Archive for March, 2022

A New Fearlessness

March 31st, 2022

Can any of you, however much you worry, add a single cubit to your span of life? If a very small thing is beyond your powers, why worry about the rest? Think how the flowers grow; they never have to spin or weave; yet, I assure you, not even Solomon in all his royal robes was clothed like one of them. Now if that is how God clothes a flower which is growing wild today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will God look after you, who have so little faith! –Luke 12:25–28, New Jerusalem Bible

Mystic and theologian Howard Thurman (1899–1991) describes the fear experienced by those who, as he puts it, have “their backs against the wall” [1] through oppression and injustice: 

The ever-present fear that besets the vast poor, the economically and socially insecure, is a fear of still a different breed. It is a climate closing in; it is like the fog in San Francisco or in London. It is nowhere in particular yet everywhere. It is a mood which one carries around with oneself, distilled from the acrid conflict with which one’s days are surrounded. It has its roots deep in the heart of the relations between the weak and the strong, between the controllers of environment and those who are controlled by it.

Thurman makes it clear that Jesus, as a member of the Jewish community under Roman occupation, would have intimately understood this kind of fear and addressed it:   

In the great expression of affirmation and faith found in the Sermon on the Mount [see Matthew 6:25–34] there appears in clearest outline the basis of [Jesus’] positive answer to the awful fact of fear and its twin sons of thunder—anxiety and despair. . . .

The core of the analysis of Jesus is that humans are children of God, the God of life that sustains all of nature and guarantees all the intricacies of the life-process itself. Jesus suggests that it is quite unreasonable to assume that God, whose creative activity is expressed even in such details as the hairs of a person’s head, would exclude from God’s concern the life, the vital spirit, of the person themselves. This idea—that God is mindful of the individual—is of tremendous import in dealing with fear as a disease. In this world the socially disadvantaged person is constantly given a negative answer to the most important personal questions upon which mental health depends: “Who am I? What am I?”

The first question has to do with a basic self-estimate, a profound sense of belonging, of counting. If a person feels that they do not belong in the way in which it is perfectly normal for other people to belong, then they develop a deep sense of insecurity. . . . [But] the awareness of being a child of God tends to stabilize the ego and results in a new courage, fearlessness, and power. I have seen it happen again and again.


Sarah Young

TASTE AND SEE THAT I AM GOOD . The more intimately you experience Me, the more convinced you become of My goodness. I am the Living One who sees you and longs to participate in your life. I am training you to find Me in each moment and to be a channel of My loving Presence. Sometimes My blessings come to you in mysterious ways: through pain and trouble. At such times you can know My goodness only through your trust in Me. Understanding will fail you, but trust will keep you close to Me. Thank Me for the gift of My Peace, a gift of such immense proportions that you cannot fathom its depth or breadth. When I appeared to My disciples after the resurrection, it was Peace that I communicated first of all. I knew this was their deepest need: to calm their fears and clear their minds. I also speak Peace to you, for I know your anxious thoughts. Listen to Me! Tune out other voices so that you can hear Me more clearly. I designed you to dwell in Peace all day, every day. Draw near to Me; receive My Peace.

PSALM 34:8; Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

GENESIS 16:13–14 AMP; 13She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” ^14That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

JOHN 20:19; 19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

COLOSSIANS 3:15; Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling Morning and Evening Devotional (Jesus Calling®) (p. 186). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

March 30th, 2022

Being Tender with Our Fear

Cole Arthur Riley is a writer and creator of the online prayer space Black Liturgies. She views fear as a place to discover God’s compassion for us:  

I’m told the most frequent command from God in the Bible is Do not fear. Some have interpreted this as an indictment on those who are afraid, as if to say fear signifies a less robust faith. This offends me. God is not criticizing us for being afraid in a world haunted by so many terrors and traumas. I hear Don’t be afraid and hope that it is not a command not to fear but rather the nurturing voice of a God drawing near to our trembling. I hear those words and imagine God in all tenderness cradling her creation against her breast.  

Perhaps it is not the indictment of God we are sensing but our own souls turned against themselves. I wouldn’t dare criticize Christ in the garden—sweating, crying, pleading for God to let the cup pass from him [Luke 22:41–44]. This is a Christ who knew fear deeply. And if God himself has been afraid, I have to believe he is tender with our own fear. 

