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Theme:
The Transforming Power of Love

The Transforming Power of Love

Saturday, November 14, 2020
Summary: Sunday, November 8—Friday, November 13, 2020

We have strayed so far from love; and yet, love is the essence of who we are, and how we are called to treat one another. (Sunday)

Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of our world. Jesus is not an impractical idealist; he is the practical realist. —Martin Luther King, Jr. (Monday)

When we live out of the truth of love, instead of the lie and human emotion of fear, we will at last begin to live. (Tuesday)

Embracing a love ethic means that we utilize all the dimensions of love—“care, commitment, trust, responsibility, respect, and knowledge”—in our everyday lives. —bell hooks (Wednesday)

“Revolutionary love” is the choice to enter into wonder and labor for others, for our opponents, and for ourselves in order to transform the world around us. —Valarie Kaur (Thursday)

Love is our foundation and our destiny. It is where we come from and where we’re headed. (Friday)

 

Practice: Lectio Divina with A Love Supreme by John Coltrane

We end the week inviting you to contemplate the soulful music of saxophonist John Coltrane’s composition “Psalm” from his album A Love Supreme. In “Psalm,” John Coltrane plays the “words” of his poem that was included in the original liner notes. He put this handwritten poem/prayer on the music stand in front of him, and “played” it as if it were music. Practicing Lectio Divina with this song may deepen your sense of prayer and add possible ways to pray. If you enjoy the practice with “Psalm,” we encourage you to try praying with other music. That is one of the beauties of Lectio Divina: it encourages us to “pray always.”

  • Before clicking on the following link to listen to John Coltrane’s “Psalm,” settle your body and begin with silence, asking God to be present in your listening.
  • Listen to “Psalm” and read along with the words from the poem that appear on the screen. Listen more than once. As you listen again, notice if any image, word, emotion, or memory is called forth in you.
  • When you settle on an image, word, emotion, or memory, sit silently with it and bring your attention back to it when your attention strays.
  • Ask God to reveal what this image, word, phrase, or emotion might have to say about your life today.? How is it connected to your spiritual journey?
  • Rest silently with your image, word, phrase, or emotion. Offer it to God. Wait patiently on God.
  • What would you like to express to God about the experience of praying with this piece of music? Take some time to journal about your experience.

Here are the opening lines of “Psalm”:

I will do all I can to be worthy
of Thee O Lord.
It All has to do with it.
Thank You God.
Peace.
There is none other.
God is. It is so beautiful.
Thank You God. God is All.
Help us to resolve our fears &
weaknesses.
In You All things are possible.

Reference:
John Coltrane, “Psalm,” A Love Supreme (Impulse! Records: 1965).

For Further Study:
Allen Dwight Callahan, A Love Supreme: A History of Johannine Tradition (Augsburg Fortress: 2005).

Michael Curry with Sara Grace, Love Is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times (Penguin Random House: 2020).

bell hooks, All about Love: New Visions (William Morrow: 2000).

Valarie Kaur, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love (One World: 2020).

Martin Luther King, Jr., A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings, foreword by Coretta Scott King (Beacon Press: 2012).

“Perfection,” Oneing, vol. 4, no. 1 (CAC Publishing: 2016). In particular, the essays “Perfection: A Problem and a Solution” by Joseph F. Schmidt and “To Love without Exception” by Jack Jezreel.

Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love, ed. Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Orbis Books: 2018).

Image credit: Woman and Child (Silence) (detail), Jean-Francois Millet, 1855, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: This faith, this love, this Holy Mystery—of which we are only a small part—can only be awakened and absorbed by the silent gaze of prayer. —Richard Rohr
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The Transforming Power of Love

God, the Lover of Life
Friday, November 13, 2020

Love is who you are. When you don’t live according to love, you are outside of being. You’re not being real. When you love, you are acting according to your deepest being, your deepest truth. You are operating according to your dignity. —Richard Rohr

Drawing from my many years of teaching, I can honestly say that the most powerful, most needed, and most essential teaching is always about love. Love is our foundation and our destiny. It is where we come from and where we’re headed. As St. Paul famously says, “So faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

My hope, whenever I speak or write, is to help clear away the impediments to receiving, allowing, trusting, and participating in a foundational love. God’s love is planted inside each of us as the Holy Spirit who, according to Jesus, “will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (John 14:26). Love is who you are. All I can do is remind you of what you already know deep within your True Self and invite you to live connected to this Source.

