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Devotion

Richard Rohr (more…)

Easter Sunday

“Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of all who fall asleep.”

~ 1 Corinthians 15:20

St. Paul seldom leaves the message at the level of “believe this fact about Jesus.” He always moves it to “this is what it says about you!” or “this is what it says about history!” Until we are ourselves pulled into the equation, we find it hard to invest ourselves in a distant religious belief.

Paul normally speaks of “Christ”—which includes us and all of creation—for he never knew Jesus “in the flesh” but only as the eternal Body of Christ. Christ Crucified is all of the hidden, private, tragic pain of history made public and given over to God. Christ Resurrected is all suffering received, loved, and transformed by an All-Caring God. How else could we have any kind of cosmic hope? How else would we not die of sadness for what humanity has done to itself and to one another?

The cross is the standing statement of what we do to one another and to ourselves. The resurrection is the standing statement of what God does to us in return. Today really is our big feast day!

~ Richard Rohr, Easter 2012

Prayer: Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Holy Saturday

To be a Christian means to necessarily be an optimist because we remember what happened on the third day! We know the final stage of death, Jesus’ leap of faith, was not in vain. He was not put to shame, and “God raised him up” (which is the correct way to say it, and not that he rose himself). Most of human life is Holy Saturday, a few days of life are Good Friday, but there only needs to be one single Easter Sunday for us to know the final and eternal pattern. We now live inside of such cosmic hope.

Jesus trusted enough to outstare the darkness, to outstare the void, to hold out for the resurrection of the forever-awaited “third day,” and not to try to manufacture His own. That is how God stretches and expands the soul, and makes it big enough to include God.

You see, to love fully is to die! (When you fully unite with the other, the separate self is gone.) What is handed over to God is always returned to us transformed into Christ Consciousness. Easter is the eternal third day that we forever await, but today we are content to live in the belly of the whale, in liminal space, in the “in between” that is most of human life. God is creating a Big Space inside of you. Just wait!

Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 145, day 156

Prayer: “Faith is a journey into darkness, into not-knowing.” ~ Richard Rohr

 

Good Friday

The supreme irony of the whole crucifixion scene is this: He who was everything had everything taken away from Him. He who was perfect was totally misjudged as “sin” itself (Romans 8:3-4). The crucified Jesus forever tells power and authority, and all of us, how utterly wrong we can be about who is in the right and who is sinful (John 16:8). All human solidarity and sympathy was taken away from Him and He finally had to walk the journey alone, in darkness, in not-knowing, as most humans finally have to do.

Jesus hung in total solidarity with the pain of the world and the far too many lives on this planet that have been “nasty, lonely, brutish, and short.” After the cross, we know that God is not watching human pain, nor apparently always stopping human pain, as much as God is found hanging with us alongside all human pain. Jesus forever tells us that God is found wherever the pain is, which leaves God on both sides of every war, in sympathy with both the pain of the perpetrator and the pain of the victim, with the excluded, the tortured, the abandoned, and the oppressed since the beginning of time. I wonder if we even like that. There are no games of moral superiority left. Yet this is exactly the kind of Lover and the universal Love that humanity needs.

What else could possibly give us a cosmic and final hope? This is exactly how Jesus redeemed the world “by the blood of the cross.” It was not some kind of heavenly transaction, or “paying a price” to God, as much as a cosmic communion with all that humanity has ever loved and ever suffered. If he was paying any price it was for the hard and resistant skin around our souls.

Adapted from The Great Themes of Scripture (no longer available, see The New Great Themes of Scripture (CD))

Prayer:

“Faith is a journey into darkness, into not-knowing.” ~ Richard Rohr

Holy Thursday

There’s no real story of the Last Supper in the Gospel of John as we find it in the other Gospels. There is no passing of the bread or passing of the cup. Instead we come upon the story of Jesus on his knees washing the Apostles’ feet. Really quite amazing, and even more amazing that we never made the foot washing into a Sacrament! It is much more explicit in the Scriptures than many other actions we made into sacraments.

Perhaps John realized that after seventy years the other Gospels had been read. He wanted to give a theology of the Eucharist that revealed the meaning behind the breaking of the bread. He made it into an active ritual of servanthood and solidarity, instead of the priestly cult that it has largely become.

Peter symbolizes all of us as he protests, “You will never wash my feet!” (John 13:8). But Jesus answers, “If I do not wash you, you can have nothing in common with me.” That is strong! We all find it hard to receive undeserved love from another. For some reason it is very humiliating to the ego. We all want to think we have earned any love that we get by our worthiness or attractiveness. So Jesus has to insist on being the servant lover. Thank God, Peter surrenders, but it probably takes him the rest of his life to understand.

Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 143, day 154

Prayer:

“Faith is a journey into darkness, into not-knowing.” ~ Richard Rohr

HOLY WEEK

“The greatest among you must behave as if you were the youngest, the leader as if he were the one who serves”

~ Luke 22:26

That statement is probably the simplest and most powerful definition of authority to be found in all four Gospels.

“For who is the greater, the one at table or the one who serves?” Most of us would say immediately, “The one at table.” He says, “Yet here I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27). Jesus says, in effect, “I’m telling you that the way of domination will not build a new world. I have come to model for you the way to be human and the way to be divine—it is the way of loving service.” Sometimes even the church does not understand this.

Adapted from The Good News According to Luke, p. 185

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Christians speak of the “paschal mystery,” the process of loss and renewal that was lived and personified in the death and raising up of Jesus. We can affirm that belief in ritual and song, as we do in the Eucharist. However, until we have lost our foundation and ground, and then experience God upholding us so that we come out even more alive on the other side, the expression “paschal mystery” is little understood and not essentially transformative.

Paschal mystery is a doctrine that we Christians would probably intellectually assent to, but it is not yet the very cornerstone of our life philosophy. That is the difference between belief systems and living faith. We move from one to the other only through encounter, surrender, trust and an inner experience of presence and power.

From Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, p. 62, 63

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Jesus enters the temple and drives out the dealers who are trying to buy and sell worthiness and access (Luke 19:45-46), which is the great temptation of all religion. He symbolically dismantles the system. The temple of religion (read “church” or “mosque” too) is henceforth to become personal, relational, embodied in people, and not a physical building. He came to say that God is available everywhere, and for some reason we like to keep God “elsewhere,” where we can control God by our theologies and services.

His public demonstration against the sacred space is surely the historical action that finally gets Him killed. The trouble with declaring one space sacred is that we then imagine other spaces are not! Here He takes on the detours of false religion: any attempt to “buy” God, purity and debt codes, and the primacy of “sacrifices” over mercy and compassion. Jesus has come to liberate God for humanity and humanity for God.

From unpublished notes

“Faith is a journey into darkness, into not-knowing.” ~ Richard Rohr

Palm Sunday

“Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion! Shout with gladness, daughter of Jerusalem! See now, your king comes to you; he is victorious, he is triumphant, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

~ Zechariah 9:9

Luke uses that image as he has Jesus entering the Holy City. He’s coming into charge of his possession—namely, his people—and Luke has him coming in, according to the prophecy, as the Messiah. He is a humble Messiah, inaugurating a new kind of leadership, not one based in power but one based in service. The capital city hardly notices this kind of power, as we probably wouldn’t have either. It is political power that fascinates us, not men on donkeys.

Adapted from The Good News According to Luke, p. 180

Prayer: “Faith is a journey into darkness, into not-knowing.” ~ Richard Rohr

SUFFERING

Pain teaches a most counterintuitive thing—that we must go down before we even know what up is. In terms of the ego, most religions teach in some way that we all must “die before we die, and then we will not be afraid of dying.” Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilize our arrogance and our ignorance. I would define suffering very simply as “whenever you are not in control.”

If religion cannot find a meaning for human suffering, humanity is in major trouble. All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain. Great religion shows you what to do with the absurd, the tragic, the nonsensical, the unjust.

If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.

If there isn’t some way to find some deeper meaning to our suffering, to find that God is somewhere in it, and can even use it for good, we will normally close up and close down. The natural movement of the ego is to protect itself so as not to be hurt again. The soul just wants meaning, and then it can live.

Adapted from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, p. 25

Prayer: God, help me find You, even in suffering.

SUFFERING

Do you realize with what difficulty surrender will come to a fixing, managing mentality? There’s nothing in that psyche prepared to understand the spiritual wisdom of surrender. All of the great world religions teach surrender. Yet most of us, until we go through “the hole in our soul,” don’t think surrender is really necessary. At least that’s how it is for those of us in developed countries. The poor, on the other hand, seem to understand limitation at a very early age. They cannot avoid or deny the hole in reality and in their own soul.

The developing world faces its limitation through a breakdown in the social-economic system, and any access to basic justice. But we, in the so-called developed world, have to face our limitations, it seems, on the inside. That’s our “liberation theology.” We must recognize our own poor man, our own abused woman, the oppressed part of ourselves that we hate, that we deny, that we’re afraid of. That’s the hole in our soul. This is our way through—maybe the only way, says the crucified Jesus.

Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 66, day 71

Something is happening at Lourdes. And God wants to give us the eyes to see it and the ground to receive it. What are all these crippled and handicapped people telling us? What is the witness of all these nurses and life-bearers? It seems God wants us to live a vulnerable life, a life dependent on other people, a life that is unafraid to cry.

The little ones here are unable to numb themselves. The numb do not notice. The sophisticated will not suffer. The comfortable need not complain. But Jesus teaches us, in effect, how to suffer graciously. He actually increases, it seems, our capacity for holding sadness and pain. This might be the central message of the eight Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12).

What kind of God is this? Could it be a God who actually allows deformities, sickness, and handicaps so we can all be bound together in a sisterhood of need and a brotherhood of compassion? I do not know how else to understand it all and we surely see it acted out right here. That is the primary miracle of Lourdes.

(Recorded at Lourdes in 1980)

Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 304, day 317

Prayer:

God, help me find You, even in suffering.

~~

We live a long time in order to become lovers. God is like a good parent, refusing to do our homework for us. We must learn through trial and error. We have to do our homework ourselves, the homework of suffering, desiring, loving, and winning and losing, hundreds of times.

Grief is one of the greatest occasions of deep and sad feeling, and it’s one that is socially acceptable. Most understand and want to walk with you in your grief. When we lose a beloved friend, wife, husband, child, parent, or maybe a possession or a job, we feel it is okay to feel deeply. But we must broaden that. We’ve got to find a passion that is also experienced when we have it, not just when we’re losing it. And we have it all the time. Don’t wait for loss to feel, suffer, or enjoy deeply.

Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 282, day 293

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Suffering is the necessary deep feeling of the human situation. If we don’t feel pain, suffering, human failure, and weakness, we stand antiseptically apart from it, and remain numb and small. We can’t understand such things by thinking about them. The superficiality of much of our world is that it tries to buy its way out of the ordinary limits and pain of being human. Carl Jung called it “necessary suffering,” and I think he was right.

Jesus did not numb himself or withhold himself from human pain, as we see even in his refusal of the numbing wine on the cross (Matthew 27:34). Some forms of suffering are necessary so that we know the human dilemma, so that we can even name our shadow self and confront it.

Brothers and sisters, the irony is not that God should feel so fiercely; it’s that his creatures feel so feebly. If there is nothing in your life to cry about, if there is nothing in your life to yell about, you must be out of touch. We must all feel and know the immense pain of this global humanity. Then we are no longer isolated, but a true member of the universal Body of Christ. Then we know God not from the outside but from the inside!

Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 209, day 218

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Feast of the Annunciation (“Hidden Christmas”)

“And Mary remembered all these things in her heart.”

~ Luke 2:19, 52

Memory is the basis for both pain and rejoicing: We cannot have one without the other, it seems.

Do not be too quick to heal all of those bad memories, unless it means also feeling them deeply, which means to learn what they have to teach you. God calls us to suffer (read: “allow”) the whole of reality, to remember the good along with the bad. Perhaps that is the course of the journey toward new sight and new hope. Memory creates a readiness for salvation, an emptiness to receive love and a fullness to enjoy it.

Strangely enough, it seems so much easier to remember the hurts, the failures and the rejections. It is much more common to gather our life energy around a hurt than a joy, for some sad reason. Remember the good things even more strongly than the bad, but learn from both. And most of all, as the prophet Baruch said, “rejoice that you are remembered by God” (5:5), which is the Big Memory that can hold and receive all of the smaller ones.

Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 26, day 25

Prayer:  God, help me find You, even in suffering.

~~

SUFFERING

When I was young, I wanted to suffer for God. I pictured myself being the great and glorious martyr somewhere. There’s something so romantic about laying down your life for something great. I guess many young people might see themselves that way, but now I know it was mostly ego, but sort of good ego at that stage.

There is nothing glorious about any actual moment of suffering—when you’re in the midst of it. You swear it’s meaningless. You swear it has nothing to do with goodness or holiness or God—or you.

The very essence of any experience of trial is that you want to get out of it. A lack of purpose, of meaning—is the precise suffering of suffering! When you find a pattern in your suffering, a direction, you can accept it and go with it. The great suffering, the suffering of Jesus, is when that pattern is not immediately given. The soul can live without success, but it cannot live without meaning.

Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 86, day 94

Prayer: God, help me find You, even in suffering.

 

 

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