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The Performance Principle

March 22nd, 2019

Growing in Christ: Week 1

The Performance Principle
Friday, March 22, 2019

Religion in the second half of life is finally not a moral matter; it’s a mystical matter. While most of us begin focused on moral proficiency and perfection, we can’t spend our whole lives this way. Paul calls the first-half-of-life approach “the Law”; I call it the performance principle: “I’m good because I obey this commandment, because I do this kind of work, or because I belong to this group.” That’s the calculus the ego understands. The human psyche, all organizations, and governments need this kind of common sense structure at some level.

But that game has to fall apart or it will kill you. Paul says the law leads to death (e.g., Romans 7:5, Galatians 3:10). Yet many Catholics I meet—religious, laity, and clergy—are still trapped inside the law, believing that by doing good things or going to church, they’re going to somehow attain worthiness or acceptance from God. This was Luther’s authentic critique of much of the Catholic church as he knew it.

One of the only ways God can get us to let go of our private salvation project is some kind of suffering. This is why Christians hang the cross at the center of our churches, why we kiss the cross, and why we say we’re “saved” by the cross. Yet for all this ritualization, it seems we don’t really believe what the cross teaches us—that the pattern of death and resurrection is true for us, too, that we must die in a foundational way or any talk of “rebirth” makes no sense. I don’t know anything else that’s strong enough to force you and me to let go of our ego. However we’ve defined ourselves as successful, moral, better than, right, good, on top of it, number one . . . has to fail us!

This is the point when we don’t feel holy or worthy. We feel like a failure. When this experience of the “noonday devil” shows itself, the ego’s normal temptation is to be even stricter about following the first half of life’s rules. We think more is better, when in fact, less is more. We go back to laws and rituals instead of the always-risky fall into the ocean of mercy.

Yet that is the only path toward our larger and True Self, where we don’t need to prove ourselves to God anymore; where we know, as Thomas Merton (1915–1968) put it, it’s all “mercy within mercy within mercy.” [1] It’s not what we do for God; it’s what God has done for us. We switch from trying to love God to just letting God love us. And it’s at that point we fall in love with God. Up to now, we haven’t really loved God; we’ve largely been afraid of God. Finally, perfect love casts out all fear. As John says, “In love there can be no fear. Fear is driven out by perfect love. To fear is to still expect punishment. Anyone who is still afraid is still imperfect in the ways of love” (see 1 John 4:18).

Relinquishing Ego

March 21st, 2019

Relinquishing Ego
Thursday, March 21, 2019

God’s seed is in us. If it were tended by a good, wise and industrious laborer, it would then flourish all the better, and would grow up to God, whose seed it is, and its fruits would be like God’s own nature. The seed of a pear tree grows into pear tree, the seed of a nut tree grows to be a nut tree, the seed of God grows to be God. —Meister Eckhart (1260–1328) [1]

James Hollis reflects on what it means to “die before we die” like the seed falling into the ground:

In the second half of life the ego is periodically summoned to relinquish its identifications with the values of others, the values received and reinforced by the world around it. It will have to face potential loneliness in living the life that comes from within rather than acceding to the noisy clamor of the world, or the insistency of the old complexes. [2] It will have to submit itself to that which is truly larger, sometimes intimidating, and always summoning us to grow up. . . . And how scary is that, to each of us? . . . No wonder so few ever feel connected to the soul. No wonder we are so isolated and afraid of being who we are.

Yet, paradoxically, the very achievement of ego strength is the source for our hope for something better. We need to be strong enough to examine our lives and make risky changes. A person strong enough to face the futilities of most desires, the distractions of most cultural values, who can give up trying to be well adjusted to a neurotic culture, will find growth and greater purpose after all. The ego’s highest task is to go beyond itself into service, service to what is really desired by the soul. . . .

During the second half of life, the ego will be asked to accept the absurdities of existence, that death and extinction mock all expectations of aggrandizement, that vanity and self-delusion are the most seductive of comforts. . . . How counterproductive our popular culture [in the United States]—with its fantasies of prolonged youthful appearance, continuous acquisition of objects with their planned obsolescence, and the incessant, restless search for magic: fads, rapid cures, quick fixes, new diversions from the task of soul.

