Father Richard points out how the Bible is filled with stories of people encountering God—regardless of whether they got everything right or everything wrong!
Let’s state it clearly: One foundational and yet revolutionary idea of the Bible is that God is manifest in the ordinary, in the actual, in the daily, in the now, in history, in the concrete incarnations of life. God does not hold out for the pure, the spiritual, the right idea, or the ideal anything. Apparently, the biblical God would much rather be in relationship than merely be right in solitude! This is why Jesus stands religion on its head.
But it is also why we have to go through the seemingly laborious, boring, or even disturbing books of the Bible, such as Joshua, Judges, Kings, Chronicles, Leviticus, Numbers, and Revelation. We hear in these books about sin and war, adulteries and affairs, kings and killings, intrigues and deceits—the tragic and sad events of human life along with the ordinary and wonderful. Those books, documenting the life of real communities, of concrete and regular people, are telling us that “God comes to us disguised as our life” (a wonderful line I learned from my dear friend and colleague, Paula D’Arcy). But for most “religious” people this is actually a disappointment!
In the Bible, we see God using the very wounded lives of very ordinary people, who would never have passed the tests of later Roman canonization processes. Moses, Deborah, Elijah, Paul, and Esther were at least complicit in murdering; David was both an adulterer and a liar; there were rather neurotic prophets like Ezekiel, Obadiah, and Jeremiah; an entire history of ridiculously evil kings and warriors—yet all these are the ones God works through. They are not summarily dismissed.
God’s revelations are always concrete and specific. They are not a Platonic world of ideas and theories about which we can be right or wrong. Revelation is not something we measure, but something or Someone we meet! All of this is called the “mystery of incarnation.”
Our temptation now and always is to trust in our faith tradition of trusting in God instead of trusting in God. They are not the same thing! Often our faith is in our tradition in which we can talk about people who have trusted God in the past. That’s a sad way to avoid the experience itself, to avoid scary encounters with the living God, to avoid the ongoing Incarnation.
It’s not about becoming spiritual beings nearly as much as about becoming human beings. The biblical revelation is saying that we are already spiritual beings; we just don’t know it yet. The Bible tries to let us in on the secret, by revealing God in the ordinary. That’s why so much of the text seems so mundane, practical, specific, and, frankly, unspiritual! The principle of the Incarnation proclaims that matter and spirit have never been separate. Jesus came to tell us that these seemingly different worlds are and always have been one.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2008), 16–17, 19.
Explore Further. . .
- Listen to Richard’s homily on The Return to the Ordinary.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
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 stayed stuck until I stopped using “me” as the starting point. The Bible says I should pray for the forgiveness I grant others (Matthew 6:12,14-15). Loving a friend is easy; loving my enemy is the measure (Matthew 5:43-48). The Kingdom is already here (Luke 17:20-22), and I can’t see it through my physical eyes (John 3:3). Putting these principles into practice was first humiliating and then humbling. I wanted others to be punished or corrected, but I wanted to get off the hook. “Forgiving” myself never transformed me. Giving forgiveness, and receiving it, has.
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.