Yesterday’s meditation outlined a pattern of change based on what Father Richard calls the “Five M’s”: human, movement, machine, monument, and memory. Today Father Richard reflects on examples of individuals who were inspired by the “Jesus movement” to transform the “machines and monuments” in their lives.
Sometimes machine and monument people can be recaptured by the vision of the human and the movement. In the CAC’s early years, we were often visited by our friend Frank, who worked for the nuclear test site outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. In fact, Frank headed the operation for a number of years—and then dared, by the grace of the gospel, to call it into question. He even joined me once as we practiced civil disobedience at the test site. I will never forget seeing him walk toward me with a half-worried half-smile on his face. “I have trusted your teaching all these years. Now I have to trust where it has led me,” he said. We stood together as his former employees drove by and gave less-than-flattering gestures to their old boss. I was humbled and awed by such courage and humility. He had let go of his secure monument through an encounter with the man Jesus and the vision of the peace movement.
It’s hard and very rare to call your own job into question. When Jesus called his disciples, he also called them away from their jobs, and their families too (see Matthew 4:22). Of course, jobs and families are not bad things. But Jesus called them to leave their nets, because as long as anyone is tied to job security, there are a lot of things they cannot see and cannot say. This is one of the great recurring disadvantages of clergy earning their salary from the church, and perhaps why Saint Francis did not want us to be ordained priests. We tend to think and say whatever won’t undermine the company or brand.
Father Richard points to St. Francis of Assisi (1182–1226) as an example of how to make holistic change:
Francis of Assisi offers us a model of transformation because he did not attack the monuments or machines directly but went out to the edge and did it better. For his inspiration, Francis went back to the original dynamism and nonviolent style of Jesus the man.
Assisi is surrounded by city walls. Inside those walls are the cathedral and the established churches, all of which are good. That’s where Francis first heard the gospel and fell in love with Jesus. But then he quietly went outside the walls and rebuilt some old ruins called San Damiano and the Portiuncula. He wasn’t telling the others they were doing it wrong. He just gently and lovingly tried to do it better. I think that’s true reconstruction. Remember, the best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. That might be a perfect motto for all reconstructive work. It does not destroy machines or monuments but reinvigorates them with new energy and form.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2001, 2020), 95–98.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Rosemary and Rachel Harding on the spirituality of the Black Freedom movement.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Untitled Church I (detail), 2020, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Toni Frissell, Minnie Burden, barefoot, riding a horse (detail), 1964, photograph, Library of Congress, public domain. Jenna Keiper, Untitled Window (detail), 2020, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States.
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: The left and right photos are of stone monuments: solid and unmoving. Between them the fresh energy and movement of a horse and rider breathe life into this trio of images. How can we stay connected to the energetic, movement origins of our religions?
Story from Our Community:
I was widowed at the age of 34, after only 9 years of marriage. I realized one day that I was using all my energy to avoid the pain I was afraid to feel. One day in my desperation I laid down and let it flow through me. As I cried I sensed a downward spiral, but suddenly there was a stop. At that moment God caught me. I knew I would still live with my pain but that with my faith in God I will survive what life brings.
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.