BB: So, this leads me to another quote, which I think is something that I really… You know we have those internal conflicts, and I couldn’t name it until now. But I have Brené, who’s seven, at Holy Name of Jesus Elementary School and Sister DaVita. And I was scared to death. And then I have the adult in her 50s Brené saying, “It’s okay. God… If this makes us connect… Closer connected to God, we can change these words.” And there’s an internal struggle sometimes. But when I think about this quote of yours all the time, “God is always bigger than the boxes we build for God, so we should not waste too much time protecting the boxes.”

RR: The boxes. That’s the job of a clergyman. He thinks. She thinks, I guess. Yeah. God has to obey our laws. I mean let’s take the whole gay issue. How dare we say to God, in effect, “You may not love gay people. You’re not allowed to, God. We have decided.” And that’s what we’re saying because…

BB: Wow.

RR: We can’t deal with infinity. The human mind can’t form the notion of infinity. So, as all the mystics say, “God is infinite love.” Infinite. We don’t know how to process that. We just don’t. So we pull God down and make an anthropomorphism out of God so he loves like we do, very conditionally, with threats and punishments.

BB: And ego.

RR: Yeah, and ego.

BB: We create a God that loves with ego, which is like the opposite of God.

RR: Oh, you get it. Why didn’t we meet 30 years ago? Darn. When did you start going on the road?

BB: 15 years ago, maybe.

RR: I see. See I was on for 52.

BB: Wow.

RR: That’s why my voice is almost gone now. Go ahead.

BB: When you say… Like, I’m thinking about all the anti-trans bills right now that are really dehumanizing trans kids, especially targeting trans kids.

RR: Yes.

BB: And when you say when you do that, you’re telling God who God can love and who God shouldn’t love.

RR: You are not allowed to love this person.

BB: Oh that is…

RR: We’re back in charge. We’re back in charge. Yeah. Well, you get it, thank you. Thank you.

BB: Well that feels me with grief.

RR: Grief, I know. Imagine the pain we’ve caused so many people at so many levels, who until the recent generation lived lives of pretend, disguise, denial.

BB: A mask.

RR: A mask, when all God wants us to be is who we really are.

BB: So, flawed and imperfect.

RR: Created in the image of God, that’s right. Which always there is a fly in the ointment, and it’s a struggle with that fly, that gets religion on the bad course when you can’t integrate failure, the negative sin, mistake, that’s the work of vulnerability.

BB: Is there a prayerful contemplative way to find our way to an understanding of infinity but to find our way? Do you know what I’m asking? Like… I don’t want an answer, but is there a path to get us closer?

RR: The historic universal paths of spiritual transformation are two, great love and great suffering. Now, great love normally leads to great suffering. So it comes down to great suffering, but it’s learned by great love, and I’m sure you couldn’t know what you know if you hadn’t loved probably more than one person very deeply.

BB: I have.

RR: And that’s where the world of infinity opens up, where you stop trying to limit her, him and make them into your image. Without great love you cannot understand infinity.

Ever-Widening Circles

Father Richard describes his spiritual development as a “pilgrim’s progress,” with God using the circumstances of his life—particularly his international ministry and travel—to expand his vision, heart, and mind:

As I moved in ever-widening circles around the world, the solid ground of the perennial tradition never really shifted. It was only the lens, the criteria, the inner space, and the scope that continued to expand. I was always being moved toward greater differentiation and larger viewpoints, and simultaneously toward a greater inclusivity in my ideas, a deeper understanding of people, and a more honest sense of justice. God always became bigger and led me to bigger places. If God could “include” and allow, then why not I? If God asked me to love unconditionally and universally, then it was clear that God operated in the same way.

Soon there was a much bigger world for me than the United States and the Roman Catholic Church, which I eventually realized also contained paradoxes. The e pluribus unum (“out of many, one”) on American coinage did not include very many of its own people (women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ people, poor folks, people with disabilities, and so many more). As a Christian I finally had to be either Roman or catholic, and I continue to choose the catholic end of that spectrum—remember, catholic means universal. Either Jesus is the “savior of the world” (John 4:42), or he is not much of a savior at all. Either America treats the rest of the world and its own citizens democratically, or it does not really believe in democracy at all. That’s the way I see it.

