Archive for December, 2020

Changing Ourselves, Not the Other

December 31st, 2020

Thursday,  December 31, 2020
New Year’s Eve

In 1998, I spent three days immersed in the life, spirit, and ministries of Mother (now Saint) Teresa’s (1910‒1997) community at the motherhouse in Calcutta—a year after her death. Our work together ended on October 1, the feast day of her patron, St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897). (Who is, as many of you know, one of my top five favorite mystics!) All 400+ community members return for this day of teaching, praying, and celebrating in the manner of the poor.

Through that experience, I finally met a “conservative” yet fully contemporary form of religious life that I could trust. The sisters were not rigid; rather, they were simply devoted women. They did not need security, answers, and order, as we see in most traditionalist movements in the West. In fact, they were willing to live without security, with very few answers to their questions of mind and heart, and amid almost total disorderAll in union—hour by hour—with God. They lived that amazing and rare combination of utter groundedness and constant risk-taking that always characterizes the true Gospel.

The sisters didn’t waste time fixing, controlling, or even needing to understand what is wrong with others. Instead, they put all of their time and energy into letting God change them. From that transformed place, they serve and carry the pain of the world, which they are convinced is the pain of God. This is the synthesis on a communal level that I am always seeking. I have encountered it in many individuals, but hardly ever in public and social form.

I do not believe that the lifestyle of the Missionaries of Charity answers all questions or that they are holier than many other Christians I have met. Yet there is a radical and utterly clear gift of God that is revealed through them. I even dared to ask one of the leaders about one of the most common criticisms of Mother Teresa: “Why did Mother not speak out against social injustice? Why did she not point out the evil systems and evil people that are chewing up the poor? Why did she not risk some of her moral ‘capital’ to call the world, and even the church, to much-needed reform?”

The answer was calm, immediate, and firsthand. Mother Teresa felt that if she took sides, or played the firebrand, that she could not be what Jesus had told her to be—love to and for all. She said that if she started correcting and pointing out “sinners” she could no longer be an instrument of love and reconciliation for them. Humiliated and defensive people do not change. Like her patron Thérèse of Lisieux, “her vocation in the church was to be love.” She knew that her primary message had to be her life itself, not words or arguments or accusations. She had found that “third something” that is always beyond the calculating and dualistic mind.

From Wikipedia re today’s song and how it can have two messages… speaking to both the right and left wing… as we see thru different lenses.

I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” is a Christian hymn that originated in Assam, India. 

According to P. Job, the lyrics are based on the last words of Nokseng, a Garo man, a tribe from Meghalaya which then was in Assamthat day, who converted to Christianity in the middle of the 19th century through the efforts of an American Baptist missionary. He is said to have recited verses from the twelfth chapter of the book of John as he and his family were killed. An alternative tradition attributes the hymn to Simon K Marak, a Garo Man, Who Was from Jorhat, Assam.[citation needed]

The formation of these words into a hymn is attributed to the Indian missionary Sadhu Sundar Singh.[1] The melody is also Indian, and entitled “Assam” after the region where the text originated.[2]

An American hymn editor, William Jensen Reynolds, composed an arrangement which was included in the 1959 Assembly Songbook. His version became a regular feature of Billy Graham‘s evangelistic meetings in America and elsewhere, spreading its popularity.[3]

Due to the lyrics’ explicit focus on the believer’s own commitment, the hymn is cited as a prime example of decision theology, emphasizing the human response rather than the action of God in giving faith.[4] This has led to its exclusion from some hymnals.[4] A Lutheran writer noted, “It definitely has a different meaning when we sing it than it did for the person who composed it.”[5]

December 30th, 2020

Models of Integration
Wednesday,  December 30, 2020

Sister Simone Campbell, SSS is someone who truly lives out her commitment to the contemplative path by her actions in the world. She has served as the executive director of NETWORK, the Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, since 2004. You may know her as one of the Nuns on the Bus. Here’s a glimpse of what powers her:

Over the past thirty-five years or more, it [my contemplative practice] has become the foundation of who I am and impacts every aspect of my existence. Rather than being about hiding out in the chapel for hours on end, my contemplative practice has led me to an activism that is expansively grounded in compassion and care for others. . . .