The relinquishment of ego ambition, as fueled and defined by first-half-of-life complexes, will in the end be experienced as a newfound and hitherto unknown abundance. One will be freed from having to do whatever supposedly reinforced one’s shaky identity, and then will be granted the liberty to do things because they are inherently worth doing. . . . One can experience the quiet joy of living in relationship to the soul simply because it works better than the alternative. The revisioned life feels better in the end, for such a person experiences his or her life as rich with meaning, and opening to a larger and larger mystery.

Vocation, even in the most humble of circumstances, is a summons to what is divine. Perhaps it is the divinity in us that wishes to be in accord with a larger divinity. Ultimately, our vocation is to become ourselves, in the thousand, thousand variants we are. . . . As all of the great world religions have long recognized, becoming ourselves actually requires repeated submissions of the ego.

Individuation

March 20th, 2019


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

I first learned about the two halves of life from Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (18751961). Today we’ll hear from a Jungian analyst, James Hollis, who is saying the same thing I am trying to say, but better. Hollis writes:

The second half of life presents a rich possibility for spiritual enlargement, for we are never going to have greater powers of choice, never have more lessons of history from which to learn, and never possess more emotional resilience, more insight into what works for us and what does not, or a deeper, sometimes more desperate, conviction of the importance of getting our life back. . . .

Just what are those inner imperatives that rise to support us and challenge us in the journey of the second half of life? Perhaps Jung’s most compelling contribution is the idea of individuation, that is, the lifelong project of becoming more nearly the whole person we were meant to be—what [God] intended, not the parents, or the tribe, or, especially, the easily intimidated or inflated ego.

While revering the mystery of others, our individuation summons each of us to stand in the presence of our own mystery, and become more fully responsible for who we are in this journey we call our life. So often the idea of individuation has been confused with self-indulgence or mere individualism, but what individuation more often asks of us is the surrender of the ego’s agenda of security and emotional reinforcement, in favor of humbling service to the soul’s intent. . . .

The agenda of the first half of life is predominantly . . . framed as “How can I enter this world, separate from my parents, create relationships, career, social identity?” Or put another way: “What does the world ask of me, and what resources can I muster to meet its demands?” But in the second half of life . . . the agenda shifts to reframing our personal experience in the larger order of things, and the questions change. “What does the soul ask of me?” “What does it mean that I am here?” “Who am I apart from my roles, apart from my history?” . . . If the agenda of the first half of life is social, meeting the demands and expectations our milieu asks of us, then the questions of the second half of life are spiritual, addressing the larger issue of meaning.

The psychology of the first half of life is driven by the fantasy of acquisition: gaining ego strength to deal with separation, separating from the overt domination of parents, acquiring a standing in the world. . . . But then the second half of life asks of us, and ultimately demands, relinquishment—relinquishment of identification with property, roles, status, provisional identities—and the embrace of other, inwardly confirmed values.

In Need Of Guidance

March 19th, 2019

Growing in Christ: Week 1

In Need of Guidance
Tuesday, March 19, 2019

There’s a somewhat overlooked passage in the middle of Romans where Paul says, “The only thing that counts is not what human beings want or try to do [that’s the first half of life], but the mercy of God [that’s the second half of life]” (9:16). But we only realize this is true in the second half of life. We had to do the wanting and the trying and the achieving and the self-promoting and the accomplishing. The first half of life is all about some kind of performance principle. And it seems that it must be this way. We have to do it wrong before we know what right might be.

In the second half of life, we start to understand that life is not only about doing; it’s about being. I remember going home to Kansas after my father had just retired at age sixty-five. For thirty-six years, he had painted trains for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. Daddy grew up very poor during the Depression and the dust storms of western Kansas. In his generation, of course, a job was something you valued deeply; and once you got it, you weren’t going to lose it. He never missed a day of work in all those years. He turned on the lights every morning, they told us.

After he retired, my father cried in my arms and said, “I don’t know who I am now. I don’t know who I am. . . . Pray with me, pray with me.” Here I was a grown-up man, a priest, supposed to be strong for my father. I didn’t know how to do it. I guess I said the appropriate priestly words. But I didn’t know how to guide him into the second half of life, and he was begging for a guide.

