What You Seek Is What You Are
Friday, September 27, 2019
Authentic spirituality emphasizes a real equivalence and mutuality between the one who sees and what can be seen. There is a symbiosis between the heart/mind of the seer and what they will pay attention to. All being (earth and planets, waters, all growing things, animals, humans, angels, and God) can rightly be spoken of with “one voice,” as John Duns Scotus (1266–1308) put it. We Franciscans call it “the Univocity of Being.” What I am you also are, and so is the world. Creation is one giant symphony of mutual sympathy.
To understand this, I must know that I am, at least in part, the very thing I am seeking. In fact, that is what makes me seek it! But most do not know this good news yet. God cannot be found “out there” until God is first found “in here,” within ourselves, as Augustine (354–430) profoundly expressed in many ways in his Confessions. Then we can almost naturally see God in others and in all of creation, too. What you seek is what you are. The search for God and the search for our True Self are finally the same search. St. Francis of Assisi’s all-night prayer, “Who are you, O God, and who am I?”  is the most honest prayer we can offer.
A heart transformed by this realization of oneness knows that only love “in here,” in me, can spot and enjoy love “out there.” Fear, constriction, and resentment are seen by spiritual teachers to be inherent obstructions that must be overcome. Those emotions cannot get you anywhere, certainly not anywhere good. Thus, all mystics are positive people—or they are not mystics! Their spiritual warfare is precisely the work of recognizing and then handing over all of their inner negativity and fear to God. The great paradox here is that such a victory is a gift from God and yet somehow you must want it very much (see Philippians 2:12-13).
The central practice in Franciscan mysticism, therefore, is that we must remain in love (John 15:9). Only when we are eager to love can we see love and goodness in the world around us. We must ourselves remain in peace, and then we will find peace over there. Remain in beauty, and we will honor beauty everywhere. This concept of remaining or abiding (John 15:4-5) moves all religion out of esoteric realms of doctrinal outer space where it has been lost for too long. There is no secret moral command for knowing or pleasing God, or what some call “salvation,” beyond becoming a loving person in mind, heart, body, and soul. Then you will see what you need to see. Jesus did not say, “Be right.” Jesus said, “Be in love.”
 The Deeds of Blessed Francis and His Companions, IX.37. See Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3 (New City Press: 2001), 455.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Essential Teachings on Love, ed. Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Orbis Books: 2018), 34-35.