Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

The Transforming Power of Love

November 12th, 2020


Revolutionary Love
Thursday,  November 12, 2020

Is this the darkness of the tomb, or of the womb? I don’t know. All I know is that the only way we will endure is if each of us shows up to the labor. —Valarie Kaur

In this liminal space we find ourselves in now, Sikh activist, civil rights attorney, and author Valarie Kaur believes that “revolutionary love is the call of our times.” She brings the fullness of her faith and her humanity to answer the questions so many of us are asking. I think you will find her insights quite compelling:

If you cringe when people say that love is the answer, I do, too. The problem is not with love but with the way we talk about it. We mostly talk about love as a flood of emotion. But feelings alone are too fickle and fluid [RR—too based in the false self, I would also say] to sustain political action. Social reformers through history led entire nonviolent movements anchored in love as an ethic. Time and again, people gave their bodies and breath for one another, not only in the face of fire hoses and firing squads, but also in the quieter venues of their daily lives. Black feminists like bell hooks have long envisioned a world where the love ethic is a foundation for all arenas of our society. I believe we can reclaim love as a force for justice for a new time.

Here is my offering:

“Love” is more than a feeling. Love is a form of sweet labor: fierce, bloody, imperfect, and life-giving—a choice we make over and over again. If love is sweet labor, love can be taught, modeled, and practiced. This labor engages all our emotions. Joy is the gift of love. Grief is the price of love. Anger protects that which is loved. And when we think we have reached our limit, wonder is the act that returns us to love.

“Revolutionary love” is the choice to enter into wonder and labor for others, for our opponents, and for ourselves in order to transform the world around us. It is not a formal code or prescription but an orientation to life that is personal and political and rooted in joy. Loving only ourselves is escapism; loving only our opponents is self-loathing; loving only others is ineffective. All three practices together make love revolutionary, and revolutionary love can only be practiced in community.

Revolutions do not happen only in grand moments in public view but also in small pockets of people coming together to inhabit a new way of being. We birth the beloved community by becoming the beloved community. . . . When a critical mass of people practice together, in community and as part of movements for justice, I believe we can begin to create the world we want, here and now.

Richard again: Perhaps a nondual response to Kaur’s question above is that moments of felt darkness are both a tomb and a womb. We must die to the old before the truly new can be born.

A Love Ethic

November 11th, 2020

The Transforming Power of Love

A Love Ethic
Wednesday,  November 11, 2020

Because of my background, my language about love is often biblical, theological, psychological, and personal. While these are necessary and helpful frames, they certainly aren’t the only ones we should use. bell hooks (sic), a Black feminist scholar and activist, suggests how truly living by a “love ethic” could bring about much needed societal change.

Culturally, all spheres of American life—politics, religion, the workplace, domestic households, intimate relations—should and could have as their foundation a love ethic. The underlying values of a culture and its ethics shape and inform the way we speak and act. A love ethic presupposes that everyone has the right to be free, to live fully and well. . . . Individuals who choose to love can and do alter our lives in ways that honor the primacy of a love ethic. We do this by choosing to work with individuals we admire and respect; by committing to give our all to relationships; by embracing a global vision wherein we see our lives and our fate as intimately connected to those of everyone else on the planet.

Commitment to a love ethic transforms our lives by offering us a different set of values to live by. In large and small ways, we make choices based on a belief that honesty, openness, and personal integrity need to be expressed in public and private decisions. . . . Living by a love ethic we learn to value loyalty and a commitment to sustained bonds over material advancement. While careers and making money remain important agendas, they never take precedence over valuing and nurturing human life and well-being. . . .

Embracing a love ethic means that we utilize all the dimensions of love—“care, commitment, trust, responsibility, respect, and knowledge”—in our everyday lives. We can successfully do this only by cultivating awareness. Being aware enables us to critically examine our actions to see what is needed so that we can give care, be responsible, show respect, and indicate a willingness to learn. . . .

Domination cannot exist in any social situation where a love ethic prevails. . . . When love is present the desire to dominate and exercise power cannot rule the day. All the great social movements for freedom and justice in our society have promoted a love ethic. Concern for the collective good of our nation, city, or neighbor rooted in the values of love makes us all seek to nurture and protect that good. If all public policy was created in the spirit of love, we would not have to worry about unemployment, homelessness, schools failing to teach children, or addiction. . . .

To live our lives based on the principles of a love ethic (showing care, respect, knowledge, integrity, and the will to cooperate), we have to be courageous. Learning how to face our fears is one way we embrace love. Our fear may not go away, but it will not stand in the way.

