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Wisdom in Times of Crisis

July 7th, 2020


The Wisdom of Job
Tuesday,  July 7, 2020

Theology does not by itself provide wisdom in crisis. All theology must become a living spirituality to really change us or the world. It’s disappointing that we Christians have emphasized theology, catechism, and religious education much more than prayer and practice. The biblical book of Job is probably one of the greatest books on prayer that has ever been written. It breaks our stereotypes of what it means to communicate with God.

If we view Job’s story as a journey into an ever-deepening encounter with God, we keep the question of suffering from becoming an abstract debate observed at a distance. It is a text that only fully makes sense to those who’ve felt suffering, been up against the wall, at a place where, frankly, God doesn’t make sense anymore and we no longer believe “God has a plan.”

Job loses his livelihood, his savings, his family, and his health. His practical, religious friends appear as self-appointed messengers, to speak what they are sure is God’s answer to Job’s suffering. They offer the glib, pious platitudes of stereotypical clergy. What they do is try to take away the mystery, but they cannot solve the problem. God says you cannot solve the problem of suffering, you can only live the mystery. The only response to God’s faithfulness is to be faithful ourselves.

Most of the things Job says to God in his pain are not what Christians have been trained to say to God. The pretty words are mostly gone; there’s no “swirly talk,” as writer-pastor Molly Baskette calls it [1], that Christians so love to put in their prayers. Instead, Job dares to confront God, the very thing many of us were trained never to do. In fact, we called it blasphemy.

During Job’s crisis, he yells at God, accuses God of all kinds of things, speaks sarcastically, and almost makes fun of God. “If this is a game you’re playing, then you’re not much of a God! I don’t need you and I don’t want you!” It’s this kind of prayer that creates saints. Yet we can’t pray with that authority unless we know something experientially about God. We can’t pray that way unless we are assured at a deep level of the profound connection between ourselves and God. It takes one who has ventured into that arena where we say angels fear to tread.

Ultimately Job’s story reveals that God cannot really be known through theology and law. God can only be related to and known in relationship, just like the Trinity itself. Or, as the mystics assert, we know God by loving God, trusting God, and placing our hope in God. We cannot really “think” God.

Job’s religious friends and advisers have correct theory but no experience; thoughts about God, but no love of God. They believe in their theology; Job believes in the God of their theology. It is a big difference. The first is information; the second is wisdom.

Sustained in God’s Love

July 6th, 2020

Sustained in God’s Love
Monday,  July 6, 2020

Wisdom in Times of Crisis

In the light of eternity, we’re here for a very short time, really. We’re here for one thing, ultimately: to learn how to love, because God is love. Love is our origin, love is our ground, and love is our destiny. —James Finley

CAC faculty member James Finley offers a contemplative practice to help us experience the love of God even in the midst of chaos. Living out of that love transforms both ourselves and the world.

What is the practice that matters now? A practice is any act habitually entered into with our whole heart that takes us to the deeper place. Some of these practices, we might not think of as prayer and meditation: tending the roses, a long, slow walk to no place in particular, a quiet moment at day’s end, being vulnerable in the presence of that person in whose presence we’re taken to the deeper place, the pause between two lines of a poem. There are these acts that reground us in the depth dimensions of our life that matter most; so if we’re faithful to our practice, our practice will be faithful to us. . . .

In this contemplative practice, sit and renew your awareness that you’re sitting in the presence of God all about you and within you. As you inhale, inhale God’s silent “I love you,” in which God is being poured out and utterly given away to you as the miracle of your very life. Then when you exhale, exhale yourself in love: “I love you.” And so, we are breathing [along with God], “I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.” From the reciprocity of love, destiny is fulfilled, and the foundations of suffering are healed.

As we sit this way, suffering arises. The suffering then might be our anxiety and concerns today, for ourselves, for our loved ones, for the world. As we sit in the midst of the arising of the anxiety, when we inhale, we inhale this love of God loving us through and through, anxiety and all, finding no hindrance in our anxiety, loving us so unexplainably forever. Then when we exhale, we exhale ourselves in love, anxiety and all, to the love that loves us. This requires gentle perseverance, because anxiety arises again. It doesn’t automatically go away. We sit with it, we lean into it again, and we hold fast to this love that sustains us in the midst of things. It is in this way, little by little, that we come to understand the unsubstantiality of everything but love. Love and love alone has the authority to name who we are.