The first letter of John reminds us “God is love, and whoever remains in love, remains in God and God in her or him” (1 John 4:16). The creation story in Genesis says that we were created in the very “image and likeness” of God—who is love (Genesis 1:26; see also Genesis 9:6). Out of the Trinity’s generative, loving relationship, creation takes form, mirroring its Creator.

If we are truly created in the “image and likeness of God”—then our family of origin is divine. We were created by a loving God to be love in the world. Our core is original blessing, not original sin. Our starting point is positive and, as it is written in the first chapter of the Bible, it is “very good” (Genesis 1:31). We do have a good place to go home. If the beginning is right, the rest is made considerably easier, because we know and can trust the clear direction of our life’s tangent.

We must all overcome the illusion of separateness. It is the primary task of religion to communicate not worthiness but union, to reconnect people to their original identity “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). God’s job description is to draw us back into primal and intimate relationship.

May we pray together:

God, lover of life, lover of these lives,
God, lover of our souls, lover of our bodies, lover of all that exists . . .
In fact, it is your love that keeps it all alive . . .
May we live in this love.
May we never doubt this love.
May we know that we are love,
That we were created for love,
That we are a reflection of you,
That you love yourself in us and therefore we are perfectly lovable.

May we never doubt this deep and abiding and perfect goodness.

We are because you are.

References:
Adapted from Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love, ed. Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Orbis Books: 2018), v, 12–13; and

Healing Our Violence through the Journey of Centering Prayer, disc 4 (Franciscan Media: 2002), CD.

Image credit: Woman and Child (Silence) (detail), Jean-Francois Millet, 1855, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: This faith, this love, this Holy Mystery—of which we are only a small part—can only be awakened and absorbed by the silent gaze of prayer. —Richard Rohr
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The Transforming Power of Love

Revolutionary Love
Thursday, November 12, 2020

Is this the darkness of the tomb, or of the womb? I don’t know. All I know is that the only way we will endure is if each of us shows up to the labor. —Valarie Kaur

In this liminal space we find ourselves in now, Sikh activist, civil rights attorney, and author Valarie Kaur believes that “revolutionary love is the call of our times.” She brings the fullness of her faith and her humanity to answer the questions so many of us are asking. I think you will find her insights quite compelling:

If you cringe when people say that love is the answer, I do, too. The problem is not with love but with the way we talk about it. We mostly talk about love as a flood of emotion. But feelings alone are too fickle and fluid [RR—too based in the false self, I would also say] to sustain political action. Social reformers through history led entire nonviolent movements anchored in love as an ethic. Time and again, people gave their bodies and breath for one another, not only in the face of fire hoses and firing squads, but also in the quieter venues of their daily lives. Black feminists like bell hooks have long envisioned a world where the love ethic is a foundation for all arenas of our society. I believe we can reclaim love as a force for justice for a new time.

Here is my offering:

“Love” is more than a feeling. Love is a form of sweet labor: fierce, bloody, imperfect, and life-giving—a choice we make over and over again. If love is sweet labor, love can be taught, modeled, and practiced. This labor engages all our emotions. Joy is the gift of love. Grief is the price of love. Anger protects that which is loved. And when we think we have reached our limit, wonder is the act that returns us to love.

“Revolutionary love” is the choice to enter into wonder and labor for others, for our opponents, and for ourselves in order to transform the world around us. It is not a formal code or prescription but an orientation to life that is personal and political and rooted in joy. Loving only ourselves is escapism; loving only our opponents is self-loathing; loving only others is ineffective. All three practices together make love revolutionary, and revolutionary love can only be practiced in community.

Revolutions do not happen only in grand moments in public view but also in small pockets of people coming together to inhabit a new way of being. We birth the beloved community by becoming the beloved community. . . . When a critical mass of people practice together, in community and as part of movements for justice, I believe we can begin to create the world we want, here and now.

Richard again: Perhaps a nondual response to Kaur’s question above is that moments of felt darkness are both a tomb and a womb. We must die to the old before the truly new can be born.

References:
Valarie Kaur, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love (One World: 2020), xv–xvi, xvii.

Image credit: Woman and Child (Silence) (detail), Jean-Francois Millet, 1855, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: This faith, this love, this Holy Mystery—of which we are only a small part—can only be awakened and absorbed by the silent gaze of prayer. —Richard Rohr
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The Transforming Power of Love

A Love Ethic
Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Because of my background, my language about love is often biblical, theological, psychological, and personal. While these are necessary and helpful frames, they certainly aren’t the only ones we should use. bell hooks (sic), a Black feminist scholar and activist, suggests how truly living by a “love ethic” could bring about much needed societal change.

