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Gratitude and Grace
Gratitude and Grace

Allowing the Flow

Friday, November 10, 2023

To whom much is given, much is required. —Luke 12:48

Father Richard presents the conscious choice we can make to share the grace that God freely gives:

The above quote from Jesus might be considered the Christian equivalent of what Hindus and Buddhists call “karma.” Reversing modern slang, “What comes around, goes around.” This isn’t about any monetary payment, but a certain kind of inevitability or even a “divine economy.”  

In the world of grace and freedom, for a channel to be opened, it must flow forward, through, and toward something else—or the channel becomes blocked. Negative energy and intention produce a negative energy response—usually quite quickly. We clamp on to it like Velcro. In contrast, positive energy and intention produce positive energy outflow—if not now, eventually. The positive and appreciative response demands consciousness and choice—and freedom on our part. Otherwise, it slides off us like Teflon. Appreciation and gratitude must be chosen.  

We usually do not recognize or appreciate all that we have been given gratuitously (the “free flow”). Instead, we often concentrate on how we have been offended. The negative rebound that we send back to another is almost always immediate—and unrecognized as negative energy on our part. We need to work and pray for most of our lives to recognize and resist this game. Negative karma is much more powerful than positive. Velcro works better than Teflon, at least in the spiritual life. 

While karma is not primarily monetary, I must honestly say karma applies to money, as well. Our attitudes toward earning, giving, losing, and receiving money are about as good a measure for our giving and receiving of love as anything I know. The opposite is also true. Stingy with love, stingy with money. Generous with love, generous with money. Circumspect with love, circumspect with money. In a general sense, we are either flow people or dam (!) people. [1]

I am convinced Jesus taught from a karmic worldview. “You cannot pick grapes from thorns or figs from thistles. A good tree will bear good fruit,” he said, “and a bad tree will bear bad fruit” (Matthew 7:17–18). Jesus also said, “If you show mercy, mercy will be shown to you” (Matthew 5:7; Luke 6:37) and “The standard you use will be used for you” (Mark 4:24).

Jesus sought to create a deep sense of personal choice, responsibility, and freedom in the here and now, and not just disconnected payoffs in the afterlife. But we have understood much of the gospel in terms of divine threats and artificial rewards—a delayed schedule of merits and demerits. This deeply distorted the gospel’s transformative message.

I believe Jesus teaches that rewards and punishments for behavior are inherent and now, and only by karmic implication are they external and later. Karma, rightly understood, creates responsible, self-actualized people instead of fear-based people. Threats of punishment or promises of candy later create perpetual adolescents and well-disguised narcissism at every level of Christianity. [2]


[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Karma,” The Mendicant 11, no. 2(Spring 2021): 1.

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Karma,” Daily Meditations, September 21, 2015.

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Loïs Mailou Jones, Textile Design for Cretonne (detail), 1928, watercolor on paper, Smithsonian. Loïs Mailou Jones, Eglise Saint Joseph (detail), 1954, oil on canvas, Smithsonian. Alma Thomas, Red Abstraction (detail), 1959, oil on canvas, Smithsonian. Click here to enlarge image.

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