Rediscovering the Common Good
Unified by the Paschal Mystery
Wednesday, November 3, 2021
Fr. Richard explains how a deepening trust in the Paschal Mystery of Christ can lead us to a greater commitment to the common good.
I do not think it is overly dramatic to say that Western civilization appears to be in a state of spiritual emergency. For religion to be effective in linking us with the Something More, it must create a hopeful, symbolic universe that both settles and liberates the human soul. When “God reigns,” the many disparate parts are held together in one coherent Totality, the Way-Things-Work is clear, even if demanding. But we no longer live in such a world. The cosmic egg has broken.
In the practical order, the result is polarization at every level. The rifts and chasms between even good people sometimes seem impossible to bridge. Groups are unable to respect one another, engage in civil dialogue, act in service and justice for the common good, or basically honor what God is apparently quite patient about: the human struggle and the essentially tragic nature of all life.
Catholic Christianity proclaimed this symbolic pattern mythically and brilliantly as the Paschal Mystery: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!” The Eucharistic ritual continues to name this pattern as the mystery of faith, but a people obsessed with progress, consumption, and the quick-fix no longer has the appropriate software to decode the message. The hardware, I believe, is still waiting in the vast unconscious.
The breach is no one’s fault in particular, but now it is our responsibility together to mend it. I cannot imagine what else would please and honor the Creator of us all. When we no longer know how to constellate a symbolic universe, all we have left are private pathologies and storylines to explain ourselves. Each group proclaims and protects its “rights” and moral superiority to the other. A common life is no longer possible except in an ever-shrinking enclave of folks who think just like we do. While quite appropriate for protection of the ego, such self-insulating ideas usually have little to do with the daring and wonderful search for God. Mere credal or civil religion does not give us access to the rich and revelatory world of Spirit. In fact, it blocks the journey into grief, into the Mystery, into the Paradox, into ecstasy, into Universal Compassion, into the Universal Christ.
I believe that Jesus-who-became-the-Christ still stands as the perfect mediator of all that is human and good. The cross stands as the intersection of opposites between heaven and earth, divine and human, inner and outer—revealing at the same time the price of that intersection. It seems that the universal law is that something must always die for something else to live. It feels especially tragic and unacceptable when that thing is not bad but good and seemingly necessary! Such is the “pattern that connects” all things.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Near Occasions of Grace (Orbis Books: 1993), xi–xiii.
Story from Our Community:
I was brought up a good Catholic and believed what I had been taught—that I loved God and that God hated me. I can’t even remember how many times a nun or priest told me that I was going straight to hell. They also never spoke about how one priest’s sexual molestation of me fit with God’s plan. My wife introduced me to Methodism and I learned that God was with me and that I was a part of him. Reading Richard Rohr’s meditations makes my heart and spirit sing because he speaks so eloquently to this belief. —David D.
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