Our call to do our part is at the heart of the gospel message. We need to pitch in, listen to others, and stay open to the Spirit. We are the ones who have been sent out. The gospel of love will not be experienced unless we live the deeply contemplative truth that our prayer leads to community, which leads to action to heal this fractured world. . . .

It is those whom we encounter and who break open our hearts who keep us faithful. Together we know our existence as one vibrant organism created at every moment by the Divine. This is the source of a hope beyond our wildest understanding. [1]

Thomas Keating (1923–2018), whose teachings are foundational to our modern understanding of contemplation in the Christian tradition, speaks of a similar movement from inner prayer to action on behalf of the world. He writes:

The power of the stars is nothing compared to the energy of a person whose will has been freed . . . and who is thus enabled to co-create the cosmos together with God. God’s top priority is the creation of a world in which the goods of the earth are equitably distributed, where no one is forgotten or left out, and where no one can rest until everyone has enough to eat, the oppressed have been liberated, and justice and peace are the norm among the nations and religions of the world. Until then, even the joy of transforming union is incomplete. The commitment to the spiritual journey is not a commitment to pure joy, but to taking responsibility for the whole human family, its needs and destiny. We are not our own; we belong to everyone else. [2]

My teachings have always emphasized the middle ground—the balanced need for both contemplation and action. Sister Simone and Father Thomas have operated primarily on opposite sides of the spectrum—but I hope you can see how they ultimately come to the same conclusion! It is not a dualistic choice between contemplation and action, but a natural outflowing of God’s love in all directions.

Contemplation and Action Summary

December 29th, 2020

Standing Still, Moving the World
Tuesday,  December 29, 2020

Give me a place to stand, and I will move the whole earth with a lever. —Archimedes

Archimedes (c. 287–c. 212 BCE), a Greek philosopher and mathematician, noticed that if a lever was balanced in the correct place, on the correct fulcrum, it could move proportionally much greater weights than the force actually applied. He calculated that if the lever stretched far enough and the fulcrum point remained fixed close to Earth, even a small weight at one end would be able to move the world at the other.

The fixed point is our place to stand. It is a contemplative stance: steady, centered, poised, and rooted. To be contemplative, we have to have a slight distance from the world to allow time for withdrawal from business as usual, for contemplation, for going into what Jesus calls our “private room” (Matthew 6:6). However, in order for this not to become escapism, we have to remain quite close to the world at the same time, loving it, feeling its pain and its joy as our pain and our joy. The fulcrum, that balancing point, must be in the real world.

True contemplation, the great teachers say, is really quite down to earth and practical, and doesn’t require life in a monastery. It is, however, an utterly different way of receiving the moment, and therefore all of life. In order to have the capacity to “move the world,” we need some distancing and detachment from the diversionary nature and delusions of mass culture and the false self. Contemplation builds on the hard bottom of reality—as it is—without ideology, denial, or fantasy.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t have a fixed place to stand, a fulcrum of critical distance, and thus we cannot find our levers, or true “delivery systems,” as Bill Plotkin calls them, by which to move our world. [1] We do not have the steadiness of spiritual practice to keep our sight keen and alive. Those who have plenty of opportunities for spiritual practice—for example, those in monasteries—often don’t have an access point beyond religion itself from which to speak or to serve much of our world. We need a delivery system in the world to provide the capacity for building bridges and connecting the dots of life.

Some degree of inner experience is necessary for true spiritual authority, but we need some form of outer validation, too. We need to be taken seriously as competent and committed individuals and not just “inner” people. Could this perhaps be what Jesus means by being both “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16)? God offers us quiet, contemplative eyes; and God also calls us to prophetic and critical involvement in the pain and sufferings of our world—both at the same time. This is so obvious in the life and ministry of Jesus that I wonder why it has not been taught as an essential part of Christianity.

