Archive for January, 2022

A School of Relationship

January 31st, 2022

Father Richard opens this week’s meditations by sharing his early love of the Scriptures:

The Bible first opened up for me in the 1960s when the Second Vatican Council said that divine revelation was not God disclosing ideas about God but God actually disclosing Godself. Scripture and religion became not mere doctrines or moralisms for me, but love-making, a mutual exchange of being and intimacy. The marvelous anthology of books and letters called the Bible is for the sake of a love affair between God and the soul and corporately between God and history.

We could say that the original blueprint for everything that exists is relationship. John’s word for that was Logos (John 1:1). In other words, the first blueprint for reality was relationality. It is all of one piece. How we relate to God reveals how we eventually relate to everything else. And how we relate to the world is how we are actively relating to God, whether we know it or not (1 John 4:20). How we do anything is how we do everything!

Thus, we must read the whole Bible as a school of relationship. The Bible is slowly making humanity capable of living inside of what Charles Williams (1886–1945) called “co-inherence.” [1] All creation is in the end drawn and seduced into the Great Co-inherence. “I shall return to take you with me, so that where I am you also may be too,” Jesus says (John 14:3). Salvation is giving us a face capable of receiving the dignity of the divine gaze, and then daring to think that we could gaze back.

I believe that we can only safely read Scripture—which is a dangerous book in the wrong hands—if we are somehow sharing in the divine gaze of love. A life of prayer helps us develop a third eye that can read between the lines and find the golden thread which is moving toward inclusivity, mercy, and justice. A hardened heart, a predisposition to judgment, a fear of God, any need to win or prove ourselves right will corrupt and distort the most inspired and inspiring of Scriptures—just as they pollute every human conversation and relationship. Hateful people will find hateful verses to confirm their obsession with death. Loving people will find loving verses to call them into an even greater love of life. And both kinds of verses are in the Bible!

The late Christian author Rachel Held Evans encourages reading the Bible with a willingness to engage in the mutual process of inspiration:

Inspiration is not about some disembodied ethereal voice dictating words or notes to a catatonic host. It’s a collaborative process, a holy give-and-take, a partnership between Creator and creator. . . . God is still breathing. The Bible is both inspired and inspiring. Our job is to ready the sails and gather the embers, to discuss and debate, and like the biblical character Jacob, to wrestle with the mystery until God gives us a blessing. [2]  [I could not agree more and it saddens me that more do not see what Rachel so clearly saw. —Richard]

We Are the Earth

January 18th, 2022

Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh describes our inherent connection to the Earth and how that understanding can shift our behavior:

At this very moment, the Earth is above you, below you, all around you, and even inside you. The Earth is everywhere. You may be used to thinking of the Earth as only the ground beneath your feet. But the water, the sea, the sky, and everything around us comes from the Earth. Everything outside us and everything inside us comes from the Earth. We often forget that the planet we are living on has given us all the elements that make up our bodies. The water in our flesh, our bones, and all the microscopic cells inside our bodies all come from the Earth and are part of the Earth. The Earth is not just the environment we live in. We are the Earth and we are always carrying her within us.

Realizing this, we can see that the Earth is truly alive. We are a living, breathing manifestation of this beautiful and generous planet. Knowing this, we can begin to transform our relationship to the Earth. We can begin to walk differently and to care for her differently. We will fall completely in love with the Earth. When we are in love with someone or something, there is no separation between ourselves and the person or thing we love. We do whatever we can for them and this brings us great joy and nourishment. That is the relationship each of us can have with the Earth. That is the relationship each of us must have with the Earth if the Earth is to survive, and if we are to survive as well.

If we think about the Earth as just the environment around us, we experience ourselves and the Earth as separate entities. We may see the planet only in terms of what it can do for us. We need to recognize that the planet and the people on it are ultimately one and the same. . . .

Hanh recognizes that our false notion of separateness from the Earth not only creates physical harm but emotional harm as well:

A lot of our fear, hatred, anger, and feelings of separation and alienation come from the idea that we are separate from the planet. We see ourselves as the center of the universe and are concerned primarily with our own personal survival. If we care about the health and well-being of the planet, we do so for our own sake. We want the air to be clean enough for us to breathe. We want the water to be clear enough so that we have something to drink. But we need to do more than use recycled products or donate money to environmental groups. We have to change our whole relationship with the Earth.

