plunge me deep into a sense of sadness
at the pain of my sisters and brothers …
that I may learn again to cry as a child
until my tears baptize me
into a person who touches with care
those I now touch in prayer…
Amen. —Ted Loder, “I Remember Now in Silence,” Guerrillas of Grace
Almost twenty years ago, Richard Rohr wrote an essay for CAC’s newsletter Radical Grace to articulate the Center’s position to stand at the margins in solidarity with others.
Jesus consistently stands with the excluded: outsiders, sinners, and poor people. That is his place of freedom from every local culture, his unique way of critiquing all self-serving culture, and his way of standing in union with the suffering of the world—all at the same time. That is his form of world healing.
It’s rather obvious that Jesus spends most of his ministry standing with the ones accused of unworthiness, the so-called bad people, the demonized. It is actually rather scandalous how the only way he tries to change them is by loving and healing them, never accusing anybody but the accusers themselves. His social program is solidarity. As Jesuit Greg Boyle, the street priest in Los Angeles, says, “Jesus stands with the demonized until the demonizing stops.” Father Greg insists this is Jesus’ primary form of justice work, which is why Jesus’ “strategy” is always so hard to pinpoint and name. His justice strategy is solidarity—even more than working or fighting for justice per se, which disappoints many activists. Mary does the same by standing at the foot of the cross. He and she stand with the pain, to call us all to lives of communion with the world’s suffering. This is so much harder than merely trying to fix it, understand it, control it, or even localize it. Only love can do this, and really only God’s love.
I am sure you see how Jesus’ insight has led us to our emphasis on contemplation and spiritual conversion here at the CAC, over pure and simple activism. If universal kinship, solidarity, communion with God, with ourselves, and with the rest of the world, is daily experienced and lived, we do have a very grounded plan and runway for peacemaking, justice work, social reform, civil and human rights—but now from a very positive place, where “I and the Father are one” [John 10:30].
This demands our own ongoing transformation, our changing places, and even a new identity, as Jesus shows in his great self-emptying (Philippians 2:6–7). He stood in solidarity with the problem itself, hardly ever with specific answers for people’s problems. This was his strategy and therefore it is ours. It feels like weakness, but it finally changes things in very creative, patient, and humble ways. Such solidarity is learned and expressed in two special places—contemplation and actions of communion with human suffering.
This is our name and our task, and it comes from watching Jesus.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Standing with Jesus,” Radical Grace 18, no. 3 (May–June 2005): 3, 16.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—CAC Staff, Untitled, watercolor. Izzy Spitz, Field Study 2, oil pastel on canvas. Izzy Spitz, Everything at Once, digital oil pastel on canvas. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
Artist Statement (Izzy Spitz): “Chemistry of self” [collection of images] is a visual diary of varying emotions of my day-to-day life. It’s an act of presence in a world of existential overwhelm and grounding in the gifts of mundane life.
Story from Our Community:
As a Native American man, my soul shares the agony of the history of African American people in “the land of the free.” Power and greed decimate every fiber of our universe. The contemplative focus on oneness is the source of my hope—our hope—for Creator’s active imperative for healing. —Gregory H.