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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Wisdom Lineage Summary

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Your own wisdom lineage may be similar to or different from mine. My primary experience has been as a Franciscan in the Roman Catholic Church. This does not mean I can’t understand or appreciate other traditions—as I’ve demonstrated this year—but it does give me a place to call home, a place from which to practice my faith in tangible ways, while rubbing against other human beings and organizational structures. We need the accountability of a single faith community, with all its imperfections, to keep us honest and real. There are no wide and strong branches without deep roots in one specific soil.

Matthew Fox describes how Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh “speaks of the centrality of going deep if we are to do inter-faith work when he says: ‘Through the practice of deep looking and deep listening, we become free, able to see the beauty and values in our own and others’ traditions.’ Yet, to get to the point of seeing the beauty and value in others’ traditions, one must look and listen deeply into one’s own. One must practice some path along the journey that leads to depth. One must enter the well of mystical experience.” [1]

I invite you to sink your roots deep in one place, in one particular tradition, even as you explore the wealth of wisdom to be found in other places. Otherwise you will get trapped in individualism and private superiority without any real testing laboratory in the ways of faith, hope, and practical love. Outside of a concrete community of relationships, you can imagine you are much more enlightened than you really are. Whatever tradition you claim, be open to letting it change you even as you challenge your church or community to also grow in maturity. As Step 12 of Alcoholics Anonymous says, we do have to somehow pass enlightenment on to fully have it ourselves. If you are not a link in the wisdom chain, you are not even a link after a while.

If I have grown at all in my decades as a priest, it’s in part through this role of being a preacher and teacher. I have had to stand before crowds for years and describe what I thought I believed, and then I often had to ask myself later, “Do I really believe that myself?” In my attempts to communicate the Gospel, I usually found that I’d only scratched the surface of understanding. In sharing, in giving it away, you really own it for yourself and appreciate more fully its value, beyond what you first imagined when you just parroted the words.

This Substantial Mystery is a mystery of participation and never of private ownership. The One Spirit is held communally. There is a deep symbiosis in the Body of Christ between the one who thinks he or she is giving and the one who thinks he or she is receiving. In the Infinite Spirit, the flow is in both directions or there is no flow at all.

Gateway to Silence:
Keep me in Your truth.

[1] Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths (Tarcher: 2004), 22.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer (Paulist Press: 2014), 13.

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