This practice, then, experientially grounds us in this love wisdom. This love wisdom—grounded in practice—empowers us to go out and share this with other people in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Wisdom in Times of Crisis

Change Is Inevitable
Sunday,  July 5, 2020

The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But the mystery of transformation more often happens not when something new begins, but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level, and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place. Most of us would never go to new places in any other way. The mystics use many words to describe this chaos: fire, dark night, death, emptiness, abandonment, trial, the Evil One. Whatever it is, it does not feel good and it does not feel like God.

We will normally do anything to keep the old thing from falling apart, yet this is when we need patience and guidance, and the freedom to let go instead of tightening our controls and certitudes. Perhaps Jesus is describing just this phenomenon when he says, “It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14). Not accidentally, he mentions this narrow road right after teaching the Golden Rule. He knows how much letting go it takes to “treat others as you would like them to treat you” (Matthew 7:12).

While change can force a transformation, spiritual transformation always includes a disconcerting reorientation. It can either help people to find new meaning or it can force people to close down and slowly turn bitter. The difference is determined precisely by the quality of our inner life, our practices, and our spirituality. Change happens, but transformation is always a process of letting go, living in the confusing, shadowy space for a while. Eventually, we are spit up on a new and unexpected shore. You can see why Jonah in the belly of the whale is such an important symbol for many Jews and Christians.

In moments of insecurity and crisis, shoulds and oughts don’t really help. They just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding into unhealthy patterns. It’s the deep yeses that carry us through to the other side. It’s that deeper something we are strongly for—such as equality and dignity for all—that allows us to wait it out. It’s someone in whom we absolutely believe and to whom we commit. In plain language, love wins out over guilt any day.

At the Center for Action and Contemplation, we are blessed with a core faculty that comes from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences. We are from northern and southern States, the Midwest and the coasts, celibate and married, male and female, Black and white, Protestant and Catholic. Each of us speaks out of our commitment to practices of spiritual transformation drawn from the Christian contemplative tradition. This week I want to share some wisdom for times of crisis from these friends and teaching colleagues: Cynthia Bourgeault, James Finley, Barbara Holmes, and Brian McLaren. I hope they can serve as guides to your own internal yes to love.

A Simple Truth

July 3rd, 2020

Simplicity

A Simple Truth
Friday,  July 3, 2020

During World War II, Jesuit priest Walter Ciszek (1904–1984) was accused of being a “Vatican spy.” After spending five years in a Moscow prison, he was sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor in Siberian prison camps. He is an example of someone whose life has been pared down to the “one thing necessary.”

Through the long years of isolation and suffering, God had led me to an understanding of life and [God’s] love that only those who have experienced it can fathom. God had stripped away from me many of the external consolations, physical and religious, that people rely on and had left me with a core of seemingly simple truths to guide me. And yet what a profound difference they had made in my life, what strength they gave me, what courage to go on! I wanted to tell others about them. . . .

The simple soul who each day makes a morning offering of “all the prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day”—and who then acts upon it by accepting unquestioningly and responding lovingly to all the situations of the day as truly sent by God [I prefer to say “allowed” although it helps many people to see all situations as “sent by God.” And who really knows?]—has perceived with an almost childlike faith the profound truth about the will of God. . . . God’s will for us is clearly revealed in every situation of every day, if only we could learn to view all things as God sees them. . . .

The challenge lies in learning to accept this truth and act upon it, every moment of every day. The trouble is that like all great truths, it seems too simple. It is there before our noses all the time, while we look elsewhere for more subtle answers. It bears the hallmark of all divine truths, simplicity, and yet it is precisely because it seems so simple that we are prone to overlook it or ignore it in our daily lives. . . .

The fullest freedom I had ever known, the greatest sense of security, came from abandoning my will to do only the will of God. . . .

For what can ultimately trouble the soul that accepts every moment of every day as a gift from the hands of God and strives always to do God’s will? “If God is for us, who can stand against us?” [Romans 8:31]. Nothing, not even death, can separate us from God. . . . Is this too simple, or are we just afraid really to believe it, to accept it fully and in every detail of our lives, to yield ourselves up to it in total commitment? This is the ultimate question of faith, and each one of us must answer it for ourselves in the quiet of our heart and the depths of our soul. But to answer it in the affirmative is to know a peace, to discover a meaning to life, that surpasses all understanding.

Anyone in Fr. Walter’s situation could not fake such radical faith and trust. It had to be real.

