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Center for Action and Contemplation

One Life, One Death, One Suffering

Wednesday, September 25, 2019


One Life, One Death, One Suffering
Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Universal Christ is trying to communicate at the deepest intuitive level that there is only One Life, One Death, and One Suffering on this earth. We are all invited to ride the one wave, which is the only wave there is. Call it Reality, if you wish. But we are all in this together.

Consider how a “one-lump” awareness of reality upends so many of our current obsessions. Our arguments about private worthiness; reward and punishment; gender, race, and class distinctions; private possessions—all the things that make us argue and compete are not essential, ontological traits. Weighing, measuring, counting, listing, labeling, and comparing only gets us so far.

Of course, we must recognize and respect our differences. “Colorblindness” is actually harmful in the face of measurable inequities for people of color. Pride parades and other cultural celebrations of identity are valuable expressions for many groups whose voices have been silenced. People with privilege and power like myself are called to move to the bottom and to destroy the illusion of our supremacy. Those who have been marginalized and deemed inferior are invited to reclaim their inherent value and belonging. As Jesus said, “The last will be first and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16).

The Gospel is about learning to live and die in and with God—all our warts and wounds included and forgiven by an Infinite Love. The true Gospel democratizes the world. We are all saved in spite of our mistakes, in spite of our suffering, and in spite of ourselves. We are all caught up in the cosmic sweep of Divine grace and mercy. And we all must learn to trust the Psalmist’s prayer: “Not to us, not to us, O Lord, but to your name be the glory” (Psalm 115:1).

The freeing, good news of the Gospel is that God is saving and redeeming the Whole first and foremost, and we are all caught up in this Cosmic Sweep of Divine Love. The parts—you and me and everybody else—are the blessed beneficiaries, the desperate hangers-on, the partly willing participants in the Whole. Paul wrote that our only task is to trust this reality “until God is all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). What a different idea of faith! “When Christ is revealed,” Paul writes to the Colossians, “and he is your life—you too will be revealed in all your glory with him” (3:4). Unless and until we can enjoy this, so much of what passes for Christianity will amount to little more than well-disguised narcissism and self-referential politics. We see this phenomenon playing out in the de facto values of people who strongly identify as Christian. Often they are more racist, classist, and sexist than non-Christians. “Others can carry the burden and the pain of injustice, but not my group,” they seem to say.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 166-167.

Image credit: The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner (detail), Edwin Henry Landseer, 1837, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: In the weeks before she died, Venus somehow communicated to me that all sadness, whether cosmic, human, or canine, is one and the same. Somehow, her eyes were all eyes, even God’s eyes, and the sadness she expressed was a divine and universal sadness. . . . Creation is one giant symphony of mutual sympathy. —Richard Rohr
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