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Center for Action and Contemplation

Love in Action

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Action and Contemplation: Week 2

Love in Action
Thursday, May 18, 2016

The way to arrive and remain within “the force field of the Holy Spirit,” which is one way of describing consciousness—is both very simple and very hard: you’ve got to remain in love, with a foundational yes to every moment. You can’t risk walking around with a negative, resentful, gossipy, critical mind, because then you won’t be in the force field. You will not be a usable instrument. That’s why Jesus commanded us to love. It’s that urgent. It’s that crucial.

That love, as contemplatives learn, can begin in the mind or can be inhibited by the mind. You may have heard this quote—sometimes attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

Contemplation nips negativity, hatred, and violence in the bud. It begins by retraining your initial thoughts, because if you let the mind operate in a paranoid, angry, and resentful way, you aren’t going to get very far. You’re not going to see clearly. At the same time, if you spend your time only in contemplation without moving toward positive engagement, you end up with what many call spiritual constipation. I am afraid it is quite common.

Jack Jezreel, founder of JustFaith—an organization that prepares people to answer the life- and world-changing call of the Gospel—explains the necessary consequences of contemplation in CAC’s journal Oneing:

[Much] of what passes for spirituality and spiritual practice—prayer days, meditation, retreats, spiritual direction, contemplation, ritual, and study—is primarily informed by an exclusive attention to the self and perhaps family relationships, suggesting that much of what we call spirituality is actually some mixture of psychology and private devotion, made sacred by the use of religious imagery. My argument is not that it’s worthless, but that it’s woefully incomplete. I am concerned that it provides a very limited experience of what Jesus is so passionate about, namely the “Reign of God” (the most repeated phrase in the four Gospels). As I understand the Reign of God, it includes the grace-driven, love-driven transformation of the self and the world. What’s more, it recognizes that the transformation of the self and the world are directly connected to each other. . . .

Isn’t it instructive that the spiritual formation of the original disciples happens with Jesus on the road? In effect, the disciples learn by doing. They grow into an understanding of this God of love, this God of compassion, this God who loves justice, this God who makes all things new, by participating as active observers and agents of compassion, justice, and newness. And, yes, necessarily, they pause with Jesus to reflect, ask questions (sometimes stupid questions), and pray. But the spiritual adventure described in the four Gospels does not happen in the sanctuary; it happens on the road, in the company of beggars, prostitutes, and lepers. [1]

Gateway to Silence:

[1] Jack Jezreel, “To Love without Exception,” “Perfection,” Oneing, Vol. 4 No. 1 (CAC: 2016), 51-52.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Transforming the World through Contemplative Prayer (CAC: 2013), disc 3 (CD, MP3 download); and
Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (Franciscan Media: 2011), 103.

Image Credit: Soup Kitchen (detail) photograph by GeoffS.
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