Simplicity

July 2nd, 2020

God’s Simple Pleasure
Thursday,  July 2, 2020

The land is God’s. . . . Caring for the land, every day, is my way to be close to God. [God’s] land must be honored. —Eli, an Amish farmer

Poet, author, and farmer Wendell Berry is a shining example of humility and simple living. He’s made it his life’s concern to commit to one beloved plot of land in Kentucky. He says everything he’s learned has been through his faithfulness to that commitment. He reminds me of St. Francis of Assisi in that he loves nature deeply and takes the Gospel seriously. Berry writes of the profound pleasure that can come from simple things—if we can attune ourselves to them:

It is astonishing, and of course discouraging, to see economics now elevated to the position of ultimate justifier and explainer of all the affairs of our daily life, and competition enshrined as the sovereign principle and ideal of economics. . . .   It is impossible not to notice how little the proponents of the ideal of competition have to say about honesty, which is the fundamental economic virtue, and how very little they have to say about community, compassion, and mutual help. . . . For human beings, affection is the ultimate motive, because the force that powers us, as [John] Ruskin [1819–1900] also said, is not “steam, magnetism, or gravitation,” but “a Soul.”. . . [1]

Is it possible to look beyond this all-consuming “rush” of winning and losing to the possibility of countrysides, a nation of countrysides, in which use is not synonymous with defeat? It is. But in order to do so we must consider our pleasures. . . . [There are] pleasures that are free or without a permanent cost. . . . These are the pleasures that we take in our own lives, our own wakefulness in this world, and in the company of other people and other creatures—pleasures innate in the Creation and in our own good work. It is in these pleasures that we possess the likeness to God that is spoken of in Genesis. [God looked upon all that God had created and saw that it was very good (Genesis 1:31).] . . .

The passage suggests . . . that our truest and profoundest religious experience may be the simple, unasking pleasure in the existence of other creatures that is possible to humans. It suggests that God’s pleasure in all things must be respected by us in our use of things. . . . It suggests too that we have an obligation to preserve God’s pleasure in all things. . . . 

Where is our comfort but in the free, uninvolved, finally mysterious beauty and grace of this world that we did not make, that has no price? Where is our sanity but there? Where is our pleasure but in working and resting kindly in the presence of this world?

Openness and Receptivity

July 1st, 2020

Simplicity

Openness and Receptivity
Wednesday,  July 1, 2020

Despite many differing views of Jesus’ life and teaching, we can say confidently that Jesus was a poor man who fully embraced life with those on the margins of society. Francis of Assisi certainly did the same, and it became his litmus test for all orthodoxy and ongoing transformation into God. Clare of Assisi (1194–1253) wanted to imitate Francis in this and I acknowledge that she and her sisters, the Poor Clares, have kept the vow of poverty much better than we Franciscan friars have done. Today, Bridget Mary Meehan helps us understand how radical simplicity helped Clare and her sisters come to a singleness of focus and heart.

Clare understood that love and poverty [or what I would call simplicity] are connected. She taught that poverty frees one from the bondage of material things and from all the things that clutter the human heart and soul. . . . .

Gospel poverty was at the heart of Clare’s rule. The Poor Ladies owned nothing; they lived simply without property, endowments, or any kind of material possessions. For Clare, doing without things led to deep communion with God. Her way of life was characterized by a deep trust in God to provide for the needs of the community. Whatever the Poor Ladies received was sufficient. Openness and receptivity reflected Clare’s attitudes toward people and things. For her, everything was gift. She and her “ladies” lived the gospel passionately according to the Franciscan ideal.

Through the centuries Clare has continued to be a beacon of light to women and men who long to love Christ with an undivided heart, to serve others generously, and to live simply in a world that glorifies material possessions. If we have too many clothes in our closets, too much money in the bank, too many things cluttering our lives, Clare can help us find the one thing necessary—God who will liberate and fill our emptiness with divine love. Our conversion process may take time—sometimes years—but we will experience freedom and joy when we live with a loose grasp on material things, when we are willing to share our possessions as well as our time and energy with those in need. . . .

How often do we take a deep breath and appreciate—really appreciate—the air we breathe? How often do we savor the food we taste and smell the flowers along our path? When was the last time we listened to our child, laughed with a friend, embraced our spouse? It is true that the best things in life are free, but we are often too distracted or too busy to see the simple treasures of life right in front of us.

