Transformation: Week 2
Transformation Our Pain
Sunday, July 3, 2016
Spirituality is always eventually about what you do with your pain. It seems our culture has lost its own spiritual foundation and center, and as a result we no longer know what to do with universal pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will always transmit it—to our partner, our spouse, our children, our friends, our coworkers, our “enemies.” Usually we project it outward and blame someone else for causing our pain.
In terms of the soul, no one else is your problem. You are invariably the primary problem. You are always the locus of conversion and transformation. I believe the message of the crucified Jesus is a statement about what to do with your pain. It’s primarily a message of transformation, and not a transaction to “open the gates of heaven” unless you are talking about being drawn into heaven right now. For some unfortunate reason Christians have usually “used” Jesus as a mere problem solver, one who would keep us personally from pain later. That kept us in a very small, self- centered world. The big loss was that we missed Jesus’ message of how to let God transform us and our world here and now.
The book of Revelation presents the paradoxical image of a Lamb who is simultaneously slaughtered and standing, victim and victorious at the same time (see Revelation 5:6 and throughout). This is the transformative mystery in iconic form. We must put together these two seeming opposites in our own life. We, too, can be both. Only the Spirit can teach us the paradox of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the pattern of all growth, change, and transformation. It is equally hard to trust both sides—the dying itself and the promised new state.
Was God trying to solve a problem through what looked like the necessary death of Jesus? Or was God trying to reveal something central about the nature of God? Christians have historically taught that God was saving us from our sins. Maybe an even better way to say it is that Jesus was saving us through our sins. As Paul says with great subtlety, Jesus “became sin that we might become the very goodness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In other words, Jesus becomes the problem to show us how to resolve the problem. The actual impact of this has yet to hit most Christians. We are generally inclined to either create victims of others or play the victim ourselves, both of which are no solution but only perpetuate the problem. Jesus instead holds the pain—even becomes the pain—until it transforms him into a higher state, which we rightly call the risen life. The subsequent New Testament texts do not reveal any self-pity, resentment, or anger in Jesus. He never asks his followers to avenge his murder. Compare this to almost all historical stories of the death of a leader. An utterly new attitude (Spirit) has been released in history; it’s a spirit of love, compassion, and forgiveness. As Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Gateway to Silence:
Death to life, sadness to joy
Adapted from Richard Rohr On Transformation (Franciscan Media: 1997), disc 1; and
Richard Rohr with John Feister, Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an Age of Anxiety (St. Anthony Messenger Press: 2001), 19, 22-23.