, a living organism, which is capable of embracing all humanity. We have therefore the conception of a universal community capable of embodying the universal wisdom and uniting all humanity in one body, one living whole, in which the “fullness,” the whole, of the Godhead dwells. . . . [2]

The Second Vatican Council said that “the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in [other] religions.” [3] There is truth and holiness in all genuine religion. . . . It has been our experience in the ashram that the more we open ourselves to the other religions, to Hinduism in particular, the deeper our Christian faith grows. Our aim is the deepening of our own faith, which then becomes more open to others. . . .

If you go deeply into any one tradition, you converge on a center, and there you see how we all come forth from a common root. And you find how we meet people on the deeper level of their faith, in the profound unity behind all our differences. . . . The grace of Christ is present in some way to every human being from the beginning to the end. [4]

Bede Griffiths draws his theological insights from the teachings of the Catholic Church to which he remained committed and the Christian Scriptures, which he never stopped reading and interpreting as the word of God, yet now as a part of the perennial tradition. He is an example of how interspirituality can strengthen our Christian faith by deepening our capacity to love and respect the other.

References:
[1] Bede Griffiths, Universal Wisdom: A Journey through the Sacred Wisdom of the World (HarperSanFrancisco:1994), 7‒8.

[2] Ibid., 42‒43.

[3] Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate (In Our Time): Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (October 28, 1965), 2. Full text at http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html

[4] Bede Griffiths, A New Vision of Reality: Western Science, Eastern Mysticism, and Christian Faith (Templegate Publishers: 1989, 1992), 99‒100.

Image credit: Spärlich Belaubt (detail), Paul Klee, 1934.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul. —Bede Griffiths

A Christian Ashram

Interspiritual Mysticism

A Christian Ashram
Thursday, September 24, 2020

It is only in prayer that we can communicate with one another at the deepest level of our being. Behind all words and gestures, behind all thoughts and feelings, there is an inner centre of prayer where we can meet one another in the presence of God. . . . If we could learn to live from that centre we should be living from the heart of life and our whole being would be moved by love. —Bede Griffiths (1906–1993)

The interspiritual teacher Bede Griffiths was born in England, became a Catholic after college, and soon entered Prinknash Abbey in Gloucester as a Benedictine monk. After almost twenty-five years in this community, he went to India in 1955. He recalled:

I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul, a kind of natural mysticism which is the basis of all Indian spirituality. I felt therefore that if a genuine meeting of East and West was to take place, it must be at this deepest level of their experience and this I thought could best come through the monastic life. [1]

In 1968, Bede was asked to take over Shantivanam (Forest of Peace) Ashram, which was founded in 1950 by two French Benedictines. Thomas Matus, who lived with Bede at Shantivanam, writes:

The liturgical hours, tuned as they are to the cosmic rhythms of sunrise and sunset and the seasons of the year, already link the prayer of Christian monks to the religious and even mystical sense of the cosmos which is an essential characteristic of Hinduism. . . . The Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Sufi texts, read at the beginning of each Hour, are seen clearly as a preparation for the Christian prayer, which opens with the sign of the cross and the invocation of the Holy Trinity. [2]

It was in India that Bede discovered a different way of thinking:

The Western mind from the time of Socrates and Plato had concentrated on the development of abstract, rational thought which had led to the great systems of theology in the Middle Ages and to the achievements of modern science and philosophy. But India had been nourished from the beginning by the truth of the imagination, the primordial truth, which is not abstract but concrete, not logical but symbolic, not rational but intuitive. So it was that I was led to the rediscovery of the truth which the Western world has lost and is now seeking desperately to recover. [3]

I have deep respect for the courage it must have taken Griffiths as a Catholic monk in the pre-Vatican II era to follow the calling of the Holy Spirit to live and worship in the East. He not only taught a nondual consciousness but embodied it in his life, remaining faithful to Christ while embracing the wisdom and practices of Hinduism.

References:
[1] Bede Griffiths, Christ in India: Essays towards a Hindu-Christian Dialogue (Charles Scribner’s Sons: 1966), 17.

[2] Thomas Matus, introduction to Bede Griffiths: Essential Writings (Orbis Books: 2004), 16–17.

[3] Bede Griffiths, The Marriage of East and West: A Sequel to The Golden String (Templegate Publishers: 1982), 47.

Epigraph: Griffiths, The Golden String: An Autobiography (Templegate Publishers: 1954, 1980), 146.