Story from Our Community:
In the late 1980s, [I became] a volunteer at Mother Teresa’s Gift of Love [hospice] in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. The twenty men being cared for there were suffering from AIDS. . . Always feeling like an outsider myself, with no medical experience I was now living among men who had been rejected by society. This difficult confrontation with illness, dying and death gave me a totally new perspective on the value of life. —Harvey V.

The Politics of Prayer

December 28th, 2020

Contemplation and Action

The Politics of Prayer
Monday,  December 28, 2020

I’ve often said that we founded the Center for Action and Contemplation to be a place of integration between action and contemplation. I envisioned a place where we could teach activists in social movements to pray—and encourage people who pray to live lives of solidarity and justice. As we explained in our Center’s Radical Grace publication in 1999:

We believed that action and contemplation, once thought of as mutually exclusive, must be brought together or neither one would make sense. We wanted to be radical in both senses of the word, simultaneously rooted in Tradition and boldly experimental. We believed . . . that the power to be truly radical comes from trusting entirely in God’s grace and that such trust is the most radical action possible. [1]

To pray is to practice that posture of radical trust in God’s grace—and to participate in perhaps the most radical movement of all, which is the movement of God’s Love.

Contemplative prayer allows us to build our own house. To pray is to discover that Someone else is within our house and to recognize that it is not our house at all. To keeping praying is to have no house to protect because there is only One House. And that One House is Everybody’s Home. In other words, those who pray from the heart actually live in a very different world. I like to say it’s a Christ-soaked world, a world where matter is inspirited and spirit is embodied. In this world, everything is sacred; and the word “Real” takes on a new meaning. The world is wary of such house builders, for our loyalties will lie in very different directions. We will be very different kinds of citizens, and the state will not so easily depend on our salute. That is the politics of prayer. And that is probably why truly spiritual people are always a threat to politicians of any sort. They want our allegiance, and we can no longer give it. Our house is too big.

If religion and religious people are to have any moral credibility in the face of the massive death-dealing and denial of this era, we need to move with great haste toward lives of political holiness. This is my theology and my politics:

It appears that God loves life—the creating never stops.

We will love and create and maintain life.

It appears that God is love—an enduring, patient kind.

We will seek and trust love in all its humanizing (and therefore divinizing forms.

It appears that God loves the variety of multiple features, faces, and forms.

We will not be afraid of the other, the not-me, the stranger at the gate.

It appears that God loves—is—beauty: Look at this world!

Those who pray already know this. Their passion will be for beauty.

Contemplation and Action

Grounding Compassionate Action
Sunday,  December 27, 2020

Our theme for the Daily Meditations in 2020 has been Contemplation and Action. We hope that you, our larger CAC community, have found some sort of regular contemplative practice to be sustaining in these challenging times. We hope contemplation has helped you discern what actions have been yours to do to confront systemic injustices and to help those most affected by the pandemic. Looking ahead, we trust that our contemplative practices will support us as we seek a path forward for healing, respect for those with whom we differ, and pursuit of unity in our world.

At the Center for Action and Contemplation, we seek to ground compassionate action in contemplative, nondual consciousness. When we experience the reality of our oneness with God, others, and creation, actions of justice and healing naturally follow. If we’re working to create a more whole world, contemplation will give our actions nonviolent, loving power for the long haul.

The civil rights leader John Lewis (1940–2020) has been an inspiration to many of us this year. How did this saintly public man avoid deeper recognition for so long? His words read like a prayer for contemplative action:

Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. Know that the truth always leads to love and the perpetuation of peace. Its products are never bitterness and strife. Clothe yourself in the work of love, in the revolutionary work of nonviolent resistance against evil. Anchor the eternity of love in your own soul and embed this planet with goodness. Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself. [1] In an interview several years ago, I offered the following words, which are still applicable now: “Some form of contemplative practice is the only way (apart from great love and great suffering) to rewire people’s minds and hearts. It is the only form of prayer that dips into the unconscious and changes people at deep levels—where all of the wounds, angers, and recognitions lie hidden. Only some form of prayer of quiet changes people for good and for others in any long-term way. It sustains and deepens the short-term wisdom we learn in great love and great suffering.”