The church wasn’t much of a guide in such things. The common sermon was on the evil of abortion. My mom in her 70s would come home and say, “Why does the priest keep telling us the same thing? I can’t have babies anymore!” That’s what happens when the Church doesn’t grow up or support its growing members. We focus on something that’s quantifiable and seemingly clear and has no subtlety to it. It’s mostly black and white thinking, usually about individual body-based sins. We know who the sinners are, and we know who the saints are, and we don’t have to struggle with the mixed blessing that every human being is. We’re all mixed blessings and partly sinners, and we always will be. But this wisdom only comes later, when we’ve learned to listen to the different voices that guide us in the second half of life.

These deeper voices will sound like risk, trust, surrender, uncommon sense, destiny, love. They will be the voices of an intimate stranger, a voice that’s from somewhere else, and yet it’s my deepest self at the same time. It’s the still, small voice that the prophet Elijah slowly but surely learned to hear (see 1 Kings 19:11-13).

The Task within the Task

March 18th, 2019

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Religion and various models of human development seem to suggest there are two major tasks for each human life. The first task is to build a strong “container” or identity; the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold. The first task we take for granted as the very purpose of life. This does not mean we do it well, but because we’re so focused on it we may not even attempt the second task.

Western society is a “first-half-of-life” culture, largely concerned about surviving successfully. Most cultures and individuals across history were likely situated in the first half of their own development until recent times; it may have been all they had time for because of shorter life expectancy. The first task life hands us has to do with establishing an identity, a home, relationships, friends, community, security, and building a proper platform for our only life.

But it takes much longer to discover “the task within the task,” as I like to call it: what we are really doing when we are doing what we are doing. Two people can have the same job description, and one is holding a subtle or not-so-subtle life energy (eros) in doing his or her job, while another is holding a subtle or not-so-subtle negative energy (thanatos) while doing the exact same job.

We respond to one another’s energy more than to people’s exact words or actions. In any situation, the taking or giving of energy is what we are actually doing. What we all desire and need from one another, of course, is that life energy called eros! It always draws, creates, and connects things.

It is when we begin to pay attention, and to seek integrity in the task within the task, that we begin to move from the first to the second half of our own lives. Integrity largely has to do with purifying our intentions and being honest about our motives. It is hard work. Most often we don’t pay attention to that inner task until we have had some kind of fall or failure in our outer tasks.

During the first half of life we invest so much of our blood and sweat, eggs and sperm, tears and years that we often cannot imagine there is a second task, or that anything more could be expected of us. “The old wineskins are good enough” (Luke 5:39), we say, even though according to Jesus they often cannot hold the new wine. If we do not get some new wineskins, “the wine and the wineskin will both be lost” (Luke 5:37). The second half of life can hold some new wine because by then there should be some tested ways of holding our lives together. But that usually means the container itself must stretch or die in its present form and be replaced with something better.


The Container and the Contents
Monday, March 18, 2019

Theologically and objectively speaking, we are created in union with God from the beginning (e.g., Ephesians 1:3-9). But it is hard for us to believe or experience this without a healthy ego and boundaries. Thus, the first part of the spiritual journey is about externals, formulas, superficial emotions, flags and badges, rituals, Bible quotes, and special clothing, all of which largely substitute for an authentic spiritual experience (see Matthew 23:13-32). Yes, it is largely style and sentiment instead of real substance, but it is probably necessary—as long as we don’t devote our entire life to it. This familiar motto, which Pope John XXIII commended, is apt: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.” [1] That is second-half-of-life, hard-won wisdom.

In the first half of our lives, we have no container for such content as true love or charity, no wineskins that are prepared to hold such utterly intoxicating wine. Authentic God experience always “burns” you, yet does not destroy you, just as the burning bush revealed to Moses (see Exodus 3:2-3). Most of us are not prepared for such burning, nor even told to expect it. By definition, authentic God experience is always “too much”! It consoles our True Self only after it has devastated our false self.

Early-stage religion is primarily preparing you for the immense gift of this burning, the inner experience of God, as though creating a proper stable into which the Christ can be born. Unfortunately, most people get so preoccupied with their stable, and whether their stable is better than other stables, or whether their stable is the only “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” stable, that they never get to the birth of God in the soul.