Culturally, all spheres of American life—politics, religion, the workplace, domestic households, intimate relations—should and could have as their foundation a love ethic. The underlying values of a culture and its ethics shape and inform the way we speak and act. A love ethic presupposes that everyone has the right to be free, to live fully and well. . . . Individuals who choose to love can and do alter our lives in ways that honor the primacy of a love ethic. We do this by choosing to work with individuals we admire and respect; by committing to give our all to relationships; by embracing a global vision wherein we see our lives and our fate as intimately connected to those of everyone else on the planet.

Commitment to a love ethic transforms our lives by offering us a different set of values to live by. In large and small ways, we make choices based on a belief that honesty, openness, and personal integrity need to be expressed in public and private decisions. . . . Living by a love ethic we learn to value loyalty and a commitment to sustained bonds over material advancement. While careers and making money remain important agendas, they never take precedence over valuing and nurturing human life and well-being. . . .

Embracing a love ethic means that we utilize all the dimensions of love—“care, commitment, trust, responsibility, respect, and knowledge”—in our everyday lives. We can successfully do this only by cultivating awareness. Being aware enables us to critically examine our actions to see what is needed so that we can give care, be responsible, show respect, and indicate a willingness to learn. . . .

Domination cannot exist in any social situation where a love ethic prevails. . . . When love is present the desire to dominate and exercise power cannot rule the day. All the great social movements for freedom and justice in our society have promoted a love ethic. Concern for the collective good of our nation, city, or neighbor rooted in the values of love makes us all seek to nurture and protect that good. If all public policy was created in the spirit of love, we would not have to worry about unemployment, homelessness, schools failing to teach children, or addiction. . . .

To live our lives based on the principles of a love ethic (showing care, respect, knowledge, integrity, and the will to cooperate), we have to be courageous. Learning how to face our fears is one way we embrace love. Our fear may not go away, but it will not stand in the way.

Reference:
bell hooks, All about Love: New Visions (William Morrow: 2000), 87–88, 94, 98, 101.

Image credit: Woman and Child (Silence) (detail), Jean-Francois Millet, 1855, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: This faith, this love, this Holy Mystery—of which we are only a small part—can only be awakened and absorbed by the silent gaze of prayer. —Richard Rohr
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The Transforming Power of Love

Love Is Our Deepest Identity
Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Behold, there are only three things that will last: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love. —1 Corinthians 13:13

To talk about love is to talk about what Plato calls “holy madness.” Jung even refused to include love in any of his classic categories—it finally defied his psychological descriptions. Perhaps that is why love has so many false meanings in our minds and emotions. Perhaps that is why Jesus never defined love, but instead made it a command. We must love, each of us absolutely must enter into this unnamable mystery if we are to know God and know our own self!

Love alone is sufficient unto itself. It is its own end, its own merit, its own satisfaction. It seeks no cause beyond itself and needs no fruit outside of itself. Its fruit is its use. Love is our deepest identity and what we are created in and for. To love someone “in God” is to love them for their own sake and not for what they do for us. Only a transformed consciousness sees another person as another self, as one who is also loved by Christ, and not as an object separate from ourselves on which we generously bestow favors. If we have not yet loved or if love wears us out, is it partly because other people are seen as tasks or commitments or threats, instead of as extensions of our own suffering and loneliness? Are they not in truth extensions of the suffering and loneliness of God?

When we live out of this truth of love, instead of the lie and human emotion of fear, we will at last begin to live. Love is always letting go of a fear. In the world of modern psychologizing, we have become very proficient at justifying our fears and avoiding simple love. The world will always teach us fear. Jesus will always command us to love. And when we seek the spiritual good of another, we at last forget our fears and ourselves.

Divine love or charity has nothing to do with feelings of “liking” one another. One key biblical word for love, agape, is not based on the myth of romantic love or good feelings about one another. It is a love grounded in God that allows us to honestly desire and seek the other’s spiritual growth. This faith, this love, this Holy Mystery—of which we are only a small part—can only be awakened and absorbed by the silent gaze of prayer. Those who contemplate who they are in God’s ecstatic love will be transformed as they look and listen and find and share. This God, like a Seductress, does not allow Herself to be known apart from love. We know God by loving God. And I think that it is actually more important to know that we love God than to know that God loves us, although the two movements are finally the same.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love, ed. Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Orbis Books: 2018), 134, 138, 139.

