Free to Serve Others — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Free to Serve Others


Free to Serve Others
Friday, January 22, 2021

German theologian Dorothee Sölle (1929–2003) describes how seeing with God’s eyes, hearing with God’s ears, and acting with God’s passion for justice is a truly liberating experience that benefits the entire community. Sölle writes:

In the sense of theology that liberates, the soul that is united with God sees the world with God’s eyes. That soul, like God, sees what otherwise is rendered invisible and irrelevant. It hears the whimpering of starving children and does not let itself be diverted from real misery, becoming one with God in perceiving and understanding as well as in acting. For people in the slums, redemption does not consist of some great and far removed actor ending the misery of the oppressed. Rather, in coming so very close, that far-near one acts in and through those who have become one with that actor. In liberating movements, the mystical eye sees God at work: seeing, hearing, acting, even in forms that are utterly secular. In the contingency of literacy programs, or collaboration in building a school, God’s action is manifest. It is a mysticism of wide-open eyes. . . .

What happens really in the soul’s union with God in terms of liberation and of healing? It is an exercise in seeing how God sees, the perception of what is little and unimportant; it is listening to the cry of God’s children who are in slavery in Egypt. God calls upon the soul to give away its own ears and eyes and to let itself be given those of God. Only they who hear with other ears can speak with the mouth of God. God sees what elsewhere is rendered invisible and is of no relevance. Who other than God sees the poor and hears their cry? To use “God’s senses” does not mean simply turning inward but becoming free for a different way of living life: See what God sees! Hear what God hears! Laugh where God laughs! Cry where God cries!

Allowing God to fully inhabit our senses does not mean we close ourselves off from the world but open ourselves more fully to it. We are free to be fully ourselves but not to exist only for ourselves. We are free to become Christ in the world to the same extent that we recognize the Christ in others, especially the last and the least.

Dorothee Sölle, The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance, trans. Barbara and Martin Rumscheidt (Fortress Press: 2001), 283–284, 293.

Story from Our Community:
I grew up in a quiet little idyllic Midwestern town. In my mid-40s I began to experience disorder through burnout in ministry, only I didn’t know what it was. I was afraid I was losing my faith completely. After first coming in contact with Fr. Richard through “Falling Upward” I eventually ended up finding the “Another Name for Everything” podcast as well as these daily meditations. Each of these interactions is such a tremendous aid in my own continually unfolding pilgrimage. Richard often gives words to the unspeakable wrestlings of disorder and a vision of a reality re-ordered that keep resonating in me. —Don R.

Image credit: Monastery Window (detail), Photograph by Thomas Merton, copyright the Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. Used with Permission.
A window is an invitation. A break in the impervious stone of a wall. A way in or out. Covered in foliage, light, and shadow, this window speaks to the complex nature of reality, unveiled.
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