From Me to We

Father Richard makes a distinction between first-half-of-life and second-half-of-life spirituality:  

Most cultures are first-half-of-life cultures, and even sadder, most organized religions almost necessarily sell a first-half-of-life spirituality. In the first half of life, it is all about me: How can I be important? How can I be safe? How can I make money? How can I look attractive? And, in the Christian scenario, how can I think well of myself and go to heaven? How can I be on moral high ground? These are all ego questions; they are not the questions of the soul. It is still well-disguised narcissism, or even sanctified narcissism, which is surely the worst kind.  

I’m sad to say, I think many Christians have never moved beyond these survival and security questions. Even “wanting to go to heaven” is language for securing my future, not a shared future, or a common future for humanity; religion becomes a private insurance plan for that future. It’s still all about me, but piously disguised. It’s not really about love at all! 

Any sense of being part of a cosmos, a historical sweep, or that God is doing something bigger and better than simply saving individual souls (my soul in particular), is largely of no interest. This becomes apparent in the common disinterest of so many when it comes to Earth care, building real community, simple living, and almost all peace and justice issues. For many Christians—stuck in the first half of life—all that is important is their private moral superiority and spiritual “safety,” which is somehow supposed to “save” them. It creates what I am now calling a “cult of innocence,” not any real human or divine solidarity. [1]   

Once God and grace move us to the second half of life, religion becomes much more a mystical matter rather than a moral matter. Then it’s about union with all and participation in and with God. Indeed, this is the work of true religion: to help us transition from stage to stage, toward ever-deeper union with God and all things.  

Those who fall into the safety net of silence find that it is not at all a fall into individualism. True prayer or contemplation is instead a leap into commonality and community. We know that what we are experiencing can only be held by the Whole and we are not alone anymore. We are merely a part, and as such a very grateful and totally satisfied part. This is “the peace the world cannot give” (see John 14:27).  

Real silence moves us from knowing things to perceiving a Presence that imbues all things. Could this be God? When we begin to experience a mutuality between ourselves and all things, we have begun to understand the nature of Spirit. God refuses to be known as any kind of object, but only as a mutuality.

[1] The phrase “cult of innocence” was coined in a tweet by author and pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, and is explored in depth in Brian McLaren’s new book Do I Stay Christian?.  

Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Spring within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016), 87–88, 208.

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. 

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

Subscribe to the Daily Meditations

You will receive an emailed meditation every day of the week. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.

Sign-up now to receive Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations

Every Saturday you’ll receive a summary of the previous week’s meditations and an invitation to practice—this will be your opportunity to go deeper with the wisdom and teachings and apply them in your day-to-day life. Each summary will link to the full meditation on our website for further reading, a good option if you want to follow along but would prefer to receive fewer emails.

Find previous years’ meditations in the web archive.

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).

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).

Trusting Our Inner Experience

Father Richard Rohr elaborates on Carl Jung’s teaching on the importance of inner experience as the only pathway to transformation.

Carl Jung wanted to bring externalized religion back to its internal foundations. He saw how religion kept emphasizing the unbridgeable distance between the Creator and creation, God and humanity, inner and outer, the one and the many. In spite of creation’s ecological unity (Genesis 1:9–31), Christianity too often began by emphasizing the problem of separation (“original sin”) instead of beginning with the wonderful unity between creation and Creator.

Except for the experience of many saints and mystics, religion has greatly underemphasized any internal, natural resonance between humans and God. This gives us clergy an almost impossible job! First, we must remind everyone that they are “intrinsically disordered” or sinful—which then allows us to just happen to have the perfect solution. It is like a vacuum cleaner seller first pouring dirt on the floor to show how well this model works. As if the meaning of this beautiful universe could start with a foundational problem!