As a priest for over four decades, I find that much of the spiritual and pastoral work of churches is often ineffective at real transformation of consciousness. As a spiritual director, I find that people facing important issues of social injustice, divorce, failure, gender identity, an inner life of prayer, or a radical reading of the Gospel are usually bored and limited by the typical Sunday church agenda. And these are good people! But they keep on doing what Bill Plotkin calls their survival dance because no one has told them about their sacred dance. [2] In short, Christianity has not helped many people do the age-appropriate tasks of both halves of life.

Most churches just keep doing the first half of life over and over again. Young people are made to think that the container is all there is and all they should expect, that believing a few doctrines or performing some rituals is all religion is about. The would-be maturing believer is not challenged to adult faith or service to the world, much less mystical union. Everyone ends up in a muddled middle, where “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity,” as poet William Butler Yeats put it. [3] I am convinced that much of our pastoral and practical confusion has emerged because we need to clarify the real differences, the needs, and the somewhat conflicting challenges of the two halves of our own lives.

Ephesians 1:3-9 New Living Translation (NLT)

Spiritual Blessings

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.[a] He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan.

Matthew 23:13-32 New Living Translation (NLT)

13 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.[a]

15 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell[b] you yourselves are!

16 “Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’17 Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding. 19 How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. 21 And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. 22 And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne.

23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,[c] but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.24 Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel![d]

25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish,[e] and then the outside will become clean, too.

27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. 30 Then you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have joined them in killing the prophets.’

31 “But in saying that, you testify against yourselves that you are indeed the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started.

The Pattern of Evolution

March 18th, 2019

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Perhaps the reason it is so hard for us to see the evolution of the Cosmic Christ in our individual lives and in the arc of history is that this groaning and this giving birth (see Romans 8:22) proceeds by a process of losses and gains, and the losses are very real. There is no doubt that history goes three steps forward and two steps backward, but thank God there always seems to be a net gain. Even though we continue to see war, racism, classism, genocide, and ignorance, violence is actually declining. We may be more aware of the world’s suffering now than ever before, but as compared with previous periods in history, we are living in a relatively peaceful time. [1]

Historically and to this day, it seems that when a new level of maturity is found, there is an immediate and strong instinct to pull backward to the old and familiar. Thankfully, within churches and society at large there is always a leaven, a critical mass, a few people who carry the momentum toward greater inclusivity, compassion, and love. This is the Second Coming of Christ: Christ embodied by people who know that hatred and greed are always regressive, and who can no longer live fearfully or violently. There are always some who have touched upon Love and been touched by Love, which is to touch upon the Christ Mystery. This is the shape of “salvation.”

Teilhard de Chardin writes: “Everything that rises must converge.” [2] In other words, higher levels of evolution are always a movement toward greater unity. Along the way there will be differentiation and complexity, but paradoxically, that increased complexity moves life to a greater level of unity, until in the end there is only God who is “all in all” (see 1 Corinthians 15:28). If it isn’t moving toward unity, it is not a higher level of consciousness.

But along with differentiation and complexity there will also be an equal pushback, fear, and confusion. We see this in our current political climate in America and much of the world. The United States has suffered eight years of nonstop gridlock and opposition to any creative governance. It mirrors Newton’s Third Law of Motion that “every action elicits an equal and opposite reaction.” Today many people are reverting to tribal thinking, denial, fear, and hatred, rather than turning to compassionate, creative solutions to real challenges of poverty, climate change, and the many worldwide forms of injustice.

I highly recommend here any of the writings of Thomas Berry, who in many ways brings Teilhard de Chardin realistically forward because he has sixty more years of science, and also sixty more years of planetary push back, to bring to the present conversation. [3] Berry is another prophet in our times.

Gateway to Silence:
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Consciously Evolving

March 15th, 2019

Friday, March 15, 2019

Ilia Delio explores what it means to consciously, intentionally participate in evolution:

Because we humans are in evolution we must see Christ in evolution as well—Christ’s humanity is our humanity, Christ’s life is our life. . . . To live Christ is to live community; to bear Christ in one’s life is to become a source of healing love for the sake of community. . . .

We must liberate Christ from a Western intellectual form that is logical, abstract, privatized, and individualized. We must engage in the complexification of Christ . . . which means accepting the diversity and differences of the other as integral to ourselves and thus integral to the meaning of Christ. Engagement with the other is not dissolving ourselves into the other but being true to ourselves—our identity—by finding ourselves in God and God in the other. . . .

