„What the world wants…”

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].” [1] 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.

[1] 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

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

On Death and Resurrection

There is a thread you follow. It goes among
Things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread. 

—William Stafford [1]

My words for the thread that Stafford speaks of are the True Self. Your True Self is who you are, and always have been, created in the image and likeness of God who is love (1 John 4:8, 16). Love is both who you are and who you are still becoming, like a sunflower seed that becomes its own sunflower. Most of human history has called the True Self your “soul” or your participation in the eternal life of God.

The great surprise and irony is that “you,” or who you think you are, have nothing to do with your True Self’s original creation, and you can never get rid of it. It’s sort of disempowering and utterly empowering at the same time, isn’t it? All you can do is nurture your True Self, which is saying quite a lot. It is love becoming love in this unique form called “me.”

The dying process at every stage of life is a natural opportunity to let go of the small, separate self and return to the fullness of True Self. Kathleen Dowling Singh, who spent hundreds of hours contemplatively ministering to dying people, wrote:

As we return and/or are returned to our Original Nature, virtues that we have acquired, usually through deliberate cultivation, flow naturally as water from a spring. The qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, presence, centeredness, spaciousness, mercy, and confidence all radiate naturally forth from our transformed being as we come closer to death. . . . Many a time I have seen the dying comfort those in pain around them. . . .

Love appears to be the last connection the dying have with the world of form. We become expressive vehicles for the power of the Ground of Being [i.e., God], inhabited and vitalized by far greater Being. . . . The Ground of Being is, in a very real sense, Love. As we merge with it, self-consciousness and all questions of self-worth and previous psychological issues of lovability spontaneously melt. Love simultaneously pours into and pours out of us. . . .

With this basic change in identity, in the sense of who we are, death is no longer seen through the peephole of the mental ego. It ceases being a frightening enemy, a defeat, an unfortunate error in the universe and becomes, instead, an incredible moment of growth and transformation. It is a graduation into a previously unimaginable scale of being. [2]

 

[1] William Stafford, “The Way It Is,” Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems (Graywolf Press: 1977; © 1998, 2014 by William Stafford and the Estate of William Stafford), 42. Used with permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press, graywolfpress.org.

[2] Kathleen Dowling Singh, The Grace in Dying: A Message of Hope, Comfort, and Spiritual Transformation (HarperOne: 2000), 211-212.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self(Jossey-Bass: 2013), 176-177.