Simplicity

June 30th, 2020


Embracing Enoughness
Tuesday,  June 30, 2020

I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. —Lao Tzu  

Most of us have grown up with a capitalist worldview which makes a virtue and goal out of accumulation, consumption, and collecting. It has taught us to assume, quite falsely, that more is better. But it’s hard for us to recognize this unsustainable and unhappy trap because it’s the only game in town. When parents perform multiple duties all day and into the night, it is the story line that their children surely absorb. “I produce therefore I am” and “I consume therefore I am” might be today’s answers to Descartes’ “I think therefore I am.” These identities are all terribly mistaken, but we can’t discover the truth until we remove the clutter.

The course we are on assures us of a predictable future of strained individualism, environmental destruction, severe competition as resources dwindle for a growing population, and perpetual war. Our culture ingrains in us the belief that there isn’t enough to go around, which determines most of our politics and spending. In the United States there is never enough money for adequate health care, education, the arts, or even basic infrastructure. At the same time, the largest budget is always for war, bombs, and military gadgets. I hope we can all recognize how the tragic consequences of these decisions are being played out right now.

E. F. Schumacher (1911–1977) said years ago, “Small is beautiful,” and many other wise people have come to know that less stuff invariably leaves room for more soul. In fact, possessions and soul seem to operate in inverse proportion to one another. Only through simplicity can we find deep contentment instead of perpetually striving and living unsatisfied. Simple living is the foundational social justice teaching of Jesus, Francis and Clare of Assisi, Dorothy Day, Pope Francis, and all hermits, mystics, prophets, and seers since time immemorial.

Franciscan spirituality asks us to let go, to recognize that there is enough to go around and meet everyone’s need but not everyone’s greed. A worldview of enoughness will predictably emerge in us as we realize our naked being in Godinstead of thinking that more of anything or more frenetic doing can fill up our infinite longing and restlessness. Francis did not just tolerate or endure simplicity; he loved it and called it poverty. Francis dove into simplicity and found his freedom there. This is hard for most of us to even comprehend. Thankfully, new monastics like Tessa Bielecki, Shane Claiborne, and Adam Bucko illustrate how this is still possible even in our modern world.

Francis knew that climbing ladders to nowhere would never make us happy nor create peace and justice on this earth. Too many have to stay at the bottom of the ladder so we can be at the top. Living simply helps level the playing field and offers abundance and enoughness to all, regardless of our status or state of belonging to religion or group.

Story from Our Community:
I run a food pantry in . . . Massachusetts. During the pandemic, the number of families we serve has doubled, and so has the tonnage of food we distribute. At times the task can be daunting. The readings and resulting prayers [of the Daily Meditations] have shifted my thinking. I no longer think of our work as service, but as an act of solidarity, of becoming one with our neighbors. Service implies a vertical relationship, one above another. Solidarity calls for a horizontal, two-way relationship between equals, one to one. Of course, God is at the center of it all. —Tom M.

Radical Simplicity

June 29th, 2020

Radical Simplicity
Monday,  June 29, 2020

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” —Matthew 22:34-40

The greatest commandment is to love God and the best way I know to love God is to love what God loves—which is everything! Surely this is the way that Jesus loves. To love as Jesus loves, we too must be connected to the Source of love.

My spiritual father Francis of Assisi (1194–1253) was definitely connected to the Source. He truly experienced radical participation in God’s very life. Such practical knowing of his value and true identity allowed Francis to let go of status, privilege, and wealth. Francis knew he was part of God’s plan, connected to creation and other beings, inherently in communion and in love. Francis taught his followers to own nothing so they would not be owned by their possessions. Francis said:

My brothers! My brothers! God has called me by the way of [humility] and showed me the way of simplicity. . . . And the Lord told me what He wanted: He wanted me to be a new fool in the world. God did not wish to lead us by any way other than this knowledge. . . .  [1]

If you don’t live from within your own center of connection and communion with God, you’ll go spinning around many other things. The true goal of all religion is to lead you back to the place where everything is one, to the experience of radical unity with all of humanity and all of creation, and hence to the experience of unity with God, who is the Great Includer of all else.

When you live in pure consciousness, letting the naked being of all reality touch your own naked being, you experience foundational participation. Out of that plentitude—a sense of satisfaction and inner enoughness, a worldview of abundance—you find it much easier to live simply. You realize you don’t “need” as much. You’ve found your satisfaction at an inner place, at a deeper level inside you. You’re able to draw from this abundance and share it freely with others. And you stop trying to decide who is worthy of it, because you now know that you are not “worthy” either. It is one hundred percent pure gift!