Christ is the power of God among us and within us, the fullness of the earth and of life in the universe. We humans have the potential to make Christ alive; it is what we are created for. To live the mystery of Christ is not to speak about Christ but to live in the surrender of love, the poverty of being, and the cave of the heart. If we can allow the Spirit to really take hold of us and liberate us from our fears, anxieties, demands, and desire for power and control, then we can truly . . . live in the risen Christ who empowers us to build this new creation. We can look toward that time when there will be one cosmic person uniting all persons, one cosmic humanity uniting all humanity, one Christ in whom God will be all in all. [1]

On the whole we are not conscious of evolution, and we do not act as if our choices can influence the direction of evolution. . . .

What will it take for us to realize that we are unfinished creatures who are in the process of being created? That our world is being created? That our church is being created? That Christ is being formed in us? . . . The good news of Jesus Christ is not so much what happens to us but what must be done by us. The choices we make for the future will create the future. We must reinvent ourselves in love. . . .

We must consciously evolve; we must orient our being toward new life and growth because the unity that we really are, the deep connective tissue of oneness, will not let us rest with separateness. . . . Too much is at stake now to hide behind our secure walls. . . .

We must choose to be whole, to be attentive to God’s ongoing work in our lives. God will not create a new future for us, but God invites us to become more whole within ourselves so that we may become more whole among ourselves. Evolution toward greater wholeness is evolution toward more life and love. This is the basis of contemplative evolution and the emergence of Christ. [2]

Consciously Evolving

March 15th, 2019

Christ in Evolution

Consciously Evolving
Friday, March 15, 2019

Ilia Delio explores what it means to consciously, intentionally participate in evolution:

Because we humans are in evolution we must see Christ in evolution as well—Christ’s humanity is our humanity, Christ’s life is our life. . . . To live Christ is to live community; to bear Christ in one’s life is to become a source of healing love for the sake of community. . . .

We must liberate Christ from a Western intellectual form that is logical, abstract, privatized, and individualized. We must engage in the complexification of Christ . . . which means accepting the diversity and differences of the other as integral to ourselves and thus integral to the meaning of Christ. Engagement with the other is not dissolving ourselves into the other but being true to ourselves—our identity—by finding ourselves in God and God in the other. . . .

Christ is the power of God among us and within us, the fullness of the earth and of life in the universe. We humans have the potential to make Christ alive; it is what we are created for. To live the mystery of Christ is not to speak about Christ but to live in the surrender of love, the poverty of being, and the cave of the heart. If we can allow the Spirit to really take hold of us and liberate us from our fears, anxieties, demands, and desire for power and control, then we can truly . . . live in the risen Christ who empowers us to build this new creation. We can look toward that time when there will be one cosmic person uniting all persons, one cosmic humanity uniting all humanity, one Christ in whom God will be all in all. [1]

On the whole we are not conscious of evolution, and we do not act as if our choices can influence the direction of evolution. . . .

What will it take for us to realize that we are unfinished creatures who are in the process of being created? That our world is being created? That our church is being created? That Christ is being formed in us? . . . The good news of Jesus Christ is not so much what happens to us but what must be done by us. The choices we make for the future will create the future. We must reinvent ourselves in love. . . .

We must consciously evolve; we must orient our being toward new life and growth because the unity that we really are, the deep connective tissue of oneness, will not let us rest with separateness. . . . Too much is at stake now to hide behind our secure walls. . . .

We must choose to be whole, to be attentive to God’s ongoing work in our lives. God will not create a new future for us, but God invites us to become more whole within ourselves so that we may become more whole among ourselves. Evolution toward greater wholeness is evolution toward more life and love. This is the basis of contemplative evolution and the emergence of Christ. [2]

Collective Evolution

March 13th, 2019

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Today we continue gleaning insights Louis Savary has drawn from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:

The success of God’s plan for creation depends on [our] conscious and creative activity to keep the divine plan evolving and developing in the direction God wants for creation.

In the past, no one even imagined that there was some great divine evolutionary plan for creation in which humans were meant to participate as co-creators during their lives on Earth. For centuries, many Christians saw their earthly days as merely a behavioral test for entry into heaven; Earth served merely as their classroom where they prepared for their final exam and hoped to graduate into heaven. . . .