Sarah Young……………………………………….

IAM LEADING YOU ALONG THE HIGH ROAD, but there are descents as well as ascents. In the distance you see snow-covered peaks glistening in brilliant sunlight. Your longing to reach those peaks is good, but you must not take shortcuts. Your assignment is to follow Me, allowing Me to direct your path. Let the heights beckon you onward, but stay close to Me. Learn to trust Me when things go “wrong.” Disruptions to your routine highlight your dependence on Me. Trusting acceptance of trials brings blessings that far outweigh them all. Walk hand in hand with Me through this day. I have lovingly planned every inch of the way. Trust does not falter when the path becomes rocky and steep. Breathe deep draughts of My Presence and hold tightly to My hand. Together we can make it!

JOHN 21:19; He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed My sheep

2 CORINTHIANS 4:17; For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

HABAKKUK 3:19; 19The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling Morning and Evening Devotional (Jesus Calling®) (p. 36). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

January 17th, 2022

A Dynamic Unity

For Father Richard Rohr, the Universal Christ reveals a united and connected universe full of God’s presence:

Please do not think me a heretic, but it is formally incorrect to say “Jesus is God,” as most Christians glibly do. For Christians, the Trinity is God, and Jesus is a third something—the union of “very God” with “very human.” This dynamic unity makes Jesus the Exemplar, pledge, and guarantee, the “pioneer and perfector of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Recognizing this means there is much less need to “prove” that Jesus is God (which of itself asks nothing of us). Our true and deep need is to experience the same unitive mystery in ourselves and in all of creation—“through him, and with him, and in him” as we pray in the Great Amen of the Eucharist. This is how Jesus “saves” us and what salvation finally means. The spiritual and the material are one.

There were clear statements in the New Testament about the cosmic meaning to Christ [1], and the communities taught by Paul and John were initially overwhelmed by this message. In the early Christian era, only some few Eastern Fathers (such as Origen of Alexandria and Maximus the Confessor) cared to notice that the Christ was clearly something older, larger, and different than Jesus himself. They mystically saw that Jesus is the union of human and divine in space and time, and the Christ is the eternal union of matter and Spirit beyond time. But the later centuries tended to lose this mystical element in favor of dualistic Christianity. We lost our foundational paradigm for connecting all opposites.

Since we could not overcome the split between the spiritual and the material within ourselves, how could we then possibly overcome it for the rest of creation? The polluted earth, extinct and endangered species, tortured animals, nonstop wars, and constant religious conflicts have been the result. Yet Jesus the Christ has still planted within creation a cosmic hope, and we cannot help but see it in so many unexplainable and wonderful events and people.

For some Christians, the split is overcome in the person of Jesus. But for more and more people, union with the divine is first experienced through “the Universal Christ”—in nature, in moments of pure love, silence, inner or outer music, with animals, or a primal sense of awe. Why? Because creation itself is the first incarnation of Christ, the primary and foundational “Bible” that reveals the path to God.

Our encounter with the eternal Christ mystery started about 13.8 billion years ago in an event we now call the “Big Bang.” God has overflowed into visible Reality and revealed God’s self in trilobites, giant flightless birds, jellyfish, pterodactyls, and thousands of species that humans have never once seen. But God did.  And that was already more than enough meaning and glory.

Restoring Relationships

In his 1967 Christmas sermon on peace and nonviolence, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stressed the interrelatedness of Earth, nations, and all life: 

Now, let me suggest first that, if we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. . . . We must develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world. . . .

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. [1]

Writer Victoria Loorz, co-founder of the “Wild Church Network,” believes religion’s true purpose is to restore our relationships with each other and the earth: 

The word religion, at its roots, means re, “again,” and ligios, “connection,” like ligaments. Religion is meant to offer us support to connect again what has been separated. Apparently we need constant reminders to continually reconnect with the fullness of life, the whole, the holy. What we’ve created is more like disligion: disconnection from people and species unlike us. When religion loses its purpose and colludes with the forces of separation instead, it becomes irrelevant and even irreverent. . . .

Loorz seeks to encourage people towards deeper love by encountering the Holy outdoors:

The new story is emerging, and I cannot pretend to know all the layers. Yet one aspect that seems essential relates to the worldview of belonging—a way of being human that acts as if we belong to a community larger than our own family, race, class, and culture, and larger even than our own species. The apocalyptic unveiling happening in our world right now makes it difficult even for those who have been sheltered in privilege to look away from the reality, both tragic and beautiful, that we are all deeply interconnected. Humans, trees, oceans, deer, viruses, bees. God.