Image credit: Spärlich Belaubt (detail), Paul Klee, 1934.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul. —Bede Griffiths

An Interspiritual Awakening

Interspiritual Mysticism


An Interspiritual Awakening

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Today, I introduce you to my friend Adam Bucko, who is a devoted Christian contemplative, Episcopal priest, activist, and friend to the poor. He collaborates with spiritual leaders across religious traditions and mentors young people, helping them discover a spiritual life for the 21st century and live in the service of compassion and justice. Here he reflects on what he sees as a spiritual awakening in younger generations.

For younger people, many of us, it’s very clear we see God as present in all of the traditions. . . . Not only do they believe that there is one underlying reality at the foundation of all major world religions but they are also convinced that different traditions and their unique approaches to God complement each other. . . .

But it’s also important to say, a lot of young people don’t actually identify with a tradition any more. . . . Many of our churches, synagogues and mosques are freaking out when they hear this, thinking that young people are no longer interested in the sacred. But to me it is clear that young people are not necessarily rejecting God, they simply feel that many religious organizations lost touch with reality and are too concerned with money, power, self-preservation, maintaining the status quo, and ‘having right beliefs’. As a result, they tend to view them . . . as organizations that are spiritually bankrupt, that are no longer able to speak to and address some of the big questions of our time. And it takes deep insight and spiritual courage to see that. It is for this reason and many others that I don’t think of the rise of the ‘spiritual but not religious’ among our youth as a sign of spiritual decline but rather a new kind of spiritual awakening. . . .

We have to acknowledge that when people hear about spiritual and not religious people, they often immediately think that these are people who are just shopping around and not really that committed. . . . But when we look at some of the people who come from that group, we realize that actually many of them spend more time [in spiritual practices] than regular churchgoers.

Richard: I can honestly say that I have observed many of these same things in my work with young people at the CAC. I do not see a lack of spirituality and good faith in many seekers of the next generation, but an abundance of it and a deep desire to live with integrity and in alignment with their values. Such people are not satisfied with a faith simply handed to them by an institution or the previous generation. They insist on investigating what is truly important for transformation and a more just and compassionate world.

Reference:
Adam Bucko, “Follow Your Heartbreak,” in Generation Y, Spirituality and Social Change, ed. Justine Afra Huxley (Jessica Kingsley Publishers: 2019), 67‒68.

Image credit: Spärlich Belaubt (detail), Paul Klee, 1934.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul. —Bede Griffiths

Engaged Love

Interspiritual Mysticism

Engaged Love
Tuesday, September 22, 2020

While interspirituality is not for the faint of heart, or for dabblers who merely want to appropriate the clothing, language, or customs of other faiths, sharing in the spiritual heart of a different religious tradition can be a genuine vocation, bringing much needed peace and healing to the world. My friend, author and spiritual teacher Mirabai Starr, offers a compelling invitation to engage in the work of interspirituality:

As a spiritual writer and translator of the Spanish Christian mystics, a religious studies professor, and a practitioner of many spiritual traditions, I have spent my life responding to the call to honor diversity and celebrate unity among all paths that lead us home to love. . . .

America is the Land of the Consumer. . . . We are conditioned to treat the spiritual life as another commodity, rather than as a discipline of inner transformation with a corresponding commitment to alleviating suffering in the world. Yet, authentic engagement with the perennial wisdom that lies at the heart of the well means we must leap from the lip of the vessel and dive into the unknown.

The late Brother Wayne Teasdale [1945–2004] coined the term “interspiritual” to describe “the shared mystic heart beating in the center of the world’s deepest spiritual traditions.” [1] This perspective encompasses a much broader scope of shared religious experience than does its predecessor “interfaith” movement, which focuses more on the dialogue between the established institutionalized religions than on an intermingling of their common heart. Genuine interspiritual dialogue demands that we draw deeply on our inner knowing and show up for the hard work of understanding. It requires that we not only study and discuss religions other than our own, but that we commit to a disciplined practice in more than one tradition, immersing ourselves in the well of wisdom they offer, allowing these encounters to change us from within.

The sacred scriptures of all faiths call us to love as we have never loved before. This requires effort, vigilance, and radical humility. Violence is easier than nonviolence, yet hate only perpetuates hate. The wisdom teachings remind us that love—active, engaged, fearless love—is the only way to save ourselves and each other from the firestorm of war that rages around us. There is a renewed urgency to this task now. We are asked not only to tolerate the other, but also to actively engage the love that transmutes the lead of ignorance and hatred into the gold of authentic connection. This is the “narrow gate” Christ speaks of in the Gospels [Matthew 7:13]. Don’t come this way unless you’re willing to stretch, bend, and transform for the sake of love.

References:
[1] See Wayne Teasdale, The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religious Traditions, (New World Library: 1999).

Mirabai Starr, God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Monkfish Book Publishing: 2012), 4–5, 6–7.