For Teilhard, in contrast, the Christ Project is why God created the evolving universe in the first place. . . . It took the revelations of Jesus Christ plus twenty centuries of theological reflection and centuries of scientific discoveries to tie things all together to begin to identify the grand divine project and the evolutionary law governing it.

The plan is not only that each human being would be “saved” individually, but also that we humans, working together as one family, would consciously cooperate in the creative work of this Universal Being. We are invited to be an integral part of that project. Some participate in it consciously and creatively. Many others, like research scientists and people in the helping professions, cooperate in it, too, even though they may be unaware of the Christ Project by name. . . .

The evolving noosphere [sphere of human thought] . . . calls for . . . people, individually and collectively, [to] create and contribute to its evolution. The purpose of such a relational spirituality is to bring the noosphere to its highest level of convergence, eventually operating as a single consciousness. This convergent oneness of humanity and the planet will be a knowledge-based and love-inspired union and communion. Only in this collective way may we create an adequate infrastructure for the full emergence of Christ as a Cosmic Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15, 17, 19). In this perspective, when Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God is among you,” [Luke 17:21] it would mean, in Teilhard’s language, that the divine project is already under way

Teilhard believed that those who grasped this idea would feel the call to spend their energies not only on their own personal salvation but, with their eyes focused on the vision of humanity as a whole, would put their minds, hearts, and energy into building the great Body of Christ.

More specifically, they would realize that a major task of any true contemporary spirituality should be to help prepare the collective mind and heart of the planet for the Cosmic Christ. This is the Christ project. Helping achieve this convergent oneness of humanity [and other species] by promoting further evolution will demand that each person learn the creative art of imagining a better future and helping make it happen—over and over.

The Christ Project

March 12th, 2019

Christ in Evolution

The Christ Project
Tuesday, March 12, 2019

I’ve mentioned Pierre Teilhard de Chardin a couple times this week. I credit this Jesuit priest and paleontologist with helping me—and many others—grasp the universal, evolutionary nature of Christianity. He has been quoted by the last three Popes. Teilhard believed that both sin and salvation are corporate concepts, yet while his view is very biblical, many Christians thought of sin and salvation as individual failure and reward.

Theologian Louis Savary is an avid student of Teilhard and makes his teaching accessible. Over the next two days I’ll share excerpts from Savary’s book The New Spiritual Exercises:

First, for Teilhard, because the creation of the universe is a primary act of God’s self-expression and an important part of God’s self-revelation to us, creation’s evolving story must be integrated into any contemporary spirituality. Even the ancient psalmist was aware that all of nature was trying to tell us about God and God’s love for us (see Psalm 19:1-4). In our day, science is increasing our ability to “read” creation’s story.

Second, for Teilhard, to love God requires loving the world as well, since what God brought forth in the evolving cosmos is precisely God’s loving self-expression. For Teilhard, because God loves the totality of creation unconditionally and wants it to evolve to its destined completion, we too should learn to love the cosmos with a passion. Our challenge in spirituality is to realize how totally integrated we humans are with all creation and how best to work toward creation’s divinely desired evolutionary fulfillment.

Third, for Teilhard, this new evolutionary scientific information (less than a century old) allows us to look at all of creation in its multi-billion-year history and give a richer and more concrete meaning to what God is trying to do in the world. Saint Paul described God’s “hidden purpose” (Ephesians 3:9-10) as “building the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:1-6, 13). Jesus expressed it in his prayer “That all may be one as you, Father, are in me and I am in you” (John 17:21). The church’s tradition tries to express this oneness that God is trying to accomplish as “building the Mystical Body of Christ.” Teilhard’s vision of what God is trying to do is what I like to call the “Christ Project.”

God’s Christ Project encompasses the entire evolving universe, and its aim is to bring creation (along with all of us) back to God, fully conscious of our divine origin and divine destiny. . . .

For Teilhard, although each individual soul is intimately known and unconditionally loved by God, in the end the one Person that God wants to “save” and bring to perfection is the cosmic-sized Christ, in whom lives the entire universe that God lovingly created and set into an evolutionary process almost fourteen billion years ago (Ephesians 1:9-10).