Many people, whether they go to church regularly or avoid it, feel closest to God while they are in nature. Even a simple gaze at a full moon can be a spiritual experience if you are mindful enough. And a glorious sunset can summon hallelujahs from deep in your soul. Humans are made to engage in life-affirming conversation with the whole, holy web of life. . . .

Mystical experience in nature—those moments when you sense your interconnection with all things—are more than just interesting encounters. They are invitations into relationship. Beyond caring for creation or stewarding Earth’s “resources,” it is entering into an actual relationship with particular places and beings of the living world that can provide an embodied, rooted foundation for transformation. The global shift necessary to actually survive the crises we’ve created depends on a deep inner change. [2]

The Trinity as Love

January 13th, 2022

Professor Heidi Russell describes a way of speaking about the Trinity as Love that might allow modern Christians to connect more intimately to God.

In the twenty-first century a new understanding of Trinity must be found that allows Christians to reconcile their image of God with a contemporary, scientific worldview. Theology needs to move away from concrete images of God in which God is pictured as an old man in the sky. The use of concepts such as being and person in our trinitarian theology have too often led to an understanding of God as a being or a person, or worse as three beings or three persons. Shifting from language of being and person to a concept of God as Love can help counteract this tendency to make God in our own image.

The primary analogy for God as Trinity offered [here] is Source of Love, Word of Love, and Spirit of Love. God the Father is the Unoriginate Source of Love, simply meaning the ultimate source, the source that has no origin itself because it is the origin of all love that exists. That Source of all love has been revealed in the Word of Love. The world was created in and through that Word of Love, and that Word of Love has been spoken into the world in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Source of Love is also continually enacted in the Spirit of Love, which is present in the world and active in the heart of all believers forming the Christian community into the body of Christ. As the body of Christ, this community is then called to be the ongoing presence of God as Love in the world. . . .

To affirm God as Trinitarian Love means that our relationships with each other have the potential to mirror such divine, three-fold love. Russell quotes Pope Francis:

The human person grows more, matures more and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures. In this way, they make their own that trinitarian dynamism which God imprinted in them when they were created. Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity. [1]

She continues:

We can choose to exercise the unfolding of love in our lives. I can meditate on a God who is Love, who has enfolded Godself as Love at the core of who I am and empowered me to participate in the unfolding of that Love in the world. Through that meditative prayer, we will come to better enact Love in the world. Our hearts can literally change our brains. Our altered brains will change our actions. That unfolding of love means I am empowered to live out my life in relationships that are loving, that engender mutuality and equality in the world.

Sarah Young……..

TRY TO VIEW EACH DAY as an adventure, carefully planned out by your Guide. Instead of staring into the day that is ahead of you, attempting to program it according to your will, be attentive to Me and to all I have prepared for you. Thank Me for this day of life, recognizing that it is a precious, unrepeatable gift. Trust that I am with you each moment, whether you sense My Presence or not. A thankful, trusting attitude helps you to see events in your life from My perspective. A life lived close to Me will never be dull or predictable. Expect each day to contain surprises! Resist your tendency to search for the easiest route through the day. Be willing to follow wherever I lead. No matter how steep or treacherous the path before you, the safest place to be is by My side.

PSALM 118:24; This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Read full chapter. Psalm 118:24 in all English translations.

ISAIAH 41:10; 10So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

1 PETER 2:21; For to this you were called, because – Bible Gateway For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling Morning and Evening Devotional (Jesus Calling®) (p. 26). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

January 12th, 2022

Images of the Trinity

Father Richard Rohr offers several images to help readers understand the dynamism of Trinitarian love. 

The Franciscan philosopher, theologian, and mystic St. Bonaventure (c. 1217–1274) described the Trinity as a “fountain fullness” of overflowing love. Picture three buckets on a moving water wheel. We can see these water wheels in rural areas of Europe. They usually have more than three buckets, but each bucket empties out and swings back, inevitably waiting to be filled again. And it always is! Most of us can’t risk letting go or emptying out. We can’t risk letting go because we aren’t sure we will be refilled. But the three Persons of the Trinity empty themselves and pour themselves out into each other. Each knows they can empty themselves because they will forever be refilled. To understand this mystery of love fully, we need to “stand under” the flow and participate in it. It’s infinite outpouring and infinite infilling without end. It can only be experienced as a flow, as a community, as a relationship, as an inherent connection.

