Expanding Our Capacity to Love — Center for Action and Contemplation
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See the schedule and event session details for the final CONSPIRE conference (Sep. 24 – 26)

Expanding Our Capacity to Love

Unveiling the Universal Christ

Expanding Our Capacity to Love
Wednesday, August 25, 2021

To be loved by Jesus enlarges our heart capacity. To be loved by the Christ enlarges our mental capacity. We need both a Jesus and a Christ, in my opinion, to get the full picture. A truly transformative God—for both the individual and history—needs to be experienced as both personal and universal. Nothing less will fully work. If the overly personal (even sentimental) Jesus has shown itself to have severe limitations and problems, it is because this Jesus was not also universal. We lost the cosmic when we made him cozy. History has clearly shown that worship of Jesus without worship of Christ invariably becomes a time-and culture-bound religion, often ethnic or even, in the West, implicitly racist, which excludes much of humanity from God’s embrace.

I fully believe, however, that there has never been a single soul who was not possessed by the Christ, even in the ages before Jesus. Why would we want our religion, or our God, to be any smaller?

For those of us who have felt angered or wounded or excluded by the message of Jesus or Christ as we have heard it, I hope we sense an opening here—an affirmation, a welcome that we may have despaired of ever hearing. You are a child of God, and always will be, even when you don’t believe it.

I opened my book The Universal Christ with a lengthy quote from Catholic mystic and artist Caryll Houselander [1901–1954]. She describes riding the subway and seeing Christ permeating and radiating from all her fellow passengers:

Quite suddenly I saw with my mind, but as vividly as a wonderful picture, Christ in them all. But I saw more than that; not only was Christ in every one of them, living in them, dying in them, rejoicing in them, sorrowing in them—but because He was in them, and because they were here, the whole world was here too . . . all those people who had lived in the past, and all those yet to come.

I came out into the street and walked for a long time in the crowds. It was the same here, on every side, in every passer-by, everywhere—Christ. [1]

This is why I can see Christ in my dog Opie, the sky, and all creatures, and it’s why we can experience God’s unadulterated care for us in our garden or kitchen, our husband or wife or child, an ordinary beetle, a fish in the darkest sea that no human eye will ever observe, and even in those who do not like us, and those who are not like us.

This is the illuminating light that enlightens all things, making it possible for us to see things in their fullness. When Christ calls himself the “Light of the World” (John 8:12), he is not telling us to look just at him, but to look out at life with his all-merciful eyes. We see him so we can see like him, and with the same infinite compassion.

References:
[1] Caryll Houselander, A Rocking-Horse Catholic (Sheed & Ward: 1955), 137–138.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 36–37.

Story from Our Community:
I am a physician who works in a hospital. This last year has been difficult and I felt that my faith was slipping. Then I read The Universal Christ and found this site. Now I get into my day rather than through it. I am inspired each day to listen more deeply, connect more intimately and love more generously. These daily readings have saved me. —Mahsheed K.

Image credit: Charles O’Rear, Grasses After Spring Rain (detail), 1973, photograph, Nebraska, National Archives.
Image inspiration: Each blade of dew-graced grass is part of a larger braided design, just as each person is part of a larger whole. The extraordinary glistens in the most ordinary.
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