The Transforming Power of Love

November 10th, 2020


Love Is Our Deepest Identity
Tuesday,  November 10, 2020

Behold, there are only three things that will last: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love. —1 Corinthians 13:13

To talk about love is to talk about what Plato calls “holy madness.” Jung even refused to include love in any of his classic categories—it finally defied his psychological descriptions. Perhaps that is why love has so many false meanings in our minds and emotions. Perhaps that is why Jesus never defined love, but instead made it a command. We must love, each of us absolutely must enter into this unnamable mystery if we are to know God and know our own self!

Love alone is sufficient unto itself. It is its own end, its own merit, its own satisfaction. It seeks no cause beyond itself and needs no fruit outside of itself. Its fruit is its use. Love is our deepest identity and what we are created in and for. To love someone “in God” is to love them for their own sake and not for what they do for us. Only a transformed consciousness sees another person as another self, as one who is also loved by Christ, and not as an object separate from ourselves on which we generously bestow favors. If we have not yet loved or if love wears us out, is it partly because other people are seen as tasks or commitments or threats, instead of as extensions of our own suffering and loneliness? Are they not in truth extensions of the suffering and loneliness of God?

When we live out of this truth of love, instead of the lie and human emotion of fear, we will at last begin to live. Love is always letting go of a fear. In the world of modern psychologizing, we have become very proficient at justifying our fears and avoiding simple love. The world will always teach us fear. Jesus will always command us to love. And when we seek the spiritual good of another, we at last forget our fears and ourselves.

Divine love or charity has nothing to do with feelings of “liking” one another. One key biblical word for love, agape, is not based on the myth of romantic love or good feelings about one another. It is a love grounded in God that allows us to honestly desire and seek the other’s spiritual growth. This faith, this love, this Holy Mystery—of which we are only a small part—can only be awakened and absorbed by the silent gaze of prayer. Those who contemplate who they are in God’s ecstatic love will be transformed as they look and listen and find and share. This God, like a Seductress, does not allow Herself to be known apart from love. We know God by loving God. And I think that it is actually more important to know that we love God than to know that God loves us, although the two movements are finally the same.

Love Your Enemies

November 9th, 2020

The Transforming Power of Love

Love Your Enemies
Monday,  November 9, 2020

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I say unto you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. —Matthew 5:43–45

In the United States few public figures have spoken more plainly and powerfully about Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies than the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This was not an abstract theological question for Dr. King. He wrestled practically and at great cost with how to love his enemies, both through prayer and through nonviolent direct action. This passage is an excerpt from King’s sermon “Loving Your Enemies.”

When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. . . .

Probably no admonition of Jesus has been more difficult to follow than the command to “love your enemies.” Some people have sincerely felt that its actual practice is not possible. It is easy, they say, to love those who love you, but how can one love those who openly and insidiously seek to defeat you? . . .

This command of Jesus challenges us with new urgency. Upheaval after upheaval has reminded us that modern humanity is traveling along a road called hate, in a journey that will bring us to destruction. . . . Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love one’s enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival. Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of our world. Jesus is not an impractical idealist: he is the practical realist.

I am certain that Jesus understood the difficulty inherent in the act of loving one’s enemy. He never joined the ranks of those who talk glibly about the easiness of the moral life. He realized that every genuine expression of love grows out of a consistent and total surrender to God. So when Jesus said “Love your enemy,” he was not unmindful of its stringent qualities. Yet he meant every word of it. Our responsibility as Christians is to discover the meaning of this command and seek passionately to live it out in our daily lives. . . .

When Jesus bids us to love our enemies, he is speaking of neither eros [romantic love] nor philia [reciprocal love of friends]; he is speaking of agape, understanding and creative, redemptive goodwill for all people. Only by following this way and responding with this type of love are we able to be children of our Father who is in Heaven.

Richard again: This is a timely reminder to Christians around the world. We must ask ourselves “What would it mean to seek to embody love as ‘creative, redemptive goodwill’ on behalf of all living things?”

The Transforming Power of Love

A Commandment to Love
Sunday,  November 8, 2020

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. —1 John 4:7–8

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. . . . This I command you: love one another. —John 15:12–14, 17

Love is perhaps the last thing anyone wants to be reminded of in these days following the election in the United States. Yet our resistance to love is precisely why we need to talk about it! We have strayed so far from love; and yet, love is the essence of who we are, and how we are called to treat one another.

