The River of Grace – Richard Rohr

Father Richard teaches that a practice of contemplation carries us into the “Big River” of God’s love and enables us to release our fears.  

Grace and mercy teach us that we are all much larger than the good or bad stories we tell about ourselves or one another. Our small, fear-based stories are usually less than half true, and therefore not really “true” at all. They’re usually based on hurts and unconscious agendas that persuade us to see and judge things in a very selective way. They’re not the whole You, not the Great You, and therefore not where Life can really happen. No wonder the Spirit is described as “flowing water” and as “a spring inside you” (John 4:10–14) or as a “river of life” (Revelation 22:1–2).  

I believe that faith might be precisely that ability to trust the Big River of God’s providential love, which is to trust its visible embodiment (the Christ), the flow (the Holy Spirit), and the source itself (the Creator). This is a divine process that we don’t have to change, coerce, or improve. We just need to allow it and enjoy it. That takes immense confidence in God, especially when we’re hurting. Often, we feel ourselves get panicky and quickly want to make things right. We lose our ability to be present and go up into our heads and start obsessing. At that point we’re not really feeling or experiencing things in our hearts and bodies. We’re oriented toward making things happen, trying to push or even create our own river. Yet the Big River is already flowing through us and each of us is only one small part of it. 

Faith does not need to push the river precisely because it is able to trust that there is a river. The river is flowing; we are already in it. This is probably the deepest meaning of “divine providence.” So do not be afraid. We have been proactively given the Spirit by a very proactive God.  

Ask yourself regularly, “What am I afraid of? Does it matter? Will it matter in the great scheme of things? Is it worth holding on to?” We have to ask whether it is fear that keeps us from loving. Grace will lead us into such fears and emptiness, and grace alone can fill them, if we are willing to stay in the void. We mustn’t engineer an answer too quickly. We mustn’t get settled too fast. We all want to manufacture an answer to take away our anxiety and settle the dust. To stay in God’s hands, to trust, means that we usually have to let go of our attachments to feelings—which are going to pass away anyway. People of deep faith develop a high tolerance for ambiguity and come to recognize that it is only the small self that needs certitude or perfect order all the time. The Godself is perfectly at home in the River of Mystery.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, rev. ed. (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2003), 142–144. 

INCARNATIONALISM – Richard Rohr

Pure, unspoiled religion, in the eyes of God our Father, is this: to come to the help of orphans and widows when they need it and to keep free from the enticements of the system. -James 1:27

Whenever the human and the divine coexist, at the same time, in the same person, you have Christianity. I don’t know that it finally matters what Scriptures you read, liturgies you attend, or moral positions you hold about this or that, as much as it is how you live trustfully inside of God’s one world. This creates honest people, people who don’t waste time proving they’re right, superior, or saved. They just try to live and love the daily mystery that they are in the loving presence of God. “God comes to you disguised as your life,” as Paula D’Arcy proclaimed the first time we taught together. Imagine that!

There are basically four worldviews: (1) reality is just matter, (2) reality is just spirit, (3) through religion and morality, you can work to put matter and spirit together (the most common religious position), and (4) the mate rial world has always been the place where Spirit is revealed. You cannot put them together they already are together, as in Jesus. Only the fourth position, incarnationalism, deserves to be called authentic Christianity. It has little to do with the right rituals, only the right reality.

+Adapted from Great Themes of Paul: Life as Participation (Recording). – Richard Rohr

THE IN-BETWEEN OF THINGS – Richard Rohr

One reason so many theologians are interested in the Trinity now is that we’re finding both physics (especially quantum physics) and cosmology are at a level of development where those sciences in general-our under standing of the atom and our understanding of galaxies-are affirming and confirming our use of the old Trinitarian language, but with a whole new level of appreciation. Reality is radically relational, and all the power is in the relationships themselves-not in the particles or the planets, but in the space in between the particles and planets. It sounds a lot like what we called the Holy Spirit.

