Only Love Is Absolute
This week’s Daily Meditations explore the fruitfulness of interfaith friendships. We begin with Father Richard reflecting on Jesus’ inclusivity, which has allowed Richard both to affirm and critique his own religious tradition—and invites us to do the same.
In no other period of history have humans had such easy and immediate access to people of other cultures and other religions, often as friends. Once a person has developed any “discernment of the Spirit” it becomes clear that God’s holiness exists all over the place.
The Second Vatican Council gave Catholics some fine official guidelines and freedoms. Nostra Aetate, the 1965 Catholic document on non-Christian religions affirms, “For all peoples comprise a single community, and have a single origin . . . one also is their final goal: God. [God’s] providence, manifestations of goodness, and saving designs extend to all [people].”  Such an affirmation rightly places us all inside the same frame of history and allows no foundational distinction between us. We are clearly from the one God, tending toward the one God, and as the mystics of all religions teach, Reality itself is one.
It is strange that it took us almost all of our two-thousand-year history to get back to the “ecumenical” attitude Jesus had at the very beginning! He goes out of his way to make non-Jews the heroes of many of his stories and teachings. He is quick to point out the failures and fallacies of his own religion, Judaism, while still remaining faithful to it. Jesus held a very critical stance toward his own religion, but for some reason few of us think we can do the same.
On the other hand, sadly, many people think that if they no longer believe in the absolute primacy of their own religion, then it has no absolute call on them and they often give up on it entirely. But I am convinced that the biblical tradition is saying that the only absolute available to us is the faithful love of God, and not any concept or structure—even our religious traditions themselves. God’s love itself is the center and the still point of the turning world. But if we have never actually experienced this love, we will most assuredly look for absolutes in other ways.
What is unique about Jesus is his inclusivity itself! He is so grounded in the absoluteness of the Divine relationship that he is quite free to relativize the Law, simplify the Prophets, and find God outside of his own tradition. He is constantly and consistently inclusive—without denying his Jewish foundation and faith. I believe we can only be inclusive when we have a deeply held and shared experience that we can include people “into.” We have to have a “home” to bring people home to.
What the world wants, and people need, are people who believe in Something—Something that will lead them to the good, the beautiful, the true, and the universal.
 Second Vatican Council, “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate, October 28, 1965,” sec. 1, in The Documents of Vatican II, ed. Walter M. Abbott (New York: Herder and Herder, 1966), 660–661.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Why Jesus?,” Radical Grace 16, no. 2 (April–June 2003): 4.
Image credit: Jeremy Yap, Untitled (detail), 2017, photograph, Unsplash. Dann Zepeda, Untitled (detail), 2017, photograph, Unsplash. Austin Kehmeier, Untitled (detail), 2020, photograph, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
Image inspiration: Opening the door to difference—to include, rather than exclude—we see a beautiful beyond and receive the life water of new ways to see.
Sunday, November 6, 2022
Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
From the Center for Action and Contemplation