Christ Born in Us

December 25th, 2020

Christ Born in Us
Friday, December 25, 2020
Christmas Day

What I have seen is the totality recapitulated as one,
received not in essence but by participation.
Just as if you lit a flame from a flame,
it is the whole flame you receive. —Symeon the New Theologian

Symeon the New Theologian (949‒1022) was a Byzantine Christian monk and mystic revered to this day by Eastern Christians. Symeon believed humans had the capacity to experience God’s presence directly. He visualized this union happening within the “force field” of the Body of Christ. This cosmic embodiment is created both by God’s grace and our response.

Symeon’s “Hymn 15” from his collected Hymns of Divine Love beautifully names the divine union that God is forever inviting us toward. These mystical lines honestly say it all for me and move me to an embodied knowing, to a living force field wherein we will know mystical union on even the cellular level.

We awaken in Christ’s body
as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ, He enters
my foot, and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisibly
whole, seamless in His Godhood).

I move my foot, and at once
He appears like a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous?—Then
open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
We wake up inside Christ’s body

where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
we awaken as the Beloved
in every last part of our body. [1]

For many of us, our Christmas celebrations will be a little (or a lot) smaller, but I hope no less joyful. I invite you to contemplate the wonder of Symeon’s words. How might we experience the Christ born in us today, “utterly real . . . transformed . . . radiant in His light”?

The Symbols of Christmas

December 24th, 2020

Thursday,  December 24, 2020
Christmas Eve

People often use the word “magical” to describe their Christmas memories from childhood. I hope that was your experience. I have to confess that I am fortunate enough to have some rather “mystical” Christmas memories, too. Two of my earliest God-experiences took place around Christmas time, the first when I was about five years old. It was evening and all of my family was in the kitchen with the lights on. It was bright in there, but I was in the living room where it was dark with just the Christmas tree lit. I had the sense that the world was good, I was good, and I was part of the good world; and I just wanted to stay there. I remember feeling very special, very chosen, very beloved, and it was my secret. The family in the kitchen didn’t know what I was knowing. I have to laugh now to see how my ego was involved, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a true and holy experience. God meets us where we are, even as a five-year-old.

The second experience happened when I was in first or second grade. I was in church and had gone up to look at the Nativity scene on Epiphany when the three kings and their camels finally arrived to see Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. I remember feeling how lucky I was to live in this world where it all makes sense and it’s all good. It is all focused on the birth of this little baby.

Looking back, it’s no wonder that the incarnation became the heart of my understanding of the Gospel. In both those moments, at the Christmas tree and the Christmas crib, it was like I’d been taken over to another world, the world as it’s meant to be, where the foundation is love and God is in everything. It was like I saw the “real world” inside of which everybody is truly living, but they simply don’t know it!

Howard Thurman (1900–1981), the Black theologian and mystic, also saw great power in the symbol of Christmas. For Thurman, the “Mood of Christmas” was not merely in the Christ Child, but in what Christmas is offering us across the entire sweep of creation and time. He writes:

The symbol of Christmas—what is it? It is the rainbow arched over the roof of the sky when the clouds are heavy with foreboding. It is the cry of life in the newborn babe when, forced from its mother’s nest, it claims its right to live. It is the brooding Presence of the Eternal Spirit making crooked paths straight, rough places smooth, tired hearts refreshed, dead hopes stir with newness of life. It is the promise of tomorrow at the close of every day, the movement of life in defiance of death, and the assurance that love is sturdier than hate, that right is more confident than wrong, that good is more permanent than evil. [1]

I pray that this Christmas, we are each gifted with some magical or mystical experience, reminding us that we are beloved, part of a good world, stirring with the “newness of life.”