No good Christians would have denied the Trinitarian Mystery, but,until our generation, none were prepared to see that the shape of God is the shape of the whole universe! Great science, which we once considered an enemy of religion, is now helping us see that we’re standing in the middle of awesome Mystery, and the only response before that Mystery is immense humility. Astrophysicists are much more comfortable with emptiness and non-explainability (dark matter, black holes), and living with hypotheses than most Christians I know. Who could have imagined this?

Adapted from The Shape of God: Deepening the Mystery of the Trinity (Recording).

It’s not the day on the
calendar that makes the
New Year new, it’s when
the old year dies that the new
year gets born. It’s when the
ache in your heart breaks
open, when new love makes
every cell in your body
align. It’s when your baby
is born, it’s when your
father and mother die. It’s
when the new Earth is
discovered and it’s the
ground you’re standing on.
The old year is all that is
broken, the ash left from all
those other fires you made;
the new year kindles from
your own spark, catches flame
and consumes all within
that is old, withered and dry.
The New Year breaks out
when the eye sees anew,
when the heart breathes open
locked rooms, when your
dead branches burst into
blossom, when the Call comes
with no doubt that it’s
calling to you.

Nothing Stands Alone – 2022 Daily Meditations

I have been reading these daily meditations from the Center for Action and Contemplation for over five year now. It is usually, the first thing I read every morning. What a great way to start the day! This year’s theme is perfect for this COVID chaos period. I hope you will join me on this journey – since indeed – Nothing Stands Alone.

Grace and Peace,

Brian

In the 2022 Daily Meditations, Father Richard Rohr invites you on a journey of understanding God as Relationship—with ourselves, each other, and the earth—through the theme of Nothing Stands Alone.

What could happen if we embraced the idea of God as relationship—with ourselves, each other, and the earth? Could salvation simply be the willingness to remain in loving relationship with all creation? We will explore these questions and more in the 2022 theme for Daily Meditations, Nothing Stands Alone.

Over the next twelve months we will explore how relationship itself invites us to experience God’s presence in ourselves and each other. Fr. Richard calls this “participating in the wholeness of the Body of Christ.”

“Our sense of disconnection is only an illusion. Nothing human can stop the flow of divine love; we cannot undo the eternal pattern even by our worst sin.”

–RICHARD ROHR

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God Has No Grandchildren, Only Children – Richard Rohr

Jesus practically begs for some trust from his disciples, even after they’ve witnessed his miracles and heard his profound teaching. He eventually puts this question to them: “Who do you say that I am?” Don’t give me your theologies. Who is the Jesus you know? That’s the only Jesus that can really touch you and liberate you. Finally, Peter responds, “You are the Christ!” and Jesus gives him strict orders not to tell anyone (Mark 8:29-30). Why? Because each one of us has to walk the same journey of death and doubt for ourselves and come out the other side, enlarged by love.


No one can do this homework for us. Every generation has to be converted anew and the Gospel has to always be preached in new contexts and cultures in ways that are good news to that time and people. Yes, institutions and denominations are necessary and somehow inevitable, but when they imagine that they can prepackage the message in eternal formulas and half-believed (half-experienced?) doctrines and Scriptures, they often become their own worst enemy. Too many people join a club instead of going on a journey toward God, love, or truth.


+Adapted from The Four Gospels (Recording).

Expansive Questions, Not Constrictive Answers – Richard Rohr

Our image of God, our de facto, operative image of God, lives in a symbiotic relationship with our soul and creates what we become. Loving and forgiving people have always encountered a loving and forgiving God. Cynical people are cynical about the very possibility of any coherent or loving Center to the universe, so why wouldn’t they become cynical themselves?

When we encounter a truly sacred text, the first questions are often, “Did this literally happen just as it states? How can I be saved? What is the right thing for me to do? What is the dogmatic pronouncement here? Does my church agree with this? Who is right and who is wrong here?” These are largely ego questions. They are the questions we were trained to ask, because everybody else asks them, unfortunately! They are questions that try to secure our position, not questions that help us go on a spiritual path of faith and trust. They constrict us, whereas the purpose of the Sacred is to expand us.