Riley describes God leading us in our fear to the deep rest that the psalmist envisions:  

Whenever my friend’s ma was fed up, she used to mumble, I might be limpin through the valley of the shadow of death . . . What I skipped over in the psalm she was referencing time and time again is the sacred praxis it begins with. The psalmist says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters” [Psalm 23:2].  

I find it beautiful that in the face of terror, God doesn’t bid us toward courage as we might perceive it. Instead, he draws us toward fear’s essential sister, rest—a sister who is not meant to replace fear but to exist together in tension and harmony with it. For fear’s origin is not evil, though evil certainly wields it against our souls daily. 

My father . . . pulls my ear into him and mumbles, Let the fear in, just don’t let it run you. Just as it can be the threatening hand that holds you in bondage, it can also protect you when the journey toward liberation requires perceptive choice and a certain instinct in the face of the unknown. No one would deny it is a good thing that we are terrified to jump from building to building. Fear steadies our impulses and warns us of danger. You might consider it more akin to a watchman than an enemy. . .

I believe fear has the holy potential to draw out awe in us. To lead us into deeper patterns of protection and trust. To mold us into people engaged in the unknown, capable of making mystery of it instead of terror.

What Do We Do with Our Fear?

March 29th, 2022

Father Richard believes that we must learn to name and to live with our fears instead of merely denying them or projecting them onto others: 

Our age has been called the age of anxiety, and I think that’s probably a good description for this time. We no longer know where our foundations are. When we’re not sure what is certain, when the world and our worldview keep being redefined every few months, we’re going to be anxious. We want to get rid of that anxiety as quickly as we can. I know I do. Yet, to be a good leader of anything today—a good pastor, manager, parent, or teacher—we have to be able to contain and hold patiently a certain degree of anxiety. Probably the higher the level of leadership someone has, the more anxiety they must be capable of holding. Leaders who cannot hold anxiety will never lead us anyplace new.

That’s probably why the Bible says “Do not be afraid” almost 150 times! If we cannot calmly hold a certain degree of anxiety, we will always look for somewhere to expel it. Expelling what we can’t embrace gives us an identity, but it’s a negative identity. It’s not life energy, it’s death energy. Formulating what we are against gives us a very quick and clear sense of ourselves. Thus, most people fall for it. People more easily define themselves by what they are against, by whom they hate, by who else is wrong, instead of by what they believe in and whom they love.  

I hope you recognize from this common pattern how different the alternative is. We might catch anew the radical and scary nature of faith, because faith only builds on that totally positive place within, however small. It needs an interior “Yes” to begin, just as the “Yes” of Mary began the entire process of salvation. God needs just a mustard-seed-sized place that is in love—not fear—that is open to grace, that is thrilled, that has found something wonderful.

CAC teacher James Finley shares how Jesus is a model of how to say Yes in the midst of our deepest fear:  

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sweat blood because he was afraid [Luke 22:44]. It is possible that he was infinitely more afraid than we could ever be. But the difference is: Jesus was not afraid of being afraid, because he knew it was just fear. . . . We are afraid of fear because we believe that it has the power to name who we are, and it fills us with shame. . . .

Jesus invites us to discover that our fear is woven into God’s own life, whose life is mysteriously woven into all the scary things that can and do happen to us as human beings together on this earth. This is liberation from fear in the midst of a fearful situation.

Sarah Young

STOP TRYING TO WORK THINGS OUT before their times have come. Accept the limitations of living one day at a time. When something comes to your attention, ask Me whether or not it is part of today’s agenda. If it isn’t, release it into My care and go on about today’s duties. When you follow this practice, there will be a beautiful simplicity about your life: a time for everything, and everything in its time. A life lived close to Me is not complicated or cluttered. When your focus is on My Presence, many things that once troubled you lose their power over you. Though the world around you is messy and confusing, remember that I have overcome the world. I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have Peace.

ECCLESIASTES 3:1; Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of adversity come

ECCLESIASTES 8:6–7; For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a person may be weighed down by misery. ⁷Since no one knows the future, who can tell someone else what is to come?

JOHN 16:33; I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling Morning and Evening Devotional (Jesus Calling®) (p. 182). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

March 27th, 2022

Fear Is Contraction

Father Richard Rohr locates the primary source of our fears in our small or false selves, which are unable to trust the love of God that infuses all of reality.  

