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Center for Action and Contemplation
Encountering God through the Bible
Encountering God through the Bible

A School of Relationship

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Father Richard opens this week’s meditations by sharing his early love of the Scriptures:  

The Bible first opened up for me in the 1960s when the Second Vatican Council said that divine revelation was not God disclosing ideas about God but God actually disclosing Godself. Scripture and religion became not mere doctrines or moralisms for me, but love-making, a mutual exchange of being and intimacy. The marvelous anthology of books and letters called the Bible is for the sake of a love affair between God and the soul and corporately between God and history.  

We could say that the original blueprint for everything that exists is relationship. John’s word for that was Logos (John 1:1). In other words, the first blueprint for reality was relationality. It is all of one piece. How we relate to God reveals how we eventually relate to everything else. And how we relate to the world is how we are actively relating to God, whether we know it or not (1 John 4:20). How we do anything is how we do everything!  

Thus, we must read the whole Bible as a school of relationship. The Bible is slowly making humanity capable of living inside of what Charles Williams (1886–1945) called “co-inherence.” [1] All creation is in the end drawn and seduced into the Great Co-inherence. “I shall return to take you with me, so that where I am you also may be too,” Jesus says (John 14:3). Salvation is giving us a face capable of receiving the dignity of the divine gaze, and then daring to think that we could gaze back. 

I believe that we can only safely read Scripture—which is a dangerous book in the wrong hands—if we are somehow sharing in the divine gaze of love. A life of prayer helps us develop a third eye that can read between the lines and find the golden thread which is moving toward inclusivity, mercy, and justice. A hardened heart, a predisposition to judgment, a fear of God, any need to win or prove ourselves right will corrupt and distort the most inspired and inspiring of Scriptures—just as they pollute every human conversation and relationship. Hateful people will find hateful verses to confirm their obsession with death. Loving people will find loving verses to call them into an even greater love of life. And both kinds of verses are in the Bible!  

The late Christian author Rachel Held Evans encourages reading the Bible with a willingness to engage in the mutual process of inspiration:  

Inspiration is not about some disembodied ethereal voice dictating words or notes to a catatonic host. It’s a collaborative process, a holy give-and-take, a partnership between Creator and creator. . . . God is still breathing. The Bible is both inspired and inspiring. Our job is to ready the sails and gather the embers, to discuss and debate, and like the biblical character Jacob, to wrestle with the mystery until God gives us a blessing. [2]  [I could not agree more and it saddens me that more do not see what Rachel so clearly saw. —Richard

[1] Williams described co-inherence as “a natural fact as well as a supernatural truth” that applies to humanity as well as the Trinity in his book The Descent of the Dove: A History of the Holy Spirit in the Church, published in 1939. 

[2] Rachel Held Evans, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2018), xxiii–xxiv.   

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Essential Teachings on Love, selected by Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2018), 77, 100, 120, 85. 

Explore Further. . .

Image Credit: Barbara Holmes, Untitled 17 & 20 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States, used with permission. Warren K. Leffler, Civil rights march on Washington, D.C., 1963 (detail), Photograph, public domain. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2021, triptych art, United States.

The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to core teacher Dr. Barbara Holmes as part of an exploration into contemplative photography. Her photos are featured here together with historical images in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image Inspiration: The Bible reveals the ongoing work of liberation by God and God’s people. It is a bridge to our understanding of God moving through the ordinariness of time and space. Just like this river: symbolizing the continuing story of the struggle for justice as it flows around and through this freedom fighter of the 1960s.

Story from Our Community:

I became a believer at a young age, fully involved in evangelical church life. However, I increasingly felt conflict with literalist readings of the Bible. After personal difficulties, I sat in a church listening to Evening Prayer, which rekindled my faith. I realized that God’s providence and purposes were much larger than I could comprehend. God was and is there and waiting for me.
—Rob B.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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