Another image we might use is that of a spinning, whirling top of perfect infinite love that is planted inside of everything. What we recognize is that everything is attracted to everything, that life is attracted to life, that love is attracted to love. Universal photosynthesis and gravity, one might say. This is what it means in Genesis 1:26–27 where it says everything is created in the image of God. God planted this whirling, alluring attraction of life toward life in everything created.

Once we allow the entire universe to become that alive and dynamic, we are living in an enchanted world. Nothing is meaningless; nothing is able to be dismissed. It’s all whirling with the same beauty, the same radiance. In fact, if I had to name the Big Bang in my language, I’d call it the Great Radiance. About 13.8 billion years ago, the inner radiance of God started radiating into forms. All these billions of years later, we are the continuation of that radiance in our small segment of time on this Earth. We can either allow it and let the Infinite Flow flow through us, or we can deny it, which is really what it means not to believe.

This is not something I can prove to anyone. This is nothing I can make logical or rational. It’s only experiential, and it’s only known in the mystery of love when we surrender ourselves to it, when we grant the other inherent dignity and voice—the plant, the animal, the tree, the sky, Brother Sun and Sister Moon as my Father Francis of Assisi put it. The contemplative mind refuses to objectify. It grants similarity, subject to subject relationship, likeness, symbolism, communion, connection, meaning. We can use whatever words or images are helpful, but suddenly we live in an alive universe where we can never be lonely again.

Story From Our Community

At the beginning of inner work, I walked a beach one morning and wrote all the things causing pain at the water’s edge. I stood and watched the waves slowly wipe away the words. It was a prayer and a promise that one day the pain itself would be wiped away, and the grief eventually abated. That spot became my go-to place to pray. Integrating this into my Christian practice helps me embrace it on a deeper level. 
—Carolyn R.

January 9th, 2022

The Mystery of the Trinity

This week’s Daily Meditations circle around the Mystery of the Trinity, the Christian faith’s central and fundamental description of God. Father Richard Rohr writes: 

The notion of God as Trinity is the foundation of all Christian thought, and yet it never has been—not truly! Our dualistic minds largely shelved the whole thing because we simply couldn’t understand it. Most Christians do not consciously deny the Trinity, but as Karl Rahner (1904–1984) wrote, “We must be willing to admit that, should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged.” [1] What a sad statement on our fundamental understanding of God!

The Trinity reveals God more as a verb than a noun, but we rarely speak about God that way in either our preaching or our prayers. God is three “relations,” which itself is mind-boggling for most believers. Yet that clarification opens up an honest notion of God as Mystery who can never be fully comprehended with our rational minds. God is dynamic—a verb rather than a static name. God is Interbeing itself, and never an isolated deity that can be captured by our mind.

Christians believe that God is formlessness (the Father), God is form (the Son), and God is the very living and loving energy between those two (the Holy Spirit). The three do not cancel one another out. Instead, they do exactly the opposite. Recognizing the Trinity as relationship itself opens conversations with the world of science. This surprising insight names everything correctly at the core—from atoms, to ecosystems, to galaxies. The shape of God is the shape of everything in the universe! Everything is in relationship and nothing stands alone. The doctrine of the Trinity defeats the dualistic mind and invites us into nondual, holistic consciousness. It replaces the argumentative principle of two with the dynamic principle of three. It brings us inside the wonderfully open space of “not one, but not two either.” Sit stunned with that for a few moments.

The most ancient and solid theology of the Trinity proceeds from the Cappadocian (Eastern Turkey) Fathers of the third and fourth centuries and is then adopted by later Councils of the Church. Trinitarian theology says that God is a “circular” rotation (perichoresis) of total outpouring and perfect receiving among three intimate partners. Historically, most of us, except for mystics, preferred the pyramid model with God the Father at the top, which then got imitated and promoted all the way down! This is no exaggeration.

As Catherine LaCugna (1952–1997) presented in her monumental study of the Trinity [2], any notion of God as not giving, not outpouring, not self-surrendering, not totally loving is a theological impossibility and absurdity. God only and always loves. You cannot reverse, slow, or limit an overflowing waterwheel of divine compassion and mercy and a love stronger than death. It goes in only one, constant, eternal direction—toward ever more abundant and creative life! This is the universe from atoms to galaxies.