Fear unites the disparate parts of our false selves very quickly. The ego moves forward by contraction, self-protection, and refusal, by saying no. Contraction gives us focus, purpose, direction, superiority, and a strange kind of security. It takes our aimless anxiety, covers it up, and tries to turn it into purposefulness and urgency, which results in a kind of drivenness. But this drive is not peaceful or happy. It is filled with fear and locates all its problems as “out there,” never “in here.”  

The soul or the True Self does not proceed by contraction but by expansion. It moves forward, not by exclusion, but by inclusion. It sees things deeply and broadly not by saying no but by saying yes, at least on some level, to whatever comes its way. Can you distinguish between those two very different movements within yourself?  

Fear and contraction allow us to eliminate other people, write them off, exclude them, and somehow expel them, at least in our minds. This immediately gives us a sense of being in control and having a secure set of boundaries—even holy boundaries. But people who are controlling are usually afraid of losing something. If we go deeper into ourselves, we will see that there is both a rebel and a dictator in all of us, two different ends of the same spectrum. It is almost always fear that justifies our knee-jerk rebellion or our need to dominate—a fear that is hardly ever recognized as such because we are acting out and trying to control the situation.  

Author Gareth Higgins describes moving through the “no” of fear to the “yes” of love:  

Look beneath your fear and you will discover what it is you really care about. What you wish to protect: people, places, things, hopes, dreams. Aggression, shame, and disconnection—even as attempts at making a better life for me or a better world for all of us—don’t work. But as we expand our circle of caring to include all people, all places, all of creation, we discover that our fears are shared and that all our cares come from the same place. Come to understand your fear, and you may find that we’re all just trying to figure out how to love. [1] 

Father Richard continues:  

Unless there is someone to hold and accompany us on these inner journeys, much of humanity cannot go very deep inside. If only we knew Who we would meet there, and could say, with St. Catherine of Genoa (1447–1510), “My deepest me is God!” [2] Without such accompaniment, most of us will stay on the surface of our own lives, where small-spiritedness keeps us from being bothered by others. Yet with divine accompaniment, we will literally “find our souls” and the One who lovingly dwells there.  

A Mother Hen God

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to [Jesus], “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.’ . . . Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” —Luke 13:31–32, 34  

Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran pastor, author, and dear friend of Father Richard’s. She published this sermon during the first COVID shutdown in the United States. She describes how Christians might interpret the oft-given scriptural command to “Be not afraid.”    

Never once have I stopped being afraid just because someone said that.  

I AM afraid. . . .

So maybe our hope for becoming unafraid is found in . . . the part where Jesus calls Herod a fox and then refers to himself as a mother hen.   

A mother hen.   

Maybe that beautiful image of God could mean something important for us: and by us I mean we fragile, vulnerable human beings who face very real danger. I can’t bear to say that this scripture is a description of what behaviors and attitudes you could imitate if you want to be a good, not-afraid person. But neither can I tell you that the Mother Hen thing means that God will protect you from Herod or that God is going to keep bad things from happening to you.   

Because honestly, nothing actually keeps danger from being dangerous.   

A mother hen cannot actually keep a determined fox from killing her chicks. So where does that leave us? I mean, if danger is real, and a hen can’t actually keep their chicks out of danger, then what good is this image of God as Mother Hen if faith in her can’t make us safe?  

Well, today I started to think that maybe it’s not safety that keeps us from being afraid.   

Maybe it’s love.  

Which means that a Mother Hen of a God doesn’t keep foxes from being dangerous . . . a Mother Hen of a God keeps foxes from being what determines how we experience the unbelievably beautiful gift of being alive.  

God the Mother Hen gathers all of her downy feathered, vulnerable little ones under God’s protective wings so that we know where we belong, because it is there that we find warmth and shelter.   

But Faith in God does not bring you safety.   

The fox still exists.   

Danger still exists.   

And by that I mean, danger is not optional, but fear is.    

Because maybe the opposite of fear isn’t bravery.  Maybe the opposite of fear is love. So in the response to our own Herods,

An Identity Transplant

March 24th, 2022

Scholars Marcus J. Borg (1942–2015) and John Dominic Crossan refer to Paul as a “Jewish Christ mystic,” and explore what the phrase “in Christ” meant to Paul:

He was a Jewish Christ mystic because . . . Paul was a Jew and in his own mind never ceased being one. He was a Jewish Christ mystic because the content of his mystical experiences was Jesus as risen Christ and Lord. Afterward, Paul’s identity became an identity “in Christ.” And as a Christ mystic, he saw Judaism anew in the light of Jesus. . .  .