Image credit: Woman and Child (Silence) (detail), Jean-Francois Millet, 1855, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: This faith, this love, this Holy Mystery—of which we are only a small part—can only be awakened and absorbed by the silent gaze of prayer. —Richard Rohr
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The Transforming Power of Love

Love Your Enemies
Monday, November 9, 2020

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say unto you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. —Matthew 5:43–45

In the United States few public figures have spoken more plainly and powerfully about Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies than the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This was not an abstract theological question for Dr. King. He wrestled practically and at great cost with how to love his enemies, both through prayer and through nonviolent direct action. This passage is an excerpt from King’s sermon “Loving Your Enemies.”

When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. . . .

Probably no admonition of Jesus has been more difficult to follow than the command to “love your enemies.” Some people have sincerely felt that its actual practice is not possible. It is easy, they say, to love those who love you, but how can one love those who openly and insidiously seek to defeat you? . . .

This command of Jesus challenges us with new urgency. Upheaval after upheaval has reminded us that modern humanity is traveling along a road called hate, in a journey that will bring us to destruction. . . . Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love one’s enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival. Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of our world. Jesus is not an impractical idealist: he is the practical realist.

I am certain that Jesus understood the difficulty inherent in the act of loving one’s enemy. He never joined the ranks of those who talk glibly about the easiness of the moral life. He realized that every genuine expression of love grows out of a consistent and total surrender to God. So when Jesus said “Love your enemy,” he was not unmindful of its stringent qualities. Yet he meant every word of it. Our responsibility as Christians is to discover the meaning of this command and seek passionately to live it out in our daily lives. . . .

When Jesus bids us to love our enemies, he is speaking of neither eros [romantic love] nor philia [reciprocal love of friends]; he is speaking of agape, understanding and creative, redemptive goodwill for all people. Only by following this way and responding with this type of love are we able to be children of our Father who is in Heaven.

Richard again: This is a timely reminder to Christians around the world. We must ask ourselves “What would it mean to seek to embody love as ‘creative, redemptive goodwill’ on behalf of all living things?”

Reference:
Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, foreword by Coretta Scott King (Beacon Press: 1963, 1981), xi, 43–44, 47. Note: Minor edits made to incorporate gender-inclusive language.

Image credit: Woman and Child (Silence) (detail), Jean-Francois Millet, 1855, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: This faith, this love, this Holy Mystery—of which we are only a small part—can only be awakened and absorbed by the silent gaze of prayer. —Richard Rohr
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The Transforming Power of Love

A Commandment to Love
Sunday, November 8, 2020

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. —1 John 4:7–8

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. . . . This I command you: love one another. —John 15:12–14, 17

Love is perhaps the last thing anyone wants to be reminded of in these days following the election in the United States. Yet our resistance to love is precisely why we need to talk about it! We have strayed so far from love; and yet, love is the essence of who we are, and how we are called to treat one another.

“Whoever loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). Unfortunately, many Christians think, “If I read the Bible, I’m born of God; or if I go to church, I know God; or if I obey the commandments, I know God.” Yet the writer of 1 John says it’s simply about loving. Note that the converse is true also: “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). In the Gospel of John, Jesus takes this to its logical conclusion. He does not say, “There is no greater love than to love God.” Instead he says, “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends” (John 15:13). As biblical scholar Allen Dwight Callahan writes of this passage, “Jesus has loved his followers so that they may love each other. Love calls for love in turn. Love makes love imperative.” [1]

The beginning and end of everything is love. Only inside of this mystery of the exchange of love can we know God. If we stay outside of that mystery, we cannot know God.

When most of us hear the word “commandment,” we likely think of the Ten Commandments; that is not what Jesus is referring to here. He speaks of a “new” commandment surpassing and summing up the “ten” of the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 20:1–17; Deuteronomy 5:6–21): “This is my commandment: Love one another” (John 15:17). He also says that the entire law and the prophets are summed up in the two great commandments: to love God and to love one another (see Matthew 22:36–40). Perhaps we don’t want to hear these commandments because we can never live up to them through our own efforts. We’d like to whittle this down to a little commandment, like “Come to church on Sunday,” so that we could feel we have obeyed the commandment and accomplished love. But who of us can say that we have fully loved yet? We are all beginners. We are all starting anew every day, in utter reliance on the mercy, grace, and compassion of God. This is a good example of “the tragic gap” that faith always allows and fills.

References:
[1] Allen Dwight Callahan, A Love Supreme: A History of the Johannine Tradition (Augsburg Fortress: 2005), 78-79.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Love Is the Only Message,” homily (May 13, 2012).

Image credit: Woman and Child (Silence) (detail), Jean-Francois Millet, 1855, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: This faith, this love, this Holy Mystery—of which we are only a small part—can only be awakened and absorbed by the silent gaze of prayer. —Richard Rohr
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