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Center for Action and Contemplation
Evil Is a Social Reality
Evil Is a Social Reality

One Stream of Love 

Friday, May 19, 2023

Forgiveness is God’s way out of sin and evil. Father Richard describes it as nothing less than the “Divine Order” of things:  

Sin is not so much personal moral failure (although it is that too) as it is humans trying to validate themselves in a world where there is no completely solid place to stand. All our responses are flawed and partial. We can never be fully “saved” in this world; everything human disappoints on some level.  

As many saints have said, sinners grasp for Love in the wrong places and in ways that will never work. This becomes more obvious to me the older I get, as I have had to admit the faults and failings of most of my heroes, myself, every religion and denomination, and every form of government. God created a world where there is no technique or magical method for purity or perfection; forgiving love is the only way out. The only final answer is God’s infinite Love and our ability to endlessly draw upon it. There is only the needing, the hoping, and the striving, and that is our victory in itself.  

Here is the key to understanding this: Sin, evil, and disorder included and forgiven is the Divine Order! The absolute centrality of forgiveness in Jesus’ teaching should make this obvious. Forgiveness doesn’t nullify or eliminate offensive actions. It acknowledges and radically names and exposes that sin, evil, and fault did indeed happen—and then lets go of it! Forgiveness does not, and cannot, undo it. It can’t. Sin and evil happened. God does not undo the sins of humans or of history, but from an infinite Source, forgives them. [1] 

Let’s also remember that Jesus is shockingly not upset with sinners. This is a shock so total that most Christians still refuse to see it. He is only upset with people who do not think they are sinners: These denying, fearful, and illusory ones are the blockage. They are much more likely to hate and feel no compunction. We once thought the mission of religion was to expel sin and evil. Through Jesus, we learn that sin lies in the very act of expelling. There is no place to expel it to. We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us. We either carry and transform the evil of human history as our own problem, or we only increase its efficiency and power by hating and punishing it “over there.” [2] 

Every time God forgives—seventy times seven, apparently—God is showing a preference and capacity for sustaining relationship over being right, distant, superior, and separate. We are slow learners in that regard. The unilateral “covenant love” promised by the prophets is God’s absolute ability to sustain relationship with everything and, finally, to overcome our resistance by the same allurement “that moves the sun and the other stars” as Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) would put it. [3] It is all one and the same stream of Love. [4] 


[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, What Do We Do with Evil? The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2019), 85–86.  

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2020), 169. 

[3] Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Paradiso, canto 33, line 145.  

[4] Rohr, What Do We Do with Evil?, 86. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Exercise in Grief and Lamentation credits from left to right: Jessie Jones, Jennifer Tompos, Jenna Keiper. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

On retreat, the CAC staff used watercolors to connect to our collective grief. This is one of the watercolor paintings that came from that exercise. 

Story from Our Community:  

For so long I wondered how my traumatic experiences as a combat infantry lieutenant in Vietnam could possibly be of any positive value in my life, or in that of others.… Today, I understand that had I not had these terrible combat experiences, I might have remained who I was. I might never have been humble enough to accept my ongoing 12-step recovery process. Most importantly, I could not have accepted the gift of learning the identity of my True Self: a beloved child of God. After experiencing combat, social ostracism, and addictive self-medicating, I suffered the words and judgment of my peers—even from fellow veterans. But all of it was part of my necessary initiation by and into Reality. I resigned my military career as a conscientious objector, and spent my second career helping build social services programs to be of practical service with others. —Thomas S. 

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