“Whoever loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). Unfortunately, many Christians think, “If I read the Bible, I’m born of God; or if I go to church, I know God; or if I obey the commandments, I know God.” Yet the writer of 1 John says it’s simply about loving. Note that the converse is true also: “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). In the Gospel of John, Jesus takes this to its logical conclusion. He does not say, “There is no greater love than to love God.” Instead he says, “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends” (John 15:13). As biblical scholar Allen Dwight Callahan writes of this passage, “Jesus has loved his followers so that they may love each other. Love calls for love in turn. Love makes love imperative.” [1]

The beginning and end of everything is love. Only inside of this mystery of the exchange of love can we know God. If we stay outside of that mystery, we cannot know God.

When most of us hear the word “commandment,” we likely think of the Ten Commandments; that is not what Jesus is referring to here. He speaks of a “new” commandment surpassing and summing up the “ten” of the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 20:1–17; Deuteronomy 5:6–21): “This is my commandment: Love one another” (John 15:17). He also says that the entire law and the prophets are summed up in the two great commandments: to love God and to love one another (see Matthew 22:36–40). Perhaps we don’t want to hear these commandments because we can never live up to them through our own efforts. We’d like to whittle this down to a little commandment, like “Come to church on Sunday,” so that we could feel we have obeyed the commandment and accomplished love. But who of us can say that we have fully loved yet? We are all beginners. We are all starting anew every day, in utter reliance on the mercy, grace, and compassion of God. This is a good example of “the tragic gap” that faith always allows and fills.

For the Good of the World

November 6th, 2020

Public Virtue

For the Good of the World
Friday,  November 6, 2020

God is the ultimate nonviolent one, so we dare not accept any theory of salvation—much less socialization, economics, or politics—that is based on violence, exclusion, social pressure, or moral coercion. When we do, these are legitimated as a proper way of life. God saves by loving and including, not by excluding or punishing.

So what does it really mean to follow Jesus? I believe we are invited to gaze upon the image of the crucified Jesus to soften our hearts toward all suffering, to help us see how we ourselves have been “bitten” by hatred and violence, and to know that God’s heart has always been softened toward us. In turning our gaze to this divine truth, we gain compassion toward ourselves and all others who suffer. It largely happens on the psychic and unconscious level, but that is exactly where all of our hurts and our will to violence lie. A transformative religion must touch us at this primitive, brainstem level, or it is not transformative at all.

History is continually graced with people who have been transformed in this way and somehow learned to act beyond and outside their self-interest for the good of the world. They are exemplars of public virtue. We recall Nelson Mandela, Corazon Aquino,  John Lewis, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Add to them Etty Hillesum, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Óscar Romero, César Chávez, and many others. These inspiring figures gave us strong evidence that the mind of Christ still inhabits the world. Most of us are fortunate to have crossed paths with many lesser-known persons who exhibit the same presence.

Following Jesus is a vocation to share the fate of God for the life of the world.

To allow what God for some reason allows—and uses: the imperfect everything, including me!

And to suffer ever so slightly what God suffers eternally.

Often, this has little to do with believing the “right” things about God—beyond the fact that God is love itself.

Those who agree to carry and love what God loves—which is both the good and the bad—and to pay the price for its reconciliation within themselves, these are the followers of Jesus Christ. They are the leaven, the salt, the remnant, the mustard seed that God uses to transform the world. To maintain this mind and heart over the long haul is true Gospel spirituality. I have no doubt that it takes many daily decisions and many surrenders. It is aided by seeking out like-minded people. Such grace and freedom are never lone achievements. Saints are those who wake up while in this world, instead of waiting for the next one. Francis of Assisi, William Wilberforce, Thérèse of Lisieux, and Harriet Tubman did not feel superior to anyone else; they just knew they had been let in on a big divine secret, and they wanted to do their part in revealing it to those who knew nothing about it

Public Virtue

November 5th, 2020


Mysticism Precedes Politics
Thursday,  November 5, 2020

The Reverend Wes Granberg-Michaelson, former head of the Reformed Church in America, reminds us that Jesus is the model of public virtue for all Christians. When deciding how we want to act in the public sphere, we are first called to begin with our personal experience of God’s overflowing love for all the world. 

“Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics.” [1] So wrote Charles Péguy (1873–1914), a French poet and writer who lived in solidarity with workers and peasants and became deeply influenced by Catholic faith in the last years of his life. This provocative quote identifies the foundational starting point for how faith and politics should relate.

