For over fifty years as a Franciscan priest, Father Richard Rohr has worked to reawaken Christians to the radical and transformative message of Jesus. It’s a message that is often distorted by culture and even by the Christian tradition itself. Richard reflects:
Our religion is not working well: suffering, fear, violence, injustice, greed, and meaninglessness still abound. This is not even close to the reign of God that Jesus taught. And we must be frank: in their behavior and impact upon the world, Christians are not much different than other people.
Many Christians are not highly transformed people; instead, they tend to reflect their own culture more than they operate as any kind of leaven within it. I speak especially of American Christians, because I am one. But if you are from another country, look at the Christians where you live and see if the same is true there.
Let’s be honest: religion has probably never had such a bad name. Christianity is now seen as “irrelevant” by some, “toxic” by many, and often as a large part of the problem rather than any kind of solution. Some of us are almost embarrassed to say we are Christian because of the negative images that word conjures in others’ minds. Young people especially are turned off by how judgmental, exclusionary, impractical, and ineffective Christian culture seems to be.
Most Christians have not been taught how to plug into the “mind of Christ”; thus, they often reflect the common mind of power, greed, and war instead. The dualistic mind reads reality in simple binaries—good and bad, right and wrong—and thinks itself smart because it chooses one side. This is getting us nowhere.
Throughout the history of Christianity, it would seem Jesus’ teaching has had little impact, except among people who surrendered to great love and great suffering. Could this be the real core of the Gospel? Such people experience God rather than merely have disconnected ideas about God. We need to rely on the mind of mystics now to offer any kind of alternative—contemplative or nondual—consciousness. We need practice-based religion that teaches us how to connect with the Infinite in ways that actually change us from our finite perspectives.
We must rediscover what St. Francis of Assisi (1182–1226) called the “marrow of the Gospel.”  It’s time to rebuild from the bottom up. If the foundation is not solid and sure, everything we try to build on top of it is weak and ineffective. Perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise that so much is tumbling down around us. It’s time to begin again. In the year 1205, Jesus spoke to Francis through the San Damiano cross: “Francis, rebuild my church, for you see it is falling into ruin.” If Jesus himself says the church is falling into ruin, I guess we can admit it also without being accused of being negative or unbelieving. Maybe we have to admit it for anything new and good to happen.
 Thomas of Celano, The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul, chapter 158. See Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, The Founder (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2000), 380.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, unpublished talk, December 3, 2016, at Canossian Spirituality Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard on the Hebrew prophets and self-critical thinking.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Chaokun Wang, 墙 wall (detail), 2020, photograph, China, Creative Commons. Yoichi R. Okamoto, Munich’s Large and Beautiful Fussgangerzone (detail), 1973, photograph, Munich, Public Domain. Chaokun Wang, 树 tree (detail), 2019, photograph, Qufu, Creative Commons. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge the 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: Sometimes the wall cracks or the tree dies. We ponder and question what we profess to believe. It’s a healthy practice that undergirds a maturing faith.
Story from Our Community:
As a young adult, I’ve shifted away from ideology and moved into free thought and expansiveness, while grounded in perennial truth. As contemplatives, we’re told to live on uncertainty, but I know that my transformation affects the lives of those around me positively. Here, I can hold my traditional Catholic upbringing and be a person of the modern-day, living amidst its many contradictions.
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.