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Center for Action and Contemplation
Everything Belongs
Everything Belongs

Holding the Paradox

Sunday, July 9, 2023

This week, the Daily Meditations focus on the fourth of CAC’s Seven Themes of an Alternative Orthodoxy:  

Everything belongs. No one needs to be punished, scapegoated, or excluded. We cannot directly fight or separate ourselves from evil or untruth. Evil becomes apparent when exposed to the Truth. [1] 

Richard Rohr affirms that “everything belongs,” both the good and the bad, and it takes discernment to learn how to hold the paradox: 

The spiritual gift of discernment (1 Corinthians 12:10) shows how seemingly good things can be recognized as sometimes bad things, and seemingly bad things can also be seen to bear some good fruit. Darn it! This kind of discernment invites people into yes/and thinking, rather than simplistic either/or thinking. This is the difference between merely having correct information and the true spiritual gift of wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8).  

Once we have learned to discern the real and disguised nature of both good and evil, we recognize that everything is broken and fallen, weak and poor—while still being the dwelling place of God: you and me, our countries, our children, our marriages, and even our churches, mosques, and synagogues. That is not a put-down of anybody or anything, but actually creates the freedom to love imperfect things. As Jesus told the rich young man, “God alone is good” (Mark 10:18). We cannot wait for things to be totally perfect to fall in love with them, or we will never love anything. Now, instead, we can love everything! [2] 

Jesus uses a number of mixture images to illustrate the tension of our own mixture of good and evil. They seem to say this world is a mixture of different things, and unless we learn how to see, we don’t know how to separate; we get lost in the weeds and can’t see the wheat. In one parable, servants ask, “Should we pull out the weeds?” Jesus responds, “No. Let them both grow together until the harvest.” Then, at the end of time, he will decide what is wheat and what is weed (Matthew 13:24–30). But we are a mixture of weed and wheat, and we always will be. As Martin Luther put it, we are simul justus et peccator [at once justified and a sinner], each of us simultaneously saint and sinner. That’s the mystery of holding weed and wheat together in our one field of life. It takes a lot more patience, compassion, forgiveness, and love than aiming for some illusory perfection that usually cannot see its own faults. The only true perfection available to us is the honest acceptance of our imperfection. 

If we must have perfection to be happy with ourselves, we have only two choices. We can either ignore our own evil (deny the weeds) or we can give up in discouragement (deny the wheat). But if we put aside perfection and face the tension of having both, then we can hear the good news with open hearts. [3] 


[1] To learn more about the CAC’s Seven Themes of an Alternative Orthodoxy, visit this webpage.  

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Spiral of Violence (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2005). Available as MP3 download. 

[3] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, rev. ed. (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1999, 2003), 40–41. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Izzy Spitz, Field Study 2, oil pastel on canvas. Izzy Spitz, Everything at Once, digital oil pastel. Izzy Spitz, Wings, digital oil pastel. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

Everything belongs: our messes and dreams, our hues of green and yellow, our curves and lines. 

Story from Our Community:  

During a recent zoom chat about a course on Celtic Spirituality, it became clear my companions and I from diverse countries are all daily meditators through Richard Rohr and CAC. Our spiritual curiosity and confidence to explore spirituality in general, and personal growth in particular, we all attributed directly to this gentle, loving, inclusive daily practice. To belong to this caring community reinforces how much we are inter-connected on this planet. We stride forward with renewed vigour and purpose at the beauty of life and its people. It’s a silent revolution! —Dee M.  

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The Prophetic Path

It can be easier to turn away from suffering than face it with an open heart. That’s why our 2023 Daily Meditations theme, The Prophetic Path, empowers us to not avoid or fear the pain of the world, but turn toward it with compassion.

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