An Essential Presence

December 23rd, 2020


An Essential Presence
Wednesday,  December 23, 2020

When we use the language of incarnation, we probably first think of Jesus, and then perhaps of all the rest of creation. No incarnation can take place, however, without a very real feminine presence and polarity. We’ve forgotten that reality for far too long, which is why we are witnessing such an immense longing for relational, mutually empowering feminine qualities at every level of our society. Left primarily in the hands of men for most of history, our politics, our economics, our psyches, our cultures, our patterns of leadership, and our theologies have all become far too warlike, competitive, individualistic, mechanistic, and non-contemplative. A simple return to the Hebrew Scriptures brings us in touch with the feminine, co-creative Spirit of God, also called Sophia (Greek for Wisdom).

When God fixed the foundations of earth, then was I [Sophia] beside God as artisan; I was God’s delight day by day, playing before God all the while, playing over the whole of God’s earth. (Proverbs 8:29–31)

As scholar Christopher Pramuk writes, “Sophia is the eros of God become one with all creation, the love in God that longs for incarnation from before the beginning. She is the co-creativity of God, always inviting, never compelling, coming to birth in us when we say yes to [what Thomas Merton calls] “the dawning of divine light in the stillness of our hearts.” [1] [2]

My friend Mirabai Starr writes about Sophia’s role in incarnation, as taught by the medieval mystic Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179):

Hildegard of Bingen . . . showed [Mother Earth] to us through the church-approved lens of Mother Mary and Mother Sophia. . . . According to Hildegard, it is Mary who spins earthly matter into being and weaves it together with the heavens so that all of creation is interpenetrated with the sacred. In Hildegard’s theology, Mary merges with Sophia, Mother Wisdom, who dips one wing to earth while the other soars to heaven and, in her ecstatic flight, quickens life. . .

Hildegard was smitten with the creator and enamored by every element of creation. Her mysticism is intimate—erotic, even. She coined the term viriditas to evoke the lush, extravagant, moist, and verdant quality of the Divine, manifesting as the “greening power” that permeates all that is [i.e., the spirit within all matter]. This life-giving energy is imbued with a distinctly feminine quality.

The earth is at the same time mother,
she is mother of all that is natural,
mother of all that is human.
She is the mother of all,
for contained in her are the seeds of all. [3] For Hildegard, the Son may be the incarnation of the Holy One, but the Mother forms the very stuff from which the Word of God issues forth into the world. The mystical heart of all the world’s religions affirms the profoundly feminine understanding of panentheism: that is, all the particles of the universe are infused with the substance of the Divine; God both interpenetrates the universe and is greater than all that is.

Manifesting the Great I AM

December 22nd, 2020

Tuesday,  December 22, 2020

For all practical purposes, the dualistic mind is not able to accept the orthodox teaching that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine at the same time. Our dualistic minds need to choose one or the other, with the result that they understand Jesus as only divine and humans as only human, despite all scriptural and mystical affirmations to the contrary. The overcoming of this divide was the whole point of the incarnation of God in Christ, and precisely what we celebrate on Christmas.

The manifestation of the Great I AM in Jesus was the momentous Christian epiphany. It became so thrilling to early Christians that they forgot the continued need to balance Jesus’ newly discovered divinity with his personally and even more strongly proclaimed humanity. Remember, virtually Jesus’ only form of self-reference—eighty-seven times among the four Gospels—was ben ’adam, a son of the human one. Jesus is emphasizing “I am of you”—a mortal and human!

Our preoccupation with Jesus’ divinity did not allow us to hear about his own clearly emphasized humanity. In practice, most Christians have been guilty of thinking of Jesus as having only a divine nature, which misses and avoids the major point he came to bring. We have not been able to balance humanity and divinity in Jesus, which probably reflects why we are unable to put it together in ourselves. We did not have the proper software for the task. Jesus is the archetypal model for all of us.