Usually, however, we get it backward. Our temptation is to begin with politics and then try to figure out how religion can fit in. We start with the accepted parameters of political debate and, whether we find ourselves on the left or the right, we use religion to justify and bolster our existing commitments. . . .

But what if we make the inward journey our starting point? What if we recognize that our engagement in politics should be rooted in our participation in the Trinitarian flow of God’s love? Then everything changes. We are no longer guided or constrained by what we think is politically possible, but are compelled by what we know is most real. At the heart of all creation, the mutual love within the Trinity overflows to embrace all of life. We are invited to participate in the transforming power of this love. There we discover the ground of our being, centering all our life and action.

This was revealed most fully in Jesus, as God’s Son. His love for enemies, his non-violent response to evil, his embrace of the marginalized, his condemnation of self-serving religious hypocrites, his compassion for the poor, his disregard for boundaries of social exclusion, his advocacy for the economically oppressed, and his certainty that God’s reign was breaking into the world all flowed from his complete, mutual participation in the Father’s love. Jesus didn’t merely show the way; he lived completely in the presence and power of God’s redeeming, transforming life.

This didn’t fit any conventional political alternative in Palestine at the time. Jesus wasn’t a Zealot, seeking the violent overthrow of an oppressive empire, although he welcomed a Zealot as his disciple, resisted and undermined the authority of political rulers, and was crucified as “King of the Jews.” He refused to identify with religious authorities who were willing to compromise their spiritual convictions to foster their collusion with imperial political power. Yet, the “politics of Jesus” presented a clear agenda for radical social and economic transformation in his time, as in ours. 

All of this was rooted, however, in the incarnate participation of Jesus in the love of the Trinity. His life embodied what God’s love intends for the world and demonstrated the Spirit’s power to transform, heal, and make whole what is broken. . . .  His mysticism preceded and then accompanied his politics.

A Call to Be One

November 4th, 2020

Public Virtue

A Call to Be One
Wednesday,  November 4, 2020

I return once again to the prophetic words of Sister Joan Chittister who calls us to make an unflinching commitment to act with integrity—out of the fullness of our being—not simply our pragmatic, comfortable, or fearful selves.

As a people, we are at a crossover moment. It is a call to all of us to be our best, our least superficial, our most serious about what it means to be a Christian as well as a citizen. . . .

Where in the midst of such polarization and national disunity is even the hope of oneing, of integrating the social with what we say are our spiritual selves? . . .

Even the ghost of an answer makes serious spiritual demands on us all: To heal such division means that we are obliged to search out and identify our own personal value system. It requires us to admit to ourselves what it is that really drives our individual social decisions, our votes, our political alliances. Is it the need to look powerful? The desire for personal control? . . . Do we have the courage to confront the debased with the ideal—even in the face of ridicule and recrimination—or is cowardice our secret spiritual sickness? In that case, our national health can only get worse.

A national cure also surely demands that we begin to see tradition as a call to return to the best of the past, not a burden to be overcome in order to secure the best of the present. It is the sense of a commonly held tradition of the common good—once a strong part of the American past—that we clearly lack in the present. . . .

[We must] make “Love one another as I have loved you” (see John 13:34) the foundation of national respect, the standard of our national discernment, the bedrock of both our personal relationships and a civilized society. . . .

To be one, we don’t need one party, one program, one set of policies. What could be duller, more stagnant, more destructive of the soulfulness it takes to create and preserve the best of the human enterprise than such a narrow-minded view of planetary life?  What we need is one heart for the world at large, a single-minded commitment to this “more perfect union,” and one national soul, large enough to listen to one another for the sake of the planet—for the sake of us all.

So where can we look for oneing in the political arena? Only within the confines of our own hearts. Politics—government—does not exist for itself and, if it does, that is precisely when it becomes at least death-dealing if not entirely evil. . . .

In the end, politics is nothing more than an instrument of social good and human development. It is meant to be the right arm of those whose souls have melted into God.

Public Virtue

November 3rd, 2020

The Heart of Democracy
Tuesday,  November 3, 2020
Election Day in the U.S.A.

Renewed contact with the Gospel of faith, of hope and of love invites us to assume a creative and renewed spirit. In this way, we will be able to transform the roots of our physical, spiritual and social infirmities and the destructive practices that separate us from each other, threatening the human family and our planet. —Pope Francis

I consider Quaker author and activist Parker Palmer a true elder. He has clearly “fallen upward”—humbly learning and growing over the years while also generously giving of himself to build a better future with the next generation. From that vantage point, Palmer writes: 

For those of us who want to see democracy survive and thrive—and we are legion—the heart is where everything begins: that grounded place in each of us where we can overcome fear, rediscover that we are members of one another, and embrace the conflicts that threaten democracy as openings to new life for us and for our nation. . . . 