Image credit: Spärlich Belaubt (detail), Paul Klee, 1934.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul. —Bede Griffiths

An Unspeakable Name

Interspiritual Mysticism

An Unspeakable Name
Monday, September 21, 2020

Remember what God said to Moses: “I AM Who I AM” (Exodus 3:14). God is clearly not tied to a name, nor does God seem to want us to tie Divinity to any one name. Which is why, in Judaism, God’s statement to Moses became God’s unspeakable and unnamable identity. Some would say that the name of God literally cannot be “spoken,” only breathed. [1] Now that was very wise, and sometimes I wish we had kept it up. This tradition alone should tell us to practice profound humility in regard to God, who gives us not a name, but only pure presence—no handle that could allow us to think we “know” who God is or have the divine as our private possession.

The Christ is always far too much for us, larger than any one era, culture, empire, or religion. Its radical inclusivity is a threat to any power structure and any form of arrogant thinking. Jesus by himself has usually been limited by the evolution of human consciousness in these first two thousand years, and held captive by culture, nationalism, and Western Christianity’s own cultural captivity to a white, bourgeois, and Eurocentric worldview. We have often missed the ways Jesus reveals himself, because “there stood among us one we did not recognize” (John 1:26). He came in mid-tone skin, from the underclass, a male body with a female soul, from an often-hated religion, and living on the very cusp between East and West. No one owns him, and no one ever will.

Jesus clearly says naming God correctly is not the priority, “Do not believe those who say ‘Lord, Lord’” (Matthew 7:21; Luke 6:46. Italics added). It is those who “do it right” that matter, he says, not those who “say it right.” Yet verbal orthodoxy has been Christianity’s preoccupation, at times even allowing us to burn people at the stake for not “saying it right.” We ended up spreading national cultures under the rubric of Jesus, instead of a universally liberating message under the name of Christ. What I call an incarnational worldview is the profound recognition of the presence of the divine in literally “every thing” and “every one.”

I would go so far as to say that the proof that you are a mature Christian is that you can see Christ everywhere else. Authentic God experience always expands your seeing and never constricts it. What else would be worthy of God? In God you do not include less and less; you always see and love more and more. And it is from this place that we lose any fear we have about entering into discussion, prayer, and friendship with people of other faith traditions.

References:
[1] Richard Rohr, The Naked Now (Crossroad Publishing: 2009), 25-26. In fact, the holy name YHWH is most appropriately breathed rather than spoken, and we all breathe the same way.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 17-18, 33, 35.

Image credit: Spärlich Belaubt (detail), Paul Klee, 1934.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul. —Bede Griffiths

Solidarity Instead of Judgment

Interspiritual Mysticism

Solidarity Instead of Judgment
Sunday, September 20, 2020

In our one small and interwoven world, the great spiritual messengers of all the sacred traditions are a universal human treasure, to be received and reverenced with the respect due an attained being, an exemplar of a higher level of human consciousness. —Cynthia Bourgeault

While many Christians are familiar, and possibly even comfortable, with the idea of interfaith dialogue, few have had exposure to the discipline of interspirituality. While the first tends to be a respectful exchange of ideas; the second is a shared journey into the depths of the heart. Most Christians have been discouraged from exploring the teachings and practices of other religions, but I believe the loving and universal scope of Jesus Christ provides us with a model of how to recognize and celebrate truth on the many different paths to God.

Through Jesus Christ, God’s own broad, deep, and all-inclusive worldview is made available to us. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the point of the Christian life is not to distinguish oneself from the other world religions, but to stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything else. This is the full, final, and intended effect of the Incarnation—symbolized by the cross, which is God’s great act of solidarity instead of judgment. This is how we are to imitate Jesus, the good Jewish man who saw and called forth the divine in Gentiles like the Syro-Phoenician woman and the Roman centurions who followed him; in Jewish tax collectors who collaborated with the Empire; in zealots who opposed it; in sinners of all stripes; in eunuchs, pagan astrologers, and all those “outside the law.” Jesus had no trouble whatsoever with otherness.

If we are ready to reclaim the true meaning of “catholic,” which is “universal,” we must concentrate on including—as Jesus clearly did—instead of excluding—which he never did. The only thing Jesus excluded was exclusion itself.

After the incarnation of Jesus, humanity could more easily imagine a give-and-take, relational and forgiving God. Christians had a very good model and messenger in Jesus, but many outliers actually came to the “banquet” more easily, as Jesus often says in his parables of the resented and resisted banquet (Matthew 22:1–10; Luke 14:7–24), where “the wedding hall was filled with guests, both good and bad alike” (Matthew 22:10). What are we to do with such divine irresponsibility, such endless largesse, such an unwillingness on God’s part to build walls or create unneeded boundaries?

