A Hopeful Foundation
Sunday, October 24, 2021
We are not loved because we are so beautiful and good. We are beautiful and good because we are loved. —Jürgen Moltmann, Theology of Joy (video interview, 2014)
There is plenty of evidence in the world to conclude that there is something fundamentally flawed with humanity. However, Fr. Richard Rohr believes that we have overlooked another and more helpful “origin story”—that of Original Goodness.
Our creation story says that we were created in the very “image and likeness” of God, and out of generative love (Genesis 1:27; 9:6). This starts us out on an absolutely positive and hopeful foundation, which cannot be overstated.
We have heard this phrase so often that we don’t get the existential shock of what “created in the image and likeness of God” is saying about us! It’s the best therapeutic affirmation we could hope for! If this is true, it says that our family of origin is divine. Our core is original blessing, not original sin. This says that our starting point is totally positive. As the first chapter of the Bible says, it is “very good” (1:31). We do have someplace good to go home to. When the beginning is right, the rest is made considerably easier.
The Bible will build on this foundational goodness, a true identity “hidden in the love and mercy of God,”  as Thomas Merton said. That goodness is the place to which we are always trying to get back. There are many detours along the way, and many “devils” planting the same doubt suggested to Jesus, “If you are a son (or daughter) of God” (Matthew 4:3, 6). All of the Bible is trying to illustrate through various stories humanity’s objective unity with God. This is so important to know and believe.
Due to this lack of mysticism and the contemplative mind, I find that many, if not most, Christians still have no knowledge of the soul’s objective union with God (see 2 Peter 1:4). They often actually fight me on it, quoting to me that “all things human are evil and depraved,” or “humans are like piles of manure, covered over by Christ.” Such a negative starting point will have a very hard time creating loving, dignified, or responsive people.
To preach and know the gospel we must get the “who” right! What is the self we are working with? Who are we? Where do we objectively abide? Where did we come from? Is our DNA divine or is it depraved?
The great illusion that we must all overcome is the illusion of separateness. It is almost the only task of religion—to communicate not worthiness but union, to reconnect people to their original identity “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). The Bible calls that state of separateness “sin,” and its total undoing is stated frequently as God’s clear job description: “My dear people, we are already the children of God; it is only what is in the future that has not yet been revealed, and then all we know is that we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2).
 Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New Directions: 1972), 35.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 27–29.
Story from Our Community:
God’s creation of the cosmos may continue to always unfold toward something better, but the human race might not be part of that due to its choice to live with cunning (like the serpent in the creation story) rather than love as its foundational element. The power of love can transform the world if we truly embrace it and live it. The power lies in love as a verb—to be lived. —Jason O.
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