Love Is Life-Giving — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Love Is Life-Giving

An Expanding Love

Love Is Life-Giving
Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Religion, at its best, helps people to bring this foundational divine love into ever-increasing consciousness. In other words, it’s more about waking up than about cleaning up. Early-stage religion tends to focus on cleaning up, which is to say, determining who meets the requirements for moral behavior and religious belief.

At this point, at least in the United States, it appears that our cultural meaning has pretty much shrunk down to this: It is all about winning. Then, once we win, it becomes all about consuming. I can discern no other underlying philosophy in the practical order of American life today. Of itself, such a worldview cannot feed the soul very well or very long, much less provide meaning and encouragement, or engender love or community.

For insight into a more life-giving worldview, we can look to scripture and wise saints such as Julian of Norwich (1342–1416), who wrote that “Love is our Lord’s meaning.” [1] After years of counseling both religious and nonreligious people, it seems to me that most humans need a love object (which will hopefully become a mutual subject!) to keep themselves both sane and happy. That love object becomes our “North Star,” serving as our moral compass and our reason to keep putting one foot in front of the other in a happy and hopeful way. All of us need someone or something, or an animal (did anyone ever tell you that our English word animal comes from anima, the Latin for soul?) to connect our hearts with our heads. Love grounds us by creating focus, direction, motivation, even joy—and if we don’t find these things in love, we usually will try to find them in hate. We can certainly see the consequences of this unmet need for love in our society today!

In some ways, the object of our affection is arbitrary. It can begin as a love of golf, a clean house, your cat, or a desire to cultivate a certain reputation for yourself. Granted, the largeness of the object will eventually determine the largeness of the love, but God will use anything to get us started, focused, and flowing. Only a very few actually start this journey with God as the object. That is fully to be expected. God is not in competition with reality, but in full cooperation with it. All human loves, passions, and preoccupations can prime the pump, and only in time do most of us discover the first and final Source of those loves. God is clearly humble and does not seem to care who or what gets the credit. Whatever elicits the flow for you—in that moment and encounter, that thing is God for you! I do not say that without theological foundation, because my Trinitarian faith says that God is Relationship Itself. The names of the three “persons” of the Trinity are not as important as the relationship between them. That’s where all the power is—in the “in between”! 

[1] Julian of Norwich, Showings (Long text), chap. 86. See Showings, trans. Edmund Colledge and James Walsh (Paulist Press: 1978), 342.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 72–74, 75.

Story from Our Community:
When I was 20, after many years questioning the Catholic Church and many years of self-destructive behavior, I had an “amazing grace” experience and felt the love of God enveloping me. After this, my life changed significantly for the better, as I have attracted Love and try to give Love. Thank you Father Rohr for helping me to look beyond dogma and for reaching out to all faiths. God is love…this is what we all need to hear. —Mary B.

Image credit: Dorothea Lange. (1936) “Bum blockade.” All heading north. South of King City, California. Difficult to get a record of this movement because these men wouldn’t be photographed as a result of Los Angeles police activity (detail), photograph, public domain.
Image inspiration: Who do we shut out from our love? May we walk bravely into the horizons of love allowing our hearts to expand and radically include.
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