Paul’s transformation involved an “identity transplant”—his old identity was replaced by a new identity “in Christ.” . . . We have in mind an analogy to modern medicine’s heart transplant, in which an old heart is replaced by a new heart. In Paul’s case, his spirit—the old Paul—had been replaced by the Spirit of Christ.

Borg and Crossan view Paul’s mystical teaching on the gifts of the Spirit, from 1 Corinthians 12–14, as an extension of his identity transplant “in Christ.” Here they reflect on the implications of Paul’s reflections on love, “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (13:13):

The love of which Paul speaks is a spiritual gift, not simply an act of will, not something we decide to do, not simply good advice for couples and others. Rather, as a spiritual gift, love is the most important result (and evidence) of a Spirit transplant. As the primary fruit of the Spirit, it is also the criterion by which the other gifts are evaluated. . . .

For Paul, love in this text is radical shorthand for what life “in Christ” is like—life in the “new creation,” life “in the Spirit,” life animated by a Spirit transplant. As the primary fruit of a Spirit-filled life, love is about more than our relationships with individuals. For Paul, it had (for want of a better word) a social meaning as well. The social form of love for Paul was distributive justice and nonviolence, bread and peace. Paul’s vision of life “in Christ,” life in the “new creation,” did not mean, “Accept the imperial way of life with its oppression and violence, but practice love in your personal relationships.”

To make the same point differently, people like Jesus and Paul were not executed for saying, “Love one another.” They were killed because their understanding of love meant more than being compassionate toward individuals, although it did include that. It also meant standing against the domination systems that ruled their world, and collaborating with the Spirit in the creation of a new way of life that stood in contrast to the normalcy of the wisdom of the world. Love and justice go together. Justice without love can be brutal, and love without justice can be banal. Love is the heart of justice, and justice is the social form of love


THIS IS A TIME in your life when you must learn to let go: of loved ones, of possessions, of control. In order to let go of something that is precious to you, you need to rest in My Presence, where you are complete. Take time to bask in the Light of My Love. As you relax more and more, your grasping hand gradually opens up, releasing your prized possession into My care. You can feel secure, even in the midst of cataclysmic changes, through awareness of My continual Presence. The One who never leaves you is the same One who never changes: I am the same yesterday, today, and forever. As you release more and more things into My care, remember that I never let go of your hand. Herein lies your security, which no one and no circumstance can take from you.

PSALM 89:15; 15Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD

HEBREWS 13:8; Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

ISAIAH 41:13; 13For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling Morning and Evening Devotional (Jesus Calling®) (p. 172). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

March 23rd, 2022

Living in Christ

Theologian Ursula King sees Paul as a forerunner of the Christian mysticsHere she summarizes his key mystical themes: 

Paul’s great mystical experience on the road to Damascus, which changed him from an enemy into an ardent supporter of the early Christians, made him into one of the strongest witnesses to the power of the spirit of Christ, “in whom we live, move and have our being” [Acts 17:28]. While the Gospels describe Christ’s life, his death and resurrection, the Pauline Epistles bear witness to an intense and deeply transforming faith, rooted both in powerful personal experience and in the community of the early disciples, which later became the Christian Church.

Paul describes himself as “a man in Christ,” affirming a deep union with the Divine which does not negate his own identity but enables him to live within the divine nature itself: “I live, now not I; but Christ lives within me” [Galatians 2:20]. He also sings the praises of active love, of charity, inspired by the fire of divine love and outlines a vision of the cosmic Christ, the Christ who “is all, and is in all” [Colossians 3:11]. [1]

Jesuit scholar Harvey Egan likewise views Paul as a mystic who gave himself fully to the love of God in Christ, and who believed others could do likewise: 

From the very depths of his being, Paul experienced and surrendered to the love of God in Christ. For him the Lord was the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17). Pauline mysticism is emphatically Christ-directed; “to live,” for Paul, “is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).

Paul considered it almost self-evident that all Christians, because of Christ and his Spirit, had relatively easy access to an experience of God in their lives. Although he spoke of the “mature” in faith (1 Corinthians 2:6) and the “spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:15), he expected mature faith of all Christians. The Holy Spirit granted all Christians a “surpassing knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19), the “fullness of knowledge” (Ephesians 1:17), and in this way proved to us that we are “[children] of God” (Romans 8:14) who can also call God, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). Christ’s Spirit would pray in us “with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).