Jesus in the Trinity

Father Richard points out how we misunderstand Jesus and his teachings when we think of him apart from the Trinity. 

When we try to understand Jesus outside the dynamism of the Trinity, we do not do him or ourselves any favors. Jesus never operated as an independent “I” but only as a “thou” in relationship to his Father and the Holy Spirit. He says this in a hundred different ways—the “Father” and the “Holy Spirit” are a relationship to Jesus. God is love, which means relationship itself (1 John 4:7–8).

Christianity lost its natural movement and momentum—flowing out from and returning to that relationship—when it pulled Jesus out of the Trinity. It killed that exciting inner experience and marginalized the mystics who really should be center stage. Jesus is the model and metaphor for all of creation being drawn into this infinite flow of love. Thus he says, “Follow me!” and “I shall return to take you with me, so that where I am, you may be also” (John 14:3). The concrete, historical body of Jesus represents the universal Body of Christ that “God has loved before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). He is the stand-in for all of us. The Jesus story, in other words, is the universe story. He never doubts his union with God, and he hands on union with God to us through this fully participatory universe.

Many of the Fathers of the church believed in an ontological, metaphysical, objective union between humanity and God, which alone would allow Jesus to take us “back with him” into the life of the Trinity (John 17:23–24, 14:3, 12:26). This was how real “participation” was for many in the early church. It changed people and offered them their deepest identity and form (“trans-formation”). We had thought our form was merely human, but Jesus came to show us that our actual form is human-divine, just as he is. He was not much interested in proclaiming himself the exclusive son of God. Instead, he went out of his way to communicate an inclusive sonship and daughterhood to the crowds. Paul uses words like “adopted” (Galatians 4:5) and “co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17) to make the same point.

“Full and final participation” was learned from Jesus, who clearly believed that God does not so much promise us a distant heaven but invites us into the Godself as friends and co-participants. Remember, I am not talking about a psychological or moral wholeness in human persons, which is never the case, and why most people dismiss this doctrine—or feel incapable of it. I am talking about a divinely implanted “sharing in the divine nature,” which is called the indwelling spirit or the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16–17). This is the foundation on which we must and can build and rebuild a civilization of life and love. Our objective ground is good and totally given!

January 7th, 2022

Love Crosses Boundaries

CAC friend Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis explores how the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29–37) reveals God’s desire that no one be allowed to “stand alone” in their hour of need. 

Rabbi Jesus is talking to a religious leader—a lawyer—about what it means to be faithful. Together, they review the Jewish scriptures: The way to live right is to love God with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself. Looking for a loophole, the lawyer wants to know who qualifies as a neighbor. Jesus answers by telling a story about a man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead by a marauding gang. A priest and another religious man walked by and, seeing the man on the ground, they did nothing. . . . But a Samaritan—a mixed-race person considered in ancient times to be an impure enemy of the Jewish people—did not cross the street. Instead, he tended to the wounded man. . . . The moral of Jesus’s story is that the despised Samaritan is the good neighbor.

In using this story to answer his companion’s question about the definition of neighbor, Rabbi Jesus was getting to what he considered to be the essential laws—love God with all you have and love your neighbor as yourself. He tells the story to make the point: What you think is outside, God has put inside. The Samaritan is more inside the boundaries of what is good/pure/loving than the passersby (religious leaders no less!) who did not stop to help the bleeding, beaten man on the street. In telling this story about a hated, mixed-race Samaritan doing a good deed, Jesus is disrupting the idea of borders and boundaries. If you want to know what love looks like, Rabbi Jesus is saying, here it is: Love crosses borders and boundaries; it makes new cultural rules; it cares for the stranger. Love turns strangers into friends. Fierce love is rule-breaking, border-crossing, ferocious, and extravagant kindness that increases our tribe. . . .

In any relationship, fierce love causes us to cross boundaries and borders to discover one another, to support one another, to heal one another. When we do this, when we go crazy with affection, and offer wild kindness to our neighbor across the street or across the globe, we make a new kind of space between us. We make space for discovery and curiosity, for learning and growing. We make space for sharing stories and being changed by what we share. This is the space of the border, of mestizaje [mixed race], of both/and. . . . We can learn to see the world not only through our own stories, through our own eyes, but also through the stories and worldview of the so-called other. . . . We simply must open our eyes, look across the room, the street, the division, the border—and reach out to that neighbor, offering our hand, our compassion, and our heart.