Of all the tensions we must hold in personal and political life, perhaps the most fundamental and most challenging is standing and acting with hope in the “tragic gap.” On one side of that gap, we see the hard realities of the world, realities that can crush our spirits and defeat our hopes. On the other side of that gap, we see real-world possibilities, life as we know it could be because we have seen it that way. . . .

If we are to stand and act with hope in the tragic gap and do it for the long haul, we cannot settle for mere “effectiveness” as the ultimate measure of our failure or success. Yes, we want to be effective in pursuit of important goals. . . . [But] we must judge ourselves by a higher standard than effectiveness, the standard called faithfulness. Are we faithful to the community on which we depend, to doing what we can in response to its pressing needs? Are we faithful to the better angels of our nature and to what they call forth from us? Are we faithful to the eternal conversation of the human race, to speaking and listening in a way that takes us closer to truth? Are we faithful to the call of courage that summons us to witness to the common good, even against great odds? When faithfulness is our standard, we are more likely to sustain our engagement with tasks that will never end: doing justice, loving mercy, and calling the beloved community into being. 

Parker Palmer’s understanding of the “tragic gap” recognizes that no matter what we do, we can never completely solve the problem. In all our actions, there is always a space left incomplete, imperfect, which God alone can fill. The search for “the perfect” often keeps us from “the good.” The demand for one single issue about which we can be totally right actually keeps us from reading the whole picture—often this is true in regard to voting.

Story from Our Community:
I’m pretty ordinary and try to be compassionate, calm, and balanced. However, . . . [given the crises in our country and world], it has been hard for me to not despair. When I get down, I return to one of Richard Rohr’s daily writings. And I return to a place of balance and perspective . . . rather than bitterness or gloom. When my two twenty-something sons are down about the state of the world, I repeat to us all – Fierce Resolve, Rest, Repeat. We will only change the world one heart at a time. —Shannon M.

Obedience to God’s Will of Love

November 2nd, 2020

Obedience to God’s Will of Love
Monday,  November 2, 2020

Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister is a theologian, author, and speaker, whose wisdom and approach to social justice I take very seriously. I offer you these encouraging words from her about what it means to work for the common good. Joan writes:

In all my years of traveling around the world, one thing has been present in every region, everywhere. One thing has stood out and convinced me of the certain triumph of the great human gamble on equality and justice.

Everywhere there are people who, despite finding themselves mired in periods of national or personal marginalization refuse to give up the thought of a better future or give in to the allurements of a deteriorating present. They never lose hope that the values they learned in the best of times or the courage it takes to reclaim their world from the worst of times are worth the commitment of their lives. These people, the best of ourselves, are legion and they are everywhere.

It is the unwavering faith, the open hearts, and the piercing courage of people from every level of every society that carries us through every major social breakdown to the emergence again of the humanization of humanity. In every region, everywhere, they are the unsung but mighty voices of community, high-mindedness, and deep resolve. They are the prophets of each era who prod the rest of the world into seeing newly what it means to be fully alive, personally, nationally, and spiritually. . . .

It is that steadfast, unyielding, courageous commitment to the eternal Will of God for Creation—whatever the cost to themselves—that is the prophetic tradition. It sustains the eternal Word of God while the world spins around it, making God’s Word—Love—the center, the axle, the standard of everything the faithful do in the midst of the storm of change that engulfs us as we go. . . .

Our task is to be obedient all our lives to the Will of God [which is Love] for the world. And therein lies the difference between being good for nothing and good for something. Between religion for show and religion for real. Between personal spirituality that dedicates itself to achieving private sanctification and prophetic spirituality, the other half of the Christian dispensation. 

Yes, the Christian ideal is personal goodness, of course, but personal goodness requires that we be more than pious, more than faithful to the system, more than mere card-carrying members of the Christian community. Christianity requires, as well, that we each be so much a prophetic presence that our corner of the world becomes a better place because we have been there. . . .

The quality of life we create around us as “followers of Jesus” is meant to seed new life, new hope, new dynamism, the very essence of a new world community. 

Solidarity: A Public Virtue
Sunday,  November 1, 2020

Citizens of the United States will finish voting this week. Many of us are feeling demoralized, and many others carry serious distrust of American political institutions. The most vulnerable in a society have already experienced the discouragement from which so many are suffering today. They know firsthand that the system has not worked, at least not for them, for a long time.