Simplicity

Purity of Heart, Singleness of Focus
Sunday,  June 28, 2020

My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. —John 4:34

I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me. —John 5:30

My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will. —Matthew 26:39

When you read the above statements, it is quite clear that Jesus was entirely single-hearted. His life was all about doing the will of the One who sent him, the One he loved above all. To Jesus, it was that simple.

As Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) so beautifully put it, “purity of heart is to will one thing.” [1] No wonder Jesus said that the pure of heart would see God (Matthew 5:8). They alone keep their eyes in one constant and consistent direction, and thus overcome the divisions created by the divided hearts and loyalties which plague the rest of us. As we grow spiritually, our lives become more and more centered and simple. There are only a few things that matter, and eventually really only one.

Howard Thurman (1899-1981), the esteemed theologian and spiritual teacher to Martin Luther King, Jr., reached this point of single-hearted focus. The following excerpt from his book Meditations of the Heart reveals how Thurman prayed that God’s will might be done in and through him.

The central element in communion with God is the act of self-surrender. The symbol of my prayer this day is the open heart. It is most natural for me to think of prayer in terms of the open hand. My needs are so great and often so desperate that there seems to be naught besides my own urgency. I must open my heart to God. This will include my own deep urgencies and all the warp and woof of my desiring. These things, deep within, I must trust with the full awareness that more important even than self-realization is the true glorifying of God. Somehow I must make God central to me and in me, over and above the use to which I wish or need to put His energy and His power. 

I surrender myself to God without any conditions or reservations. I shall not bargain with [God]. I shall not make my surrender piecemeal but I shall lay bare the very center of me, that all of my very being shall be charged with the creative energy of God. Little by little, or vast area by vast area, my life must be transmuted in the life of God. As this happens, I come into the meaning of true freedom and the burdens that I seemed unable to bear are floated in the current of the life and love of God. [2]

A Communion of Subjects

June 26th, 2020

Cosmology and Nature

A Communion of Subjects
Friday, June 26, 2020

Acknowledging the intrinsic value, beauty, and even soul of creation, elements, plants, and animals is a major paradigm shift for most Western Christians. In fact, many in the past often dismissed such thinking as animism or paganism. We limited God’s love and salvation to our own human species and, then, in this theology of scarcity, we did not even have enough love left to cover all of humanity! To be honest, God ended up looking quite stingy and inept—hardly “victorious,” as our Easter hymns claim.

The word profane comes from the Latin words pro, meaning “in front of,” and fanum, meaning “temple.” We thought we lived “outside the temple.” Without a nature-based spirituality, it was a profane universe, bereft of Spirit. We had to keep building shrines and churches to capture and hold our now domesticated and tamed God. Soon we did not know where to look for the divine, as we made God’s presence so limited. We became like fish swimming around looking for water, and often arguing about who owned the water!

I’m not saying that God is all things or that all things are God (pantheism). I am saying that each living thing reveals some aspect of God. God is greater than the whole of our universe, and as Creator inter-penetrates all created things (panentheism).

When God manifests spirit through matter, then matter becomes a holy thing. The material world is the place where we can comfortably worship God just by walking on it, loving it, and respecting it. Everything visible, without exception, is the outpouring of God. What else could it really be? The incarnation is not only “God becoming Jesus.” It is a much broader event, which is why John’s Gospel first describes God’s presence in the general word “flesh” (John 1:14). This is the ubiquitous Christ that we continue to encounter in other human beings, in a mountain, a blade of grass, a spider web, or a starling.

When we can enjoy all these things as holy, “the world becomes a communion of subjects more than a collection of objects” as the “geologian” Fr. Thomas Berry (1914–2009) said so wisely. [1]

When we love something, we grant it soul, we see its soul, and we let its soul touch ours. We must love something deeply to know its soul (anima). Before the resonance of love, we are largely blind to the meaning, value, and power of ordinary things to “save” us and help us live in union with the source of all being. In fact, until we can appreciate and even delight in the soul of other things, even trees and animals, we probably haven’t discovered our own souls either. Soul knows soul through love, which is why it’s the great commandment (Matthew 22:36).