Linked intimately to a loving knowledge of the crucified and risen Christ is a “secret and hidden wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 2:7), a peace beyond all understanding (Philippians 4:7), and a supreme consolation (2 Corinthians 1:5). Those living in Christ’s Spirit experience a richer way of life (Ephesians 1:8–9) filled with love, joy, peace, self-control, gentleness, patience, and kindness (Galatians 5:22) that enables them to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). As Paul said: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the [human] heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him, God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9–10). . . .

Time and again, Paul spoke of being “in Christ.” For him, moreover, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). [2]

Nondual Faith

March 22nd, 2022

Today Father Richard examines a specific example of Paul’s nondual, “both-and” thinking. Paul saw Christ’s cross as a third way beyond the cultural-religious conflicts of his time.

One of the dialectics that Paul presents is the perennial conflict that today we call conservative and liberal. In his writings, Paul’s own people, the Jews, became the stand-in for pious, law-abiding conservatives; the Greeks provided his metaphor for intellectuals, cultural critics, and people we would call liberals. Paul sees the Jews trying to create order in the world by obedience to law, tradition, and kinship ties. The Greeks try to create order by reason, understanding, logic, and education.

Paul insists that neither of them can finally succeed because they do not have the ability to “incorporate the negative,” which will always be present. He recognizes that the greatest enemy of ordinary daily goodness and joy is not imperfection, but the demand for some supposed perfection or order. There seems to be a shadow side to almost everything; all things are subject to “the powers and principalities” (Ephesians 6:12). Only the unitive or nondual mind can accept this and not panic, but, in fact, grow because of it and grow beyond it.

Neither the liberal pattern nor the conservative pattern can deal with disorder and misery. Paul believes that Jesus has revealed the only response that works. The revelation of the cross, he says, makes us indestructible, because it says there is a way through all absurdity and tragedy. That way is precisely through accepting and even using absurdity and tragedy as part of God’s unfathomable agenda. If we can internalize the mystery of the cross, we won’t fall into cynicism, failure, bitterness, or skepticism. The cross gives us a precise and profound way through the shadow side of life and through all disappointments.

Paul allows both conservatives and liberals to define wisdom in their own ways, yet he dares to call both inadequate and finally wrong. He believes that such worldviews will eventually fail people. “God has shown up human wisdom as folly” on the cross (1 Corinthians 1:21), and this is “an obstacle that the Jews cannot get over,” and which the Gentiles or pagans think is simple “foolishness” (1:23).

For Paul, the code words for nondual thinking, or true wisdom, are “foolishness” and “folly.” He says, in effect, “My thinking is foolishness to you, isn’t it?” Admittedly, it does not make sense unless we have confronted the mystery of the cross. Suffering, the “folly of the cross,” breaks down the dualistic mind. Why? Because on the cross, God took the worst thing, the killing of the God-human, and made it into the best thing, the very redemption of the world. The compassionate holding of essential meaninglessness or tragedy, as Jesus does on the cross, is the final and triumphant resolution of all the dualisms and dichotomies that we face in our own lives. We are thus “saved by the cross”! Does that now make ultimate sense?


REJOICE AND BE THANKFUL! As you walk with Me through this day, practice trusting and thanking Me all along the way. Trust is the channel through which My Peace flows into you. Thankfulness lifts you up above your circumstances. I do My greatest works through people with grateful, trusting hearts. Rather than planning and evaluating, practice trusting and thanking Me continually. This is a paradigm shift that will revolutionize your life.

PHILIPPIANS 4:4; Rejoice in the Lord always, I say rejoice.

PSALM 95:1–2; Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. ²Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.

PSALM 9:10; Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

2 CORINTHIANS 2:14 NKJV; Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling Morning and Evening Devotional (Jesus Calling®) (p. 168). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

March 21st, 2022

An Enlightening Experience

In this week’s Daily Meditations, Father Richard Rohr focuses on Saint Paul as a mystic, beginning with Paul’s transformative encounter with the Risen Christ:

Paul is probably one of the most misunderstood and disliked teachers in the Church. I think this is largely because we have tried to understand a nondual mystic with our simplistic, dualistic minds. 

It starts with Paul’s amazing conversion experience, described three times in the Book of Acts (chapters 9, 22, and 26). Scholars assume that Luke wrote Acts around 85 CE, about twenty years after Paul’s ministry. Paul’s own account is in his letter to the Galatians: “The Gospel which I preach . . . came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:11–12). Paul never doubts this revelation. The Christ that he met was not exactly identical to the historical Jesus; it was the risen Christ, the Christ who remains with us now in Spirit as the Universal Christ.