We must be honest and humble about this: many people of other faiths, like Sufi masters, Jewish prophets, many philosophers, and Hindu mystics, have lived in light of the Divine encounter better than many Christians. And why would a God worthy of the name God not care about all of God’s children? (Read Wisdom 11:23–12:2 for a powerful Scripture in this regard.) Does God really have favorites among God’s children? What an unhappy family that would create—and indeed, has created.

References:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 32, 33, 34.

Epigraph: Bourgeault, foreword to Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic, by Adyashanti (Sounds True, Inc.: ©2016, 2014), xii.

Image credit: Spärlich Belaubt (detail), Paul Klee, 1934.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul. —Bede Griffiths

Wounded Healers: Weekly Summary

Wounded Healers

Saturday, September 19, 2020
Summary: Sunday, September 13—Friday, September 18, 2020

When we can trust that God is in the suffering, our wounds become sacred wounds and the actual and ordinary life journey becomes itself the godly journey. (Sunday)

Until there has been a journey through suffering, I don’t believe that we have true healing authority, or the ability to lead anybody anyplace new. (Monday)

Despite the oppressive and ungodly forces applied against them, African Americans forged a spirituality that encouraged hope and sustained faith, which enabled them to build communities of love and trust. —Diana L. Hayes (Tuesday)

When you risk sharing what hurts the most in the presence of someone who will not invade you or abandon you, you can discover within yourself what Jesus called the pearl of great price, your invincible preciousness in the midst of your fragility. —James Finley (Wednesday)

Healing is learning to love the wound because love draws us into relationship with it instead of avoiding feeling the discomfort. —Lama Rod Owens (Thursday)

Being wounded, suffering, and dying are the quickest and most sure paths to truly living. (Friday)

 

Practice: Upon Thy Altar

Psychotherapist Carl Jung believed wounded healers developed insight and resilience from their experiences which enabled the emergence of transformation to occur. African American philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader Howard Thurman (1900–1981) was a living example of such insight for this week’s Practice. With tenderness and pastoral concern, he reminds us that one of the most important aspects of healing is the process of offering our wounding to God. We invite you to take several slow, deep breaths to settle your body and calm your mind; then read Thurman’s words slowly and contemplatively, either voiced or within the silence of your heart.

Our Little Lives

Our little lives, our big problems—these we place upon Thy altar!
The quietness in Thy Temple of Silence again and again rebuffs us:
For some there is no discipline to hold them steady in the waiting
And the minds reject the noiseless invasion of Thy Spirit.
For some there is no will to offer what is central in the thoughts—
The confusion is so manifest, there is no starting place to take hold.
For some the evils of the world tear down all concentrations
And scatter the focus of the high resolves.

War and the threat of war has covered us with heavy shadows,
Making the days big with forebodings—
The nights crowded with frenzied dreams and restless churnings.
We do not know how to do what we know to do.
We do not know how to be what we know to be.

Our little lives, our big problems—these we place upon Thy altar!
Brood over our spirits, Our Father,
Blow upon whatever dream Thou hast for us
That there may glow once again upon our hearths
The light from Thy altar.
Pour out upon us whatever our spirits need of shock, of lift, of release
That we may find strength for these days—
Courage and hope for tomorrow.
In confidence we rest in Thy sustaining grace
Which makes possible triumph in defeat, gain in loss, and love in hate.
We rejoice this day to say:
Our little lives, our big problems—these we place upon Thy altar!

Reference:
Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart (Beacon Press: ©1953, 1981), 83‒84.

For Further Study:
James Finley and Alana Levandoski, Sanctuary: Exploring the Healing Path (Cantus Productions: 2016), CD.

Diana L. Hayes, Forged in the Fiery Furnace: African American Spirituality (Orbis Books: 2012).

Henry J. M. Nouwen, The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society, 2nd ed. (Image Doubleday: 2010. ©1972).

Richard Rohr, The Authority of Those Who Have Suffered (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2005), MP3 download.

Richard Rohr, Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer (Paulist Press: 2014).

Richard Rohr, “The Trap of Perfectionism: Two Needed Vulnerabilities,” “Perfection,” Oneing, vol. 4, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2016).

Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Lama Rod Owens with Jasmine Syedullah, PhD, Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation (North Atlantic Books: 2016).

Image credit: Resurrection of Lazarus (detail), circa 12th‒13th century, Athens.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Being wounded, suffering, and dying are the quickest and most sure paths to truly living. —Richard Rohr
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