Theism believes there is a God. Christianity believes that God and humanity truly coexist in the same body, in the same place! These are two utterly different proclamations about the nature of the universe. In my experience, most Christians are very good theists who just happen to have named their god Jesus.

With dualistic minds it is always one or the other—it can never be both. The result is that we still think of ourselves as mere humans trying desperately to become “spiritual.” The Christian revelation was precisely that we are already spiritual (“in God”), and our difficult but necessary task is to learn how to become human. Jesus came to model the full integration for us (see 1 Corinthians 15:47–49). He told us, in effect, that divinity looked just like him—while he looked ordinarily human to everybody!

It is the contemplative, nondual mind that allows us to say yes to the infinite mystery of Jesus and the infinite mystery that we are to ourselves. They are finally the same mystery.

Story from Our Community:
May you be astonished by / the sheer generosity of being loved, and in the returning of it, may you see the miracle of your life / twice blessed. —Mary S.

The Trajectory of Incarnation

December 21st, 2020


The Trajectory of Incarnation
Monday,  December 21, 2020

Christianity’s true and unique story line has always been incarnation. That means that the spirit nature of reality (the spiritual, the immaterial, the formless) and the material nature of reality (the physical, that which we can see and touch) are one. They have always been one, ever since the Big Bang took place 13.7 billion years ago. The incarnation did not just happen when Jesus was born, although that is when we became aware of the human incarnation of God in Jesus. It seemingly took until 2,000 years ago for humanity to be ready for what Martin Buber (1878‒1965) called an I/Thou relationship with God. But matter and spirit have been one since “the beginning,” ever since God decided to manifest himself/herself as creation.

Our outer world and its inner significance must come together for there to be any wholeness and holiness. The result is both deep joy and a resounding sense of coherent beauty. What was personified in the body of Jesus was a manifestation of this one universal truth: matter is, and has always been, the hiding place for Spirit, forever offering itself to be discovered anew. Perhaps this is what Jesus means when he says, “I am the gate” (John 10:7). Francis of Assisi and his female companion, Clare, somehow knew that the beyond was not really beyond, but in the depths of here.

John Duns Scotus (1266–1308) took the intuition of Francis and made it into a philosophy. He said that Christ was not Plan B; God did not plan to remain absent until Adam and Eve ate that darn apple and Jesus had to come save us. Rather, Duns Scotus said that Christ was Plan A from the very beginning, the very first idea in the mind of God, as it were (John 1: 1–4). [1] God, the formless, eternal, and timeless One essentially said I am going to manifest who I am in what we now call physicality, materiality, or the universe.

This means that everything you have ever seen with your physical eyes is the mystery of incarnation. The Christian word we give to that is the Christ, which comes from the word Messiah, or the Anointed One, used by Jewish people. The Anointed One is the one who would come to reveal what God is doing, everywhere and all the time. For Christians, that became manifested in Jesus of Nazareth. Walter Brueggemann, my favorite scholar of the Hebrew Scriptures, would call this “the scandal of particularity.” [2] God is in a vulnerable newborn baby in a feeding trough. We need to see the mystery of incarnation in one ordinary concrete moment, and struggle with, fight, resist, and fall in love with it there. What is true in one particular place finally universalizes and ends up being true everywhere.


Birth Is Just the Beginning
Sunday,  December 20, 2020

We must move beyond a merely sentimental understanding of Christmas as “waiting for the baby Jesus” to an adult and communal appreciation of the message of the incarnation of God in Christ. We Franciscans have always believed that the incarnation was already the redemption, because in Jesus’ birth God was saying that it was good to be human, and God was on our side.

Jesus identified his own mission with what he called the coming “reign of God.” We have often settled instead for the sweet coming of a baby who asked little of us in terms of surrender, encounter, mutuality, or any assent to the actual teachings of Jesus. Too much sentimentality, or juicing up of our emotions, can be a substitute for an actual relationship, as we also see in our human relationships. When we are so infatuated with the “sweetness” or “perfection” of another, we easily “fall” out of love at the first sign of their humanity. Let’s not let that happen with the infinitely compelling person of Jesus!

