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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Find previous years’ meditations in the web archive.

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).

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.

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.

Only Love Can Handle the Truth – Richard Rohr


The contemplative mind does not need to prove anything or disprove anything. It’s what the Benedictines called a Lectio Divina, a reading of the Scripture that looks for wisdom instead of quick answers. It first says, “What does this text ask of me? How can I change because of this story?” rather than “How can I use this to prove that I am right and others are wrong or sinful?”


The contemplative mind is willing to hear from a beginner’s mind, yet also learn from Scripture, Tradition-and others. It has the humility to move toward Yes/And thinking and not all-or-nothing thinking. It leads to a third way, which is neither fight nor flight, but standing in between where we can hold what we do know together with what we don’t know. Holding such a creative tension with humility and patience leads us to wis dom instead of easy answers, which largely create opinionated and smug people instead of wise people. We surely need wise people now, who hold their truth humbly and patiently.


+Adapted from What is the Emerging Church? (Recording)

Eating Your True Self – Richard Rohr


Jesus says, “If you eat this bread, you will live forever” (John 6:51). It is so interesting that he chooses something with taste, flavor, and nutrition as the symbol of how life is transferred, rather than intellectual cognition. If you live by the momentary identity that others give you, that’s what dies when you die, and you’re left with nothing. Your relative identity passes away, but it is like the painful erasing of an unwanted tattoo. When Jesus says he’s giving himself to you as the bread of life, he’s saying, as it were, “Find yourself in me and this will not pass or change or die. Eat this food as your primary nutrition and you are indestructible.” This is your absolute and indestructible identity.
You slowly learn how to live in what Thomas Merton would call the True Self-who you are and always have been, in God. Who you are in God is who you forever are. In fact, that’s all you are, and it is more than enough. Everything else is passing away. Reputations, titles, possessions, and roles do not determine your identity. When I hand out the Eucharistic bread, I love to say to the assembly, “You become what you eat. Come and eat who you are-forever!” You access Great Truth by absorption and digestion, almost never by analysis or argumentation.


+Adapted from Eucharist as Touchstone (Recording).

Incarnation – Celebrating an Eternal Advent – by Richard Rohr

In the first 1200 years of Christianity, the greatest feast was Easter with the high holy days of Holy Week leading up to the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. But in the 13th century, a new person entered the scene: Francis of Assisi felt we didn’t need to wait for God to love us through the cross and resurrection. Francis intuited that the whole thing started with incarnate love, and he popularized what we now take for granted as Christmas, which for many became the greater Christian feast. The Franciscans popularized Christmas. Maybe their intuition was correct.

Francis realized that if God had become flesh—taken on materiality, physicality, humanity—then we didn’t have to wait for Good Friday and Easter to “solve the problem” of human sin; the problem was solved from the beginning. It makes sense that Christmas became the great celebratory feast of Christians because it basically says that it’s good to be human, it’s good to be on this earth, it’s good to be flesh, it’s good to have emotions. We don’t need to be ashamed of any of this. God loves matter and physicality.

With that insight, it’s no wonder Francis went wild over Christmas! (I do, too: my little house is filled with candles at Christmastime.) Francis believed that every tree should be decorated with lights to show their true status as God’s creations! And that’s exactly what we still do 800 years later.

Remember, when we speak of Advent or preparing for Christmas, we’re not just talking about waiting for the little baby Jesus to be born. That already happened 2,000 years ago. In fact, we’re welcoming the Universal Christ, the Cosmic Christ, the Christ that is forever being born in the human soul and into history.

And believe me, we do have to make room, because right now there is no room in the inn for such a mystery. We see things pretty much in their materiality, but we don’t see the light shining through. We don’t see the incarnate spirit that is hidden inside of everything material.

The early Eastern Church, which too few people in the United States and Western Europe are familiar with, made it very clear that the incarnation was a universal principle. Incarnation meant not just that God became Jesus; God said yes to the material universe. God said yes to physicality. Eastern Christianity understands the mystery of incarnation in the universal sense. So it is always Advent. God is forever coming into the world (see John 1:9).

We’re always waiting to see spirit revealing itself through matter. We’re always waiting for matter to become a new form in which spirit is revealed. Whenever that happens, we’re celebrating Christmas. The gifts of incarnation just keep coming. Perhaps this is enlightenment.

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.