God Is Present in All
In keeping with his Franciscan tradition, Father Richard teaches that we can find God’s freely given image in all of creation, beginning with ourselves!
The purpose of prayer and religious seeking is to see the truth about Reality, to see what is. And at the bottom of what is is always goodness. The foundation is always love. Here is a mantra that we might repeat throughout our day: “God’s life is living itself in me. I am aware of life living itself in me.”
We cannot not live in the presence of God. We are totally surrounded by God, even as we read these words. This not some New Age idea; recall St. Patrick’s (c. 373–c. 463) blessing, “God beneath you, God in front of you, God behind you, God above you, God within you.”
Once I can see the Mystery here, and trust the Mystery even in this piece of clay that I am, then I can also see it in you. We are eventually able to see the divine image within ourselves, in each other, and in all things. Finally, the seeing is one. How we see anything is how we will see everything.
Jesus pushes this seeing to the social edge. Can we recognize the image of Christ in the least of our fellow human beings? That is his only description of the final judgment (see Matthew 25). Nothing about ten commandments, nothing about church attendance—simply a matter of our ability to see. Can we meet Christ in the “nobodies” who can’t play our game of success? In those who cannot reward us in return? When we see the image of God where we are not accustomed to seeing the image of God, then we see with the infinitely tender eyes of God.
Finally, Jesus says we have to love and recognize the divine image even in our enemies (see Matthew 5:44). He teaches what many leaders, spiritual and otherwise, could never demand of their followers: love of the enemy. Logically that makes no sense. Yet soulfully it makes absolute sense, because in terms of the soul, it really is all or nothing. Either we see the divine image in all created things, or we end up not seeing it very well at all. There is a first epiphany, and gradually the circle keeps moving outward, widening its embrace. It is almost the core meaning of a whole and holy life!
The Christian vision is that the whole world is a sacred temple. If that is true, then our enemies are sacred, too. Who else created them but God? The ability to respect the outsider is probably the litmus test of true seeing. And it doesn’t stop with human beings and enemies and the “least of these.” It moves to frogs and water and weeds. Everything becomes enchanting once we have full sight. One God, one world, one truth, one suffering, and one love (see Ephesians 4:4–6). All we can do is participate and enjoy. I love to ask Christians—why would anyone be afraid of that?
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, rev. ed. (Crossroad Publishing: 2003), 55, 57–59.
Image Credit: Rose B. Simpson, Genesis (detail), 2017, sculpture.
We featured the artist of these sculptures, Rose B. Simpson, at our recent CONSPIRE conference—so many of us were impacted by her creations that we decided to share her work with our Daily Meditations community for the month of November.
Image Inspiration: My art changed entirely when I became a parent. I never understood the true creative nature until I created a human being and the responsibility, the unconditional love, the fear, the intimacy and vulnerability that comes with it. . . and understand when we can love that deeply how we feel the presence of a larger parent.
—Rose B. Simpson, CONSPIRE Interview, 2021