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Center for Action and Contemplation

Bias from the Bottom: Week 1 Summary

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Bias from the Bottom: Week 1

Summary: Sunday, March 20-Friday, March 25, 2016

One of the great themes of the Bible, which begins in the Hebrew Scriptures and is continued in Jesus, is the preferential option for the poor, or the bias toward the bottom. (Sunday)

The Bible clearly affirms law, authority, and tradition, as most literature in history has done, but then it does something different and even rare: it affirms reform, change, and the voiceless. (Monday)

The Bible is subversive literature because it invariably legitimizes the people on the bottom, and not the people on the top. (Tuesday)

“We hermetically seal ourselves off from the undesired ‘other,’ the stranger, and in doing so, we seal ourselves off from God. By rejecting God in the neighbor, we reject the love that can heal us.” —Ilia Delio (Wednesday)

Paul offers a theological and solid foundation for human dignity and human flourishing that is inherent, universal, and indestructible by any outside evaluation. (Thursday)

Only by solidarity with other people’s suffering can comfortable people be converted. Otherwise we are disconnected from the cross—of the world, of others, of Jesus, and finally of our own necessary participation in the great mystery of dying and rising. (Friday)


Practice: Self-Emptying

Make my joy complete by being of a single mind, one in love, one in heart and one in mind. Nothing is to be done out of jealousy or vanity; instead, out of humility of mind everyone should give preference to others, everyone pursuing not selfish interests but those of others. Make your own the mind of Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped. But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. —Philippians 2:3-8, Jerusalem Bible

Jesus consistently asks people to “come after me” or to “follow me.” Eventually, he leads us to the cross. Victory is not the avoidance of suffering or death, but precisely death transformed. This is what God does with people who say “yes” to the process.

In the passage above, Paul uses the Greek word kenosis to describe Jesus’ act of self-emptying and surrender. Contemplative prayer is a practice of self-emptying. At its most basic, contemplation is letting go—of our habitual thoughts, preferences, judgments, and feelings. Though life itself is often our most powerful teacher through great love and suffering, contemplation is a daily, small death to false self and ego. It makes space for True Self to reappear, to rise from the ashes of our partial and protected self.

Contemplation teaches us to live in an undefended way. Little by little we can let go of the need to prove ourselves right or superior. Contemplation retrains our brains to understand the bias from the bottom, to know with true humility and love.

If you do not already have a regular contemplative or meditative practice, I encourage you to begin with a few minutes of silence every day, emptying your mind of patterned—mostly negative—thoughts to simply be present to Presence.

Gateway to Silence:
Humble me.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Path of Descent (CAC: 2003), CD, MP3 download.

For further study:
Richard Rohr, CAC Foundation Set (CD, MP3 download)

Image Credit: Little Boy, Juarez, Mexico, 2009. CAC archives.
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