A Solid Foundation

January 6th, 2022

Theologian and author Kate Bowler counters our cultural desire to proclaim we are “self-made” with a reminder of our foundational communal reality.

I am self-made. Didn’t anyone tell you? I brought myself into the world when I decided to be born on a bright Monday morning. Then I figured out how cells replicate to grow my own arms and legs and head to a reasonable height and size. Then I filled my own mind from kindergarten to graduation with information I gleaned from the great works of literature. . . .

I’m joking, but sometimes it feels like the pressure we are under. An entire self-help and wellness industry made sure that we got the memo: we are supposed to articulate our lives as a solitary story of realization and progress. Work. Learn. Fix. Change. Every exciting action sounds like it is designed for an individual who needs to learn how to conquer a world of their own making.

It’s hard to remember a deeper, comforting truth: we are built on a foundation not our own. We were born because two other people created a combination of biological matter. We went to schools where dozens and dozens of people crafted ideas and activities to construct categories in our minds. We learned skills honed by generations of craftspeople. We pray and worship with spiritual ideas refined by centuries of tradition. Almost nothing about us is original. Thank God.

It reminds me of the account of creation in Genesis. . . . God breathes oxygen into lungs in an instance of divine CPR. I love picturing that God, the only One who can create out of nothing—ex nihilo. God, who set the cornerstone of our lives and our faith, laid the first brick. The Master Builder whose carefully poured foundation is what we build on top of now. It certainly feels like a template for the rest of our experience.

Kate was a young mother when she was first diagnosed with Stage Four cancer:

When I was really sick and worried about dying too young, I kept trying to picture how much my son would remember. . . .

I thought about him all the time. When do children develop long-term memory? How much am I in there . . . his mischievous mind, his evil laugh. Then one day, my psychologist said something wonderful. He said: “Kate, you’re in there. The foundation is the part that doesn’t show.”

Whether it is our parents, our teachers, mentors, friends, churches, or neighbors, people have been pouring into us. We are standing on a foundation. It should come as an incredible relief. Our only job is to build on what we’ve been given, and, even then, even our gifts we can trace back to the creativity, generosity, and foresight of others. Thank God we are a group project.

IAM ABLE to do far beyond all that you ask or imagine. Come to Me with positive expectations, knowing that there is no limit to what I can accomplish. Ask My Spirit to control your mind so that you can think great thoughts of Me. Do not be discouraged by the fact that many of your prayers are yet unanswered. Time is a trainer, teaching you to wait upon Me, to trust Me in the dark. The more extreme your circumstances, the more likely you are to see My Power and Glory at work in the situation. Instead of letting difficulties draw you into worrying, try to view them as setting the scene for My glorious intervention. Keep your eyes and your mind wide open to all that I am doing in your life.

EPHESIANS 3:20–21; Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

ROMANS 8:6; The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

ISAIAH 40:30–31 NKJV; Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, 31 But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles

REVELATION 5:13; New King James Version (NKJV) 13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling Morning and Evening Devotional (Jesus Calling®) (p. 12). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

January 5th, 2022

Creating a People

The Body of Christ is inherently a collective reality. Father Richard emphasizes that to live the gospel, we need each other:

The Body of Christ, the spiritual family, is God’s strategy. It is both medium and message. It is both beginning and end: “May they all be one . . . so that the world may believe it was you who sent me . . . that they may be one as we are one, with me in them and you in me” (John 17:21–23).

There is no other form for the Christian life except a common one. This may even be a matter of culture, if culture refers to something which is shared and passed on. In this sense, I am wondering if there is any other kind of Christianity except “cultural Christianity,” for better and for worse.

Until and unless Christ is someone happening between people, the gospel remains largely an abstraction. Until Jesus Christ is passed on personally through faithfulness and forgiveness, through bonds of union, I doubt whether he is passed on at all.

We are now paying the price for centuries in which the Church was narrowed from a full vision of peoplehood to an almost total preoccupation with private persons and their devotional needs. But history has shown that individuals who are confirmed in their individualism by the very character of our evangelism will never create church, except after the model of a service station: they will use it as a commodity like everything else. This is far cry from our “original participation” (Owen Barfield [1898–1997]) in the Body of Christ from the moment of our conception.