Christianity rarely emphasized the plausibility or power of inner spiritual experience. Catholics were told to believe the pope, the bishops, and the priests. Protestants were told to believe the Bible. The Catholic version has fallen apart with the pedophilia crisis worldwide; Protestantism’s total reliance on preaching the Bible has been undone by postmodern worldviews. But both Catholics and Protestants made the same initial mistake, I’m sorry to say. It’s all about trusting something outside of ourselves. We gave people answers that were extrinsic to the soul and dismissed anything known from the inside out. “Holiness” largely became a matter of intellect and will, instead of a deep inner trust with an inner dialogue of Love. It made us think that the one with the most willpower wins, and the one who understands things the best is the beloved of God—the opposite of most biblical heroes. We’ve been gazing at our own “performance” instead of searching for the Divine in us and in all things. 

We must begin with a foundational “yes” to who we are and to what is (Reality). This is mature religion’s primary function. It creates the bedrock foundation for all effective faith. If we begin with a problem, the whole journey remains largely a negative problem-solving exercise that never ends. We’re left with inherently argumentative and competitive Christianity.

If we begin with the positive, and get the issue of core identity absolutely clear, the rest of the journey—even though it isn’t always easy—is by far more natural, more beautiful, more joyful and all-inclusive. What else should the spiritual journey be? When we start in the basement, most people never believe they can even get to the first floor, and they just opt out. Isn’t this obvious at this point in Christian history? Sadly, we clergy became angry guards instead of joyful guides, policing dogma instead of proclaiming the Great Gift which is perfectly hidden and perfectly revealed at the heart of all creation from the very beginning.

Universal Love

Love [people] even in [their] sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God’s creation, the whole  and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky

God restores rather than punishes, which is a much higher notion of how things are “justified” before God. The full and final Biblical message is restorative justice, but most of history has only been able to understand retributive justice. Now, I know you’re probably thinking of many passages in the Old Testament that sure sound like serious retribution. And I can’t deny there are numerous black and white, vengeful scriptures, which is precisely why we must recognize that all scriptures are not equally inspired or from the same level of consciousness.

Please take a moment to read Father Rohr’s full meditation.

The meditation concludes with these powerful words…

As long as your ego is in charge, you will demand a retributive God; you’ll insist that hell is necessary. But if you have been transformed by love, hell will no longer make sense to you because you know that God has always loved you in your sinfulness. Why would God change policies after death?  

We are all saved by mercy and grace without exception—before, during, and after our life in this world. Could God’s love really be that great and universal? Love is the lesson, and God’s love is so great that God will finally teach it to all of us. Who would be able to resist it once they see it? We’ll finally surrender, and God—Love—will finally win. God never loses. That is what it means to be God. That will be God’s “justice,” which will swallow up our lesser versions of retributive justice.

– Fr. Richard Rohr

 

1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 – Paraphrased by Brother Joseph Schmidt

If I live my life to perfection, doing what is right and good on behalf of others, but act with compulsion and without love, then I am nothing at all. 

If I take care of the needs of everybody in the world, especially the poor, because of my own need to help, but am without love even for myself, then I am nothing at all.

If I am efficient and successful in all that I do for the sake of justice, but act out of drivenness and without love, then I am nothing at all.

If I am cultured and refined, and in touch with the pain of existence, but am absent from the pain of persons in the present moment who need my empathy; and if I act without love and compassion, then I am nothing at all.

If I have the gifts of wisdom, insight, and understanding, but am not engaged with those around me in the present moment and am without a spirit of compassion and love, then I am nothing at all.

If I am faithful, loyal, and obedient, and never deviate from the law, but am judgmental and blaming, and am without love, then I am nothing at all.

If I live in a pain-free world of dreams and plans, enjoying optimism and pleasurable options, but am not addressing present problems and am avoiding people in actual distress and am without love, then I am nothing at all.

If I am strong and powerful, but lose my best self in a spirit of resentment, retaliation, and vindictiveness, and know nothing of the vulnerability of love, then I am nothing at all.

If I am settled and accommodating, holding onto a sense of distance and calm, but am not journeying inward to know and appreciate my weaknesses and gifts, and am neglecting my own legitimate calling to love myself, then I am nothing at all.

Love is always patient and kind;

it is never jealous;

love is never boastful or conceited;

it is never rude or selfish;

it does not take offense, and is not resentful.

Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in truth;

it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

Love never fails, never ceases.