Two years ago, I wrote in Sojourners magazine that for me, personally, voting is a deeply moral act—a decisive statement of Christian faith that I matter, that justice matters, and that other people matter.

Sadly, for many religious people, the public forum has historically remained the most disconnected from our faith. Unlike its Jewish forebears, Christianity, in its first two thousand years, has kept its morality mostly private, interior, and heaven-bound, but with very few direct implications for what is now called our collective economic, social, or political life. I am not talking about partisan politics here, but simply the connecting of the inner world with the outer world.

This week our meditations will be focusing on what I call “public virtue.” The virtue in which I was trained in the seminary, I’m sorry to say, was “private” virtue that taught me how I could be virtuous in my interior life. As my novice master put it in a good 1961 fashion, “Try to make it as easy as possible for all others to love you.”

Perhaps I, myself, was good and could go to heaven. But such personal salvation does not come close to the mystery of the Body of Christ, which turns focus outward, to ask: how can I be good for the sake of my neighborhood, my city, my church, my community, and the world? It really is a different starting place. It’s not seeking my own ego enhancement, but the spiritual and physical well-being of others, as Jesus did.

There really is no such thing as being non-political. Everything we say or do either affirms or critiques the status quo. Even to say nothing is to say something. If we say nothing, we communicate that the status quo—even if it is massively unjust and deceitful—is apparently okay. This common “non-political” stance is an illusion, and the powerful have always been able to use it to manipulate people.

We must use the power of the Gospel to critique and affirm both the Left and the Right on most public positions, even while knowing that political or programmatic changes—of themselves—will never fully bring about the goodness, charity, or transformation that the Gospel offers the world.

What I mean by public virtue is primarily about solidarity with others, as opposed to an exclusive concern with “my inner life.” As different parts of the Body of Christ, we each have strengths and gifts that are needed by the entire body. We are called by the Spirit to use these gifts in service and love for our hurting world and not just for our private sense of “holiness.”

The Freedom of Consent

October 30th, 2020

Thomas Keating: The Secret Embrace
Part Two

The Freedom of Consent
Friday,  October 30, 2020

Over the past two weeks Cynthia Bourgeault has generously shared her thoughts on the poems and spiritual legacy of Thomas Keating. Today, I (Richard) want to emphasize Thomas Keating’s final message, the subject of Cynthia’s commentary in yesterday’s meditation. I have edited the text very slightly for greater clarity.

Perhaps it was his many decades of “consenting to God’s presence and action within” that allowed him to glimpse a new world. Thomas’ final message was the following:

Dear friends: In the universe, an extraordinary moment of civilization seems to be overtaking us. . . . It’s a time of enormous expectancy and possibility.

We are called to start—not with the old world contracts, now that we know that they are all lies—but [with] what we know as the truth. . . .  So I call upon the nations to consider this as a possibility: that we should begin a new world with one that actually exists. This is the moment to manifest this world, by showing loving concern for poverty, loving appreciation for the needs of the world, and opportunities for accelerated development. We need to find ways to make these really happen. I make this humble suggestion, that now arms-making is of no significance in the world. It hinders its progress.

This will allow and offer the world the marvelous gift of beginning, [of] creating, of trusting each other, of forgiving each other, and of showing compassion, care for the poor, and putting all our trust in the God of heaven and earth. I leave this hope in your hands and hearts, coming as a real inspiration from the heart of God. What does [God] care about who has this or other lands, when the power to begin with the truest history is coming from religion as expression of the Source that has been realized for centuries? Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Indigenous, and Christianity—all religions—oneness is their nature. Amen. [1]

Richard again: In this injunction to the world, Father Thomas Keating says what he has been given to know. The only path forward for the survival of our species and perhaps even our planet is a path of nonviolence, of contemplation and action prioritizing justice and solidarity, an affirmation of Oneness and the interconnectedness of all things, which science confirms, and spirituality has always known on its deepest level.

I think the real purpose of the spiritual journey is to expand people’s ability to do good by liberating them. This is what Jesus did, after all—free people from their pain, their sin, their “uncleanness,” and even their deaths. Then he sent them back to their families and to society to live in relationship and live lives of freedom and wholeness. As a devoted student of Jesus and lover of God, Thomas Keating did the same through the gift of Centering Prayer; he helped people connect to an inner stillness and experience of God that liberated them from egoic strongholds—so they could become free and whole. His final words help us imagine the possibilities for ourselves and our world.