Participation: Week 1
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
A mature believer, of course, knows that it is impossible not to be connected to the Source, or to be “on the Vine,” as Jesus says (see John 15:1-10). But most people are not consciously there yet. They are not “saved” from themselves, which is the only thing we really need to be saved from. They do not live out of their objective, totally given, and unearned identity, “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). This is what saints like Francis and Clare allowed, enjoyed, and “fell into.” It is always a falling! For most of us, our own deepest identity is still well hidden from us. Religion’s primary and irreplaceable job is to bring this foundational truth of our shared identity in God to full and grateful consciousness. This is the only true meaning of holiness.
The vast majority of humanity and a large percentage of Christians and clergy have not grasped this wondrous truth, and there are even fewer who dare to enjoy it even after they have heard it might be true. It “goes right over their heads” and beyond their hearts. The irony is that this holiness is actually our “first nature,” yet we made it so impossible that it did not even become a “second nature” that we could easily wear with dignity. This core Christ-identity was made into a worthiness or morality contest at which almost no one wins and so most do not even try. Francis and Clare undid the whole contest by rejoicing in their ordinariness and seeming unworthiness—which I believe is the core freedom of the Gospel itself.
One of Paul’s central teachings, which some have rightly called his “sermon on wisdom” can be found in 1 Corinthians (1:17-3:3). Here, Paul recognizes that many of his new converts were doing spiritual things, but still in very immature and unspiritual ways (for example, to feel or look holy, to cultivate a positive self-image, to “get” God’s love, or to “earn” entry into heaven). Paul calls them “infants in Christ” who are not yet ready for “solid food” (1 Corinthians 3:2). Many today have settled for religion as attendance or belonging, which would surely be baby food, instead of religion as inherently participating in Love.
Consciously, trustfully, and lovingly remaining on “the Vine,” which is to be connected to our source, is precisely our access point to deeper spiritual wisdom. We know by participation with and in God, which creates our very real co-identity with Christ: We are also both human and divine, as he came to reveal and model. The foundational meaning of transformation is to surrender to this new identity and to consciously draw upon it.
Gateway to Silence:
Remain in my love. —John 15:9
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 66-68.