The celebration of Christmas is not merely a sentimental waiting for a baby to be born. It is much more an asking for history to be born! Creation groans in its birth pains, waiting for our participation with God in its renewal (see Romans 8:20–23). We do the Gospel no favor when we make Jesus, the Eternal Christ, into a perpetual baby, who asks little or no adult response from us. One even wonders what kind of mind would want to keep Jesus a baby. Maybe only one that is content with “baby Christianity.”

Any spirituality that makes too much of the baby Jesus is perhaps not yet ready for “prime-time” life. God clearly wants friends and partners to be images of divinity, if we are to believe the biblical texts. God, it seems, wants mature religion and a thoughtful, free response from us. God loves us in partnership, with mutual give and take, and we eventually become the God that we love.

The Christ we are asking and waiting for includes our own full birth and the further birth of history and creation. It is to this adult and Cosmic Christ that we can say, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20) with a whole new understanding and a deliberate passion. This makes our entire lives, and the life of the church, one huge “advent.”

The Christ includes the whole sweep of creation and history joined with him—and each of us, too. This is the Universal (or Cosmic) Christ. [1] We ourselves are members of the Body of Christ and the Universal Christ, even though we are not the historical Jesus. So we very rightly believe in “Jesus Christ,” and both words are essential.

Letting Go Is Liberation

December 18th, 2020


Letting Go Is Liberation
Friday,  December 18, 2020

In talking about letting go, we are really talking about liberation. It’s a type of liberation theology for a Global North country, if you will. Here are the proper questions: What is it we need to be liberated from, and what is it we need to be liberated for? And who is the liberator?

I think we need at least six kinds of liberation:

  1. Inner liberation from ourselves (letting go of the centrality of the small self)
  2. Cultural liberation from our biases (which involves letting go of the “commodity” culture and moving into the “personal” culture) [1]
  3. Dogmatic liberation from our certitudes (letting go of the false self and discovering the True Self)
  4. Personal liberation from the “system” (letting go of dualistic judging and opening to nondual thinking)
  5. Spiritual liberation for the Divine (some form of letting go happens between each stage of spiritual growth)
  6. Liberation for infinite mystery (the mystery that what looks like falling is in fact rising), which is really liberation for love.

As you have often heard me say, if you do not transform your pain, you will most assuredly transmit it. Healthy religion on the practical level tells us what to do with our pain—because we will have pain. We can’t avoid it; it’s part of life. If we’re not trained in letting go of it, transforming it, turning crucifixion into resurrection, so to speak, we’ll hand it off to our family, to our children, to our neighborhood, to our nation.

The art of letting go is really the art of survival. We have to let go so that as we age, we can be happy. Yes, we’ve been hurt. Yes, we’ve been talked about and betrayed by friends. Yes, our lives didn’t work out the way we thought they would. Letting go helps us fall into a deeper and broader level at which we can always say “Yes.” We can always say, “It’s okay, it’s all right.” We know what lasts. We know who we are. And we know we do not want to pass our pain on to our children or the next generation. We want to somehow pass on life.

This means that the real life has started now. It’s Heaven all the way to Heaven and it’s Hell all the way to Hell. We are in Heaven now by falling, by letting go, and by trusting and surrendering to this deeper, broader, and better reality that is already available to us. We’re in Hell now by wrapping ourselves around our hurts, by over-identifying with and attaching ourselves to our fears, so much so that they become our very identity. Any chosen state of victimhood is an utter dead end. Once you make that your narrative, it never stops gathering evidence about how you have been wronged by life, by others, and even by God.

Maybe this is why scholars have said two-thirds of the teaching of Jesus is, in one form or another, about forgiveness. Forgiveness is simply the religious word for letting go. Eventually, it feels like forgiving Reality Itself for being what it is.