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Center for Action and Contemplation

Be Peace and Justice

Monday, June 18, 2018

Justice: Week 2

Be Peace and Justice
Monday, June 18, 2018

Yesterday I shared how far Christianity has strayed from Jesus’ vision of justice, even though his teaching was crystal clear. Francis (1182-1226) and Clare (1194-1253) of Assisi understood his message and modeled a similar agenda: a simple lifestyle outside the system of production and consumption (the real meaning of the vow of poverty) and conscious identification with the marginalized of society (the communion of saints pushed to its outer edge). In this position, we do not “do” acts of peace and justice as much as our lifestyle itself is peace and justice. Think about that.

By “living on the edge of the inside” I mean building on the solid Tradition (“from the inside”) but doing it from a new and creative stance where you cannot be co-opted (“on the edge”) for purposes of security, possessions, or the illusions of power. Today, many of us try to find personal and individual freedom even as we remain inside a system of consumption that we are unable or unwilling to critique. We cannot remove the plank on which we are standing. Evil tends to hide even more in systems and institutions than in individuals. [1]

The way of radical Christianity is to stay outside of such systems—insofar as possible—so they cannot control our breadth of thinking, feeling, loving, and living out universal justice. We can only re-enter them from this new place of inner freedom. This has seldom been taught, and thus most of us are on bended knee to and codependent with almost all public institutions.

We lost our unique and prophetic way when we turned Jesus into a chummy best friend and Brother Francis into “Saint Francis,” and it was no longer considered foolish to say that you followed Jesus or Francis. A prophet’s lifestyle is never fashionable or safe.

When you agree to live simply, you do not consider the refugee, the homeless person, or the foreigner as a threat or competition. You have chosen their marginal state for yourself—freely and consciously becoming “visitors and pilgrims” in this world, as Francis put it (quoting 1 Peter 2:11). A simple lifestyle is an act of solidarity with the way most people have lived since the beginnings of humanity.

As I’ve said many times, “the best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” This approach guards against the most common criticism of religion in general and social-justice work in particular, which, frankly, has tended to produce many negative, oppositional, and judgmental people—from reactionary conservatives to limousine liberals.

We must move to the laboratory where radical change can occur—inside of our very mind, heart, and the cells of our body. Contemplative practice rewires our inner life, giving us a kind of “emotional sobriety.” It opens us to an inner sense of divine union so we can do the needed works of justice with peace and enduring passion.

Our spirituality forms our inner lives and is then lived outwardly in the world, which is to live a life of love and justice for others. True contemplation must become action.

[1] See Richard Rohr on the classic sources of evil, Spiral of Violence: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008), CD and MP3 download.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 33-34, 35-36, 38, 41-43, 273; and
A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (CAC Publishing: 2016), 15.

Image credit: Full side view of adobe house with water in foreground, “Acoma Pueblo, National Historic Landmark, New Mexico,” (detail); from the series Ansel Adams Photographs of National Parks and Monuments, compiled 1941-1942, documenting the period ca. 1933-1942.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image:
The Catholic “Doctrine of Discovery” sent Spanish Conquistadors in search of gold, beginning in the sixteenth century. As the area was colonized, many indigenous peoples were massacred, enslaved, or forced to assimilate. Colonial governor Juan de Oñate (1550-1626) had one foot cut off of each man in Acoma Pueblo after they rebelled against Spanish domination. By the late eighteenth century, approximately one third of New Mexico’s native population was enslaved. —Richard Rohr
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