Certainly, we must deal with individuals. But the very nature of our lifestyle and our church teaching must say from the beginning what the goal is—the communion of saints, a shared life together as family, the trinitarian life of God, the kingdom—here!

The prophet Haggai criticizes the Jews after the exile for dwelling comfortably in their “paneled houses” while the common walls of the temple lie in ruins (see Haggai 1:4, 9). His prophetic call is now and forever. We still think that we can work with the world’s agenda, where career and individual fulfillment are the basic building blocks of society. And we believe that we can build church from those well-educated and well-saved blocks. But God needs “living stones making a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5).

For Jesus, such teachings as forgiveness, healing, and justice are not just a spiritual test or obstacle course. They are quite simply the necessary requirements for a basic shared life. Peacemaking and reconciliation are not some kind of box seat tickets to heaven. They are the price of peoplehood. They express the truth in the heart of God, the truth that has been shared with us in the Holy Spirit, the union in Jesus the Christ who is reconciling all people to God (see 2 Corinthians 5:18–19).

It Can’t Be Carried Alone

January 4th, 2022

Father Richard teaches that we are transformed by our suffering—not by bearing it apart and alone, but by recognizing our universal connectedness with each other and God:

I am no masochist, and I surely have no martyr complex, but I do believe that the only way out of deep sadness is to go with it and through it. Sometimes I wonder if this is what we priests mean when we lift up bread and wine at the Eucharist or communion and say, “Through him, and with him, and in him.” I wonder if the only way to spiritually hold suffering—and not let it destroy us—is to recognize that we cannot do it alone. When I try to heroically do it alone, I slip into distractions, denials, and pretending—and I do not learn suffering’s softening lessons. But when I can find a shared meaning for something, especially if it allows me to love God and others in the same action, God can get me through it. I begin to trust the ambiguous process of life.

When we carry our small suffering in solidarity with the one universal longing of all humanity, it helps keep us from self-pity or self-preoccupation. We know that we are all in this together, and it is just as hard for everybody else. Almost all people are carrying a great and secret hurt, even when they don’t know it. When we can make the shift to realize this, it softens the space around our overly defended hearts. It makes it hard to be cruel to anyone. Shared struggle somehow makes us one—in a way that easy comfort and entertainment never can.

Some mystics even go so far as to say that individual suffering doesn’t exist at all—and that there is only one suffering, it is all the same, and it is all the suffering of God. The image of Jesus on the cross somehow communicates that to the willing soul. A Crucified God is the dramatic symbol of the one suffering that God fully enters into with us—much more than just for us, as we were mostly trained to think.

If suffering, even unjust suffering (and all suffering is unjust on some level), is part of one Great Mystery, then I am willing—and even happy, sometimes—to carry my little portion. But I must trust that it is somehow helping someone or something, and that it matters in the great scheme of things. Etty Hillesum (1914–1943), a young Jewish woman who died at Auschwitz, truly believed her suffering was also the suffering of God. She even expressed a deep desire to “help God” carry some of it. [1] Such freedom and such generosity of spirit are almost unimaginable to me. Colossians 1:24 offers a similarly daring statement in the New Testament. What creates such larger-than-life people? Their altruism is hard to understand by almost any psychological definition of the human person. I believe such people have built their lives on the reality of union with God, Reality, or What Finally Is.

Sarah Young….

I WANT YOU TO LEARN A NEW HABIT. Try saying, “I trust You, Jesus,” in response to whatever happens to you. If there is time, think about who I am in all My Power and Glory; ponder also the depth and breadth of My Love for you. This simple practice will help you see Me in every situation, acknowledging My sovereign control over the universe. When you view events from this perspective—through the Light of My universal Presence—fear loses its grip on you. Adverse circumstances become growth opportunities when you affirm your trust in Me no matter what. You receive blessings gratefully, realizing they flow directly from My hand of grace. Your continual assertion of trusting Me will strengthen our relationship and keep you close to Me.

PSALM 63:2; I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.

ISAIAH 40:10–11; 10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. ^11He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

PSALM 139:7–10; Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? ⁸If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. ⁹If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, ^10even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling Morning and Evening Devotional (Jesus Calling®) (p. 8). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.