Inspired by Franciscan philosopher-theologian John Duns Scotus (1266–1308), Father Richard teaches about loving things in and as themselves:
What does it mean when we’re told we should love God with our whole heart, with our whole soul, with our whole mind, and with our whole strength? The first commandment is that we should love God more than anything else. The only way I know how to love God is to love what God loves; only then do we love with divine love and allow it to flow through us.
Just how does God love? Franciscan philosopher-theologian Duns Scotus said in his doctrine of “thisness” (“haecceity”), that we are to love things in and as themselves, to love things for what they are, not for what they do for us. That’s when we really begin to love our spouses, our children, our neighbors, and others. When we free them from our agendas, then we can truly love them without concern for what they do for us, or how they make us look, or what they can get us. We begin to love them in themselves and for themselves, as living images of God. Now that takes real work!
So why is “thisness” so good and important? Duns Scotus mirrors Jesus as the Good Shepherd leaving the ninety-nine sheep and going after the one (Luke 15:4–6). The universal incarnation of Christ always shows itself in the specific, the concrete, the particular; it refuses to let life be a mere abstraction. No one says this better than Christian Wiman: “If nature abhors a vacuum, Christ abhors a vagueness. If God is love, Christ is love for this one person, this one place, this one time-bound and time-ravaged self.” 
The doctrine of haecceity says that we come to universal meaning deeply and rightly through the concrete, the specific, and the ordinary, and not the other way around. The principle here is “go deep in any one place and we will meet all places.” When we start with big universal ideas, at the level of concepts and -isms, we too often stay there—arguing about theories, forever making more distinctions. At that level, the mind is totally in charge. It’s easier to love humanity then, but not any individual people. We defend principles of justice but can’t muster the courage to live fully just lives ourselves. Only those who live like Francis and Clare do that.
Francis lived such “thisness” simply by looking at things and loving things in themselves and for themselves. I think this is what it means to love God. When we love things in themselves, we are looking out at the world with God’s eyes. When we look out from these eyes, we see that it’s not about us! And I promise, when we begin seeing the world this way, everything starts to give us joy. Simple things start to make us happy, and Reality begins to offer us inherent joy.
 Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), 121.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2014), 181; and
Franciscan Mysticism: I AM That Which I Am Seeking (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2012). Available as CD and MP3 audio download.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard on Duns Scotus’s “univocity of being.”
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Belinda Rain, Water Drops on Grass (detail), 1972, photograph, California, public domain. Belinda Rain, Nevada, Lake Tahoe California (detail), 1972, photograph, California, public domain. Belinda Rain, Forest (detail), 1972, photograph, California, public domain. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: We look for Spirit in every stone and blade of grass, in everything. We are part of something so much larger, so much grander. God’s grace abounds.
Story from Our Community:
In [the] meditation “Building the Church from the bottom up,” Fr. Richard quotes St. Francis, “the marrow of the Gospel.” The word “marrow” is very personal to me. Forty years ago I underwent a Bone Marrow Transplant for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia; my brother was my donor. The transplant was done as the only means to a cure despite all the risks. Could it be that the Church is in need of a such a high-risk intervention, metaphorically speaking, to be rebuilt? And what intervention(s) is needed to “Go, Rebuild My Church!”? —Therese G.
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.