But this slow process of transformation and the realizations that came with it were not either-or decisions; they were great big both-and realizations. None of it happened without much prayer, self-doubt, study, and conversation. The journey itself led me to a deepening sense of holiness, freedom, and wholeness. Although I didn’t begin thinking this way, I now hope and believe that a kind of second simplicity is the very goal of mature adulthood and mature religion.

My small, personal viewpoint as a central reference for anything, or for rightly judging anything, gradually faded as life went on. The very meaning of the word universe is to “turn around one thing.” I know am not that one thing. There is Big Truth in this universe, and it certainly isn’t mine.

Mature religions, and now some scientists, say that we are hardwired for the Big Picture, for transcendence, for ongoing growth, for union with ourselves and everything else. Either God is for everybody, and the divine DNA is somehow in all creatures, or this God is not God by any common definition, or even much of a god at all. We are driven toward ever higher levels of union and ability to include, even if some of us go kicking and screaming. “Everything that rises must converge,” as Teilhard de Chardin put it. [1]

[1] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man, trans. Norman Denny (New York: Harper and Row, 1964), 192.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2011), 107–109.

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

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).

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).

Jesus as Scapegoat by Richard Rohr


Jesus on the cross echoes three healing images: the Passover lamb, the “Lifted-Up One,” and the scapegoat ritual. The third symbol deserves a deeper exploration because it is central to understanding how Jesus resets the pattern of history. We’ll spend this week looking at Jesus as scapegoat before we move on to the promise of resurrection.
Humans have always struggled to deal with fear and evil by ways other than forgiveness, most often through sacrificial systems. Philosopher René Girard (1923-2015) saw the tendency to scapegoat others as the primary story line of human history in every culture. [1] Why? Because it works, and it is largely an immediate and an unconscious egoic response. The scapegoat mechanism was ritualized by the Israelites, as we’ll see tomorrow (see Leviticus 16:20-22).
If your ego is still in charge, you will find a “disposable” person or group on which to project your problems. People who haven’t come to at least a minimal awareness of their own dark side will always find someone else to hate or fear. Hatred holds a group together much more quickly and easily than love and inclusivity, I am sorry to say. Something has to be sacrificed. Blood has to be shed. Someone has to be blamed, attacked, tortured, imprisoned, or killed. Sacrificial systems create religions and governments of exclusion and violence. Yet Jesus taught and modeled inclusivity and forgiveness!
Sadly, the history of violence and the history of religion are almost the same history. When religion remains at the immature level, it tends to create very violent people who ensconce themselves on the side of the good, the worthy, the pure, the saved. They project all their evil somewhere else and attack it over there. At this level, they export the natural death instinct onto others, as though it’s someone else who has to die.
As long as you can deal with evil by some means other than forgiveness, you will never experience the real meaning of evil and sin. You will keep projecting, fearing, and attacking it over there, instead of “gazing” on it within and “weeping” over it within yourself and all of us. The longer you gaze, the more you will see your own complicity in and profitability from the sin of others, even if it is the satisfaction of feeling you are on higher moral ground. Forgiveness demands three new simultaneous “seeings”: I must see God in the other; I must access God in myself; and I must experience God in a new way that is larger than an “Enforcer.”

References:

[1] I highly recommend James Alison’s exploration of René Girard’s work, particularly Alison’s four-part study series Jesus the Forgiving Victim: Listening for the Unheard Voice (DOERS Publishing: 2013), http://www.forgivingvictim.com/.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 193-194.

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Richard Rohr: “Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation” | Talks at Google

Father Richard Rohr visits Google to speak on his new book, Divine Dance: The Trinity and your Transformation. Father Rohr highlights his unique ideas on how to have a relationship with God in the modern day and how religious people can be respected for having a “mystic worldview” in a scientific world. If you can’t find the time to watch the full version – forward to the final 10 minutes for an awesome summation.