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Center for Action and Contemplation

Foundational Hope

Monday, May 31, 2021

An Evolving Faith

Foundational Hope
Monday, May 31, 2021
Memorial Day in US

The Jesuit scientist Teilhard de Chardin wrote that “Love is the physical structure of the universe.” [1] Our theological way of saying the same thing is “Let us create in our image” (Genesis 1:26), in the image of the triune God, who is love, who is a dynamic cycling of infinite outpouring and infinite receiving.

If our God is both incarnate and implanted, both Christ and Holy Spirit, then an unfolding inner dynamism in all creation is not only certain, but also moving in a positive direction. A divine goal is always before us, waiting to be unveiled. The strong death wishes, mass shootings, suicides, and the high amount of emotional struggle we experience in our world today is surely, in part, a result of our major failure to provide Western civilization with a positive and hopeful understanding of our own “good news.” And the good news must be social and cosmic, and not just about “me.”

Foundational hope demands a foundational belief in a world that is still and always unfolding to something better. This is the virtue of hope. Personally, I have found that it is almost impossible to heal individuals over the long haul, if the whole cosmic arc is not also a trajectory toward the good.

Admittedly, sometimes the suffering and injustices of our time make it hard to believe in the arc of love. Indigenous Choctaw elder and Episcopal Bishop Steven Charleston describes in practical terms how this love and foundational hope surround us at all times:

The signs are all around us. We can see them springing up like wildflowers after the prairie rain. People who had fallen asleep are waking up. People who had been content to watch are wanting to join. People who never said a word are speaking out. The tipping point of faith is the threshold of spiritual energy, where what we believe becomes what we do. When that power is released, there is no stopping it, for love is a force that cannot be contained. Look and see the thousands of new faces gathering from every direction. There is the sign of hope for which you have been waiting. . . .

Hope lets us literally see the presence and action of the holy in our everyday lives. This is not an imaginary desire viewed through rose-colored glasses. It is the solid evidence of the power of love made visible in abundance.

Sometimes, in this troubled world of ours, we forget that love is all around us. We imagine the worst of other people and withdraw into our own shells. But try this simple test: Stand still in any crowded place and watch the people around you. Within a very short time, you will begin to see love, and you will see it over and over and over. A young mother talking to her child, a couple laughing together as they walk by, an older man holding the door for a stranger—small signs of love are everywhere. The more you look, the more you will see. Love is literally everywhere. We are surrounded by love. [2]

This is such a powerful reminder to use a contemplative gaze to look at the world around us. Signs of love abound, reminding us of God’s essential nature.

[1] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Human Energy, trans. J. M. Cohen (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: 1969), 72.

[2] Steven Charleston, Ladder to the Light: An Indigenous Elder’s Meditations on Hope and Courage (Broadleaf: 2021), 60–61, 67.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, with Brie Stoner and Paul Swanson, “Love Evolves,” Another Name for Every Thing, season 1, episode 4, March 9, 2019, audio podcast.

Story from Our Community:
I became a Christian in 1977 and joined a charismatic community with great zeal about evangelizing. I have had times of doubt and struggles, but it wasn’t until my 60s that I started to question everything, even the blessings I was so sure of before. This has been alarming to my wife, family, and friends, and scary and quite lonely for me. I don’t know what it will look like, but I know my way must evolve and mature or it will surely die. The meditations on doubt as a key player in growth have given me hope. It shows me I’m not unusual or lost, but actually in good company. —Stephen R.

Image credit: Chaokun Wang, bamboo 天竹子 (detail), 2015, photograph, Wikiart.
Image inspiration: The capacity of bamboo to grow mirrors our own potential for inner unfolding. As long as there is life, there is evolution. As long as we have breath, our faith can continue to grow.
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