Cosmology and Nature

June 25th, 2020

An Infinite Web
Thursday,  June 25, 2020

Author and Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor has been writing about the intersection of faith and science for a long time. In this essay, written over twenty years ago, she was already exploring a new cosmology, one that honored her deep understanding of both God and the workings of the universe. She has the courage and conviction to ask hard questions and wrestle with them alongside us. Her insight into God’s unifying and enlivening presence has much in common with the mystics. As Franciscan theologian Bonaventure described, God is One “whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” [1]

In Sunday school, I learned to think of God as a very old white-bearded man on a throne, who stood above creation and occasionally stirred it with a stick. When I am dreaming quantum dreams, what I see is an infinite web of relationship, flung across the vastness of space like a luminous net. It is made of energy, not thread. As I look, I can see light moving through it as a pulse moves through veins. What I see “out there” is no different from what I feel inside. There is a living hum that might be coming from my neurons but might just as well be coming from the furnace of the stars. When I look up at them there is a small commotion in my bones, as the ashes of dead stars that house my marrow rise up like metal filings toward the magnet of their living kin.

Where am I in this picture? I am all over the place. I am up there, down here, inside my skin and out. I am large compared to a virus and small compared to the sun, with a life that is permeable to them both. Am I alone? How could I ever be alone? I am part of a web that is pure relationship, with energy available to me that has been around since the universe was born.

Where is God in this picture? God is all over the place. God is up there, down here, inside my skin and out. God is the web, the energy, the space, the light—not captured in them, as if any of those concepts were more real than what unites them—but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything that is.

At this point in my thinking, it is not enough for me to proclaim that God is responsible for all this unity. Instead, I want to proclaim that God is the unity—the very energy, the very intelligence, the very elegance and passion that make it all go. This is the God who is not somewhere but everywhere, the God who may be prayed to in all directions at once. This is also the God beyond all directions, who will still be here (wherever “here” means) when the universe either dissipates into dust or swallows itself up again.

Awakening in the Cosmos

June 24th, 2020

Cosmology and Nature

Awakening in the Cosmos
Wednesday,  June 24, 2020

My friend and fellow CAC teacher Dr. Barbara Holmes has the ability to bear witness to the expansiveness of the cosmos, the major systemic shifts taking place in society, and the small and sacred moments of daily life—all at the same time. Her writing is a poetic and prophetic call for us to wake up and pay attention to everything that is happening around us.

It is time to awaken to self, society, and the cosmos, for none of us has the luxury of sleepwalking through impending cultural and scientific revolutions. In the last sermon that he preached before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King Jr. urged us to “remain awake through a great revolution.” [1] . . .

Up above our heads, there are worlds unknown and a canopy of grace, light, air, and water that supports our survival. Without realizing it, we expend massive amounts of energy to block out the vastness of our universe. This is to be expected, for, in its totality, this information can be more than human systems can take. However, by riveting our attention on the mundane, we filter out the wonder that is available with each breath.

Although we have a fascination with space and the possibility of life in other realms, we steadfastly refuse to respond when the universe invites us to broaden our lines of sight. We are beckoned by blazing sunsets and the pictures returned by powerful telescopic lenses, yet, on any given day, we court a busyness that beguiles us into focusing on the limited perspectives in our immediate space.

Today, scientific information about the universe is increasing exponentially while ethnic and racial balances within the United States are shifting radically. In the scientific realm, the epistemological foundations for hierarchy, dominance, and rationality are crumbling, while proponents of gender, class, [racial,] and sexual equity have found their public voices. . . .

We are not hamsters on a wheel, waiting to fall into the cedar shavings at the bottom of the cage. We are seekers of light and life, bearers of shadows and burdens. We are struggling to journey together toward moral fulfillment. We are learning to embrace the unfathomable darkness where God dwells with enthusiasm that equals our love of light. Physics and cosmology have metaphors and languages to help us awaken to these and other possibilities. . . . We are not just citizens of one nation or another, but of the human and cosmic community.

Awareness is the moment when we rise with eyes crusted from self-induced dreams of control, domination, victimization, and self-hatred to catch a glimpse of the divine in the face of “the other.” Then God’s self-identification, “I am that I am / I will be who I will be” (Exodus 3:14) becomes a liberating example of awareness, mutuality, and self-revelation.

Barbara teaches us that “everything belongs”—from moments of personal awakening, to mind-bending discoveries with the potential to change everything. Growing in awareness of a “Christ-soaked universe” helps us to awaken to wonder and see the divine in all things.