The Sacred Wound

Richard Rohr

Pain teaches a most counterintuitive thing that we must go down before we even know what up is. It is first an ordinary wound before it can become a sacred wound. Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilize our arrogance and our ignorance. I would define suffering very simply as whenever we are not in control.

All healthy religion shows us what to do with our pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it. If our religion is not showing us how to transform our pain, it is junk religion. It is no surprise that a crucified man became the central symbol of Christianity.

If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become negative or bitter because we will be wounded. That is a given. All suffering is potentially redemptive, all wounds are potentially sacred wounds. It depends on what we do with them. Can we find God in them or not?

If there isn’t some way to find some deeper meaning to our suffering, to find that God is somehow in it and can even use it for good, we will normally close up and close down, and the second half of our lives will, quite frankly, be small and silly.

+Adapted from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, p. 25.

A WARNING TO RELIGION FROM THE GARDEN OF EDEN – Richard Rohr

The sin warned against at the very beginning of the Bible is “to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). It does not sound like that should be a sin at all, does it? But the moment I sit on my throne, where I know with certitude who the good guys and the bad guys are, then I’m capable of great evil-while not thinking of it as evil! I have eaten of a dangerous tree, according to the Bible. Don’t judge, don’t label, don’t rush to judgment. You don’t usually know other people’s real motives or intentions. You hardly know your own.

The author of the classic book The Cloud of Unknowing says that first you have to enter into “the cloud of forgetting.” Forget all your certitudes, all your labels, all your explanations, whereby you’ve put this person in this box, determined this group is going to heaven, decided this race is superior to that race. Just forget it. It’s largely a waste of time. It’s usually your ego projecting itself, announcing itself, and protecting itself. It has little to do with objective reality or real love of the truth.

If the world and the world’s religions do not learn this kind of humility and patience very soon, I think we’re in historical trouble.

+Adapted from Beginner’s Mind (Recording).

There are Many Ways to Experience God – Richard Rohr

A very little bit of God goes an awfully long way. When another’s experience of God isn’t exactly the way I would describe it, it doesn’t mean that they haven’t had an experience of God or that their experience is completely wrong. We have to remain with Francis’s prayer: “Who are you, God, and who am I?” Isn’t there at least ten percent of that person’s experience of God with which I can agree? Can’t I at least say, “I wish I could experience God in that way”?

What characterizes anyone who has had just a little bit of God is that they always want more of that experience! Could it not be that this Hindu, this Sufi, this charismatic, this Jew has, in fact, touched upon the same eternal Mystery that I am seeking? Can’t we at least give one another the benefit of the doubt? I can be somewhat patient with people who think they have the truth. The problem for me is when they think they have the whole truth.

The mystic probably represents the old shibboleth, “Those who really know don’t speak too quickly. Those who speak too quickly don’t really know.”

+Adapted from Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate… Seeing God in All Things (Recording).

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.

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.