This week’s Daily Meditations explore the fruitfulness of interfaith friendships. We begin with Father Richard reflecting on Jesus’ inclusivity, which has allowed Richard both to affirm and critique his own religious tradition—and invites us to do the same.
In no other period of history have humans had such easy and immediate access to people of other cultures and other religions, often as friends. Once a person has developed any “discernment of the Spirit” it becomes clear that God’s holiness exists all over the place.
The Second Vatican Council gave Catholics some fine official guidelines and freedoms. Nostra Aetate, the 1965 Catholic document on non-Christian religions affirms, “For all peoples comprise a single community, and have a single origin . . . one also is their final goal: God. [God’s] providence, manifestations of goodness, and saving designs extend to all [people].”  Such an affirmation rightly places us all inside the same frame of history and allows no foundational distinction between us. We are clearly from the one God, tending toward the one God, and as the mystics of all religions teach, Reality itself is one.
It is strange that it took us almost all of our two-thousand-year history to get back to the “ecumenical” attitude Jesus had at the very beginning! He goes out of his way to make non-Jews the heroes of many of his stories and teachings. He is quick to point out the failures and fallacies of his own religion, Judaism, while still remaining faithful to it. Jesus held a very critical stance toward his own religion, but for some reason few of us think we can do the same.
On the other hand, sadly, many people think that if they no longer believe in the absolute primacy of their own religion, then it has no absolute call on them and they often give up on it entirely. But I am convinced that the biblical tradition is saying that the only absolute available to us is the faithful love of God, and not any concept or structure—even our religious traditions themselves. God’s love itself is the center and the still point of the turning world. But if we have never actually experienced this love, we will most assuredly look for absolutes in other ways.
What is unique about Jesus is his inclusivity itself! He is so grounded in the absoluteness of the Divine relationship that he is quite free to relativize the Law, simplify the Prophets, and find God outside of his own tradition. He is constantly and consistently inclusive—without denying his Jewish foundation and faith. I believe we can only be inclusive when we have a deeply held and shared experience that we can include people “into.” We have to have a “home” to bring people home to.
What the world wants, and people need, are people who believe in Something—Something that will lead them to the good, the beautiful, the true, and the universal.
 Second Vatican Council, “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate, October 28, 1965,” sec. 1, in The Documents of Vatican II, ed. Walter M. Abbott (New York: Herder and Herder, 1966), 660–661.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Why Jesus?,” Radical Grace 16, no. 2 (April–June 2003): 4.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard and scholar Marcus Borg on the parallel teachings of Jesus and Buddha.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Jeremy Yap, Untitled (detail), 2017, photograph, Unsplash. Dann Zepeda, Untitled (detail), 2017, photograph, Unsplash. Austin Kehmeier, Untitled (detail), 2020, photograph, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
Image inspiration: Opening the door to difference—to include, rather than exclude—we see a beautiful beyond and receive the life water of new ways to see.
Story from Our Community:
For more than 15 years, the Daily Meditations have been a part of my morning spiritual routine. My dear friend, Debby, introduced me to Fr. Richard Rohr through his book “Falling Upward.” Today, I’m reflecting on my gratitude for Debby’s presence in my life as she recently passed away peacefully after a year long struggle with a brain tumor. Through sharing and practicing contemplative wisdom with each other and others we’ve met through the CAC, both Debby and I shared an experience of profound spirituality for which I’m very grateful. —Donna B.
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.