Having read a sacred text, I would invite you to ponder these questions:


1. What is God doing here?


2. What does this say about who God is?


3. What does this say about how I can then relate to such a God?


+Adapted from A Teaching on Wondrous Encounters (Recording).

First Coming

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace
He came when the Heavens were unsteady
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.

He did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy he came to a tarnished world
of sin and doubt. To a world like ours,
of anguished shame He came, and
his Light would not go out. 

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal it’s tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

by Madeleine L’Engle
Christmas star of the Nativity of Bethlehem, Nativity of Jesus Christ. Background of the beautiful dark blue starry sky and bright star.

GOD IS NOT SANTA CLAUS – Richard Rohr

If we want to go to the mature, mystical, and non-dual levels of spirituality, we must first deal with the often faulty, inadequate, and even toxic images of God with which most people are dealing before they have authentic God Experience. Both God as Trinity and Jesus as the image of the invisible God reveal a God quite different than the Santa Claus god who made “naughty and nice” lists or an “I will torture you if you do not love me” god (worse than our worst enemy, I would think). We must be honest and admit that this is the god to which most people are still praying. Such images are an unworkable basis for any real spirituality.
Trinity reveals that God is the Divine Flow under, around, and through all things much more a verb than a noun, relationship itself rather than an old man sitting on a throne. Jesus tells us that God is like a loving par ent who runs toward us while we are “still a long way off” (Luke 15:20), then clasps and kisses us. Until this is personally experienced, most of Christianity does not work. This theme moves us quickly into practice based religion (orthopraxy) over mere words and ideas (orthodoxy).

Presenting Our Lives to God

Brian McLaren understands Jesus’ mother Mary as an example for all of us to find a larger hope by surrendering our lives to God. Here he comments on Luke’s Gospel and offers an Advent practice inspired by Mary:

All of us experience this sense of frustration, disappointment, impatience, and despair at times. We all feel that we have the capacity to give birth to something beautiful and good and needed and wonderful in the world. But our potential goes unfulfilled, or our promising hopes miscarry. So we live on one side and then on the other of the border of despair.

And then the impossible happens. . . .

In Luke’s telling of the birth of Jesus, God aligns with the creative feminine power of womanhood rather than the violent masculine power of statehood. The doctrine of the virgin birth, it turns out, isn’t about bypassing sex but about subverting violence. The violent power of top-down patriarchy is subverted not by counter-violence but by the creative power of pregnancy. It is through what proud men have considered “the weaker sex” that God’s true power enters and changes the world. That, it turns out, is exactly what Mary understood the messenger to be saying: [read her Magnificat, especially Luke 1:48, 51, 52, 53]. . . .

So Mary presents herself to the Holy Spirit to receive and cooperate with God’s creative power. She surrenders and receives, she nurtures and gives her all, because she dares to believe the impossible is possible. Her son Jesus will consistently model her self-surrender and receptivity to God, and he will consistently prefer the insightful kindness of motherhood to the violent blindness of statehood.

That’s what it means to be alive in the adventure of Jesus. We present ourselves to God—our bodies, our stories, our futures, our possibilities, even our limitations. “Here I am,” we say with Mary, “the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me according to your will.”

So in this Advent season—this season of awaiting and pondering the coming of God in Christ—let us light a candle for Mary. And let us, in our own hearts, dare to believe the impossible by surrendering ourselves to God, courageously cooperating with God’s creative, pregnant power—in us, for us, and through us. If we do, then we, like Mary, will become pregnant with holy aliveness. . . .

Activate: Start each day this week putting Mary’s prayer of commitment and surrender, “Let it be to me according to your will,” into your own words. Let this be a week of presenting your life to God so that “holy aliveness” grows in you.

Meditate: After lighting a candle, hold the words, “Here I am, the Lord’s servant,” in your heart for a few minutes in silence. Try to return to those words many times in the week ahead.

Explore Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations archive at cac.org.