In Galatians, Paul describes his pre-conversion life as an orthodox Jew, a Pharisee with status in the Judean governmental board called the Sanhedrin. The Temple police delegated him to go out and squelch this new sect of Judaism called “The Way”—not yet named Christianity. Saul (Paul’s Hebrew name) was breathing threats to slaughter Jesus’ disciples (see Acts 9:1–2). He says, “I tried to destroy it. And I advanced beyond my contemporaries in my own nation. I was more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers than anybody else” (Galatians 1:13­–14). At that point, Paul was a dualistic thinker, dividing the world into entirely good and entirely bad people.

The Acts account of Paul’s conversion continues: “Suddenly, while traveling to Damascus, just before he reached the city, there came a light from heaven all around him. He fell to the ground, and he heard a voice saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The voice answered, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:3–5).

Paul must have wondered: “Why does he say ‘me’ when I’m persecuting these other people?” This choice of words is pivotal. Paul gradually comes to his understanding of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12–13) as an organic, ontological union between Christ and those whom Christ loves—which Paul eventually realizes is everyone and everything. This is why Paul becomes “the apostle to the nations” (or “Gentiles”).

This enlightening experience taught Paul nondual consciousness, the same mystical mind that allowed Jesus to say things like “Whatever you do to these least ones, you do to me” (Matthew 25:40).

Until grace achieves the same victory in our minds and hearts, we cannot really comprehend most of Jesus and Paul’s teachings—in any practical way. It will remain distant theological dogma. Before conversion, we tend to think of God as “out there.” After transformation, as Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) wrote, “The soul . . . never doubts: God was in her; she was in God.” [1]

A Tug-of-War with Truth

Father Richard describes the paradoxical impact that Paul’s revelation of Christ had for him. His way of thinking and being changed completely:  

Meeting the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus changed everything for Paul. He experienced the great paradox that the crucified Jesus was in fact alive! And he, Paul, a “sinner,” was in fact chosen and beloved. This pushed Paul from the usual either/or, dualistic thinking to both/and, mystical thinking.

The truth in paradoxical language lies neither in the affirmation nor in the denial of either side, but precisely in the resolution of the tug-of-war between the two. The human mind usually works on the logical principle of contradiction, according to which something cannot be both true and false at the same time. Yet that is exactly what higher truths invariably undo (for example, God is both one and three; Jesus is both human and divine; bread and wine are both matter and Spirit). Unfortunately, since the Reformation and the Enlightenment, we Western, educated people have lost touch with paradoxical, mystical, or contemplative thinking. We’ve wasted five centuries taking sides—which is so evident in our culture today!

Not only was Paul’s way of thinking changed by his mystical experience, his way of being in the world was also transformed. Suddenly the persecutor—and possibly murderer—of Christians is Christ’s “chosen vessel,” sent “to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15). This dissolves the strict line between good and bad, between in-group “Jews” and out-group “Gentiles.” The paradox has been overcome in Paul’s very person. He now knows that he is both sinner and saint, and we too must trust the same. These two seeming contradictions don’t cancel one another. Once the conflict has been overcome in you, you realize you are a living paradox and so is everyone else. You begin to see life in a truly spiritual way.

Perhaps this is why Paul loves to teach dialectically. He presents two seemingly opposing ideas, such as weakness and strength, flesh and spirit, law and grace, faith and works, Jew and Greek, male and female. Dualistic thinking usually takes one side, dismisses the other, and stops there. Paul doesn’t do that. He forces us onto the horns of the dilemma and invites us to wrestle with the paradox. If we stay with him in the full struggle, we’ll realize that he eventually brings reconciliation on a higher level, beyond the essential struggle where almost all of us start.

Paul is the first clear successor to Jesus as a nondual teacher. He creates the mystical foundations for Christianity. It’s a mystery of participation in Christ. It’s not something that we achieve by performance. It’s something that we’re already participating in, and often we just don’t know it. We are all already flowing in this Christ consciousness, this Trinitarian flow of life and love moving in and around and through everything; we just don’t realize it.

The Earth Is at the Same Time Mother

March 18th, 2022

Father Richard recognizes the divine feminine has been at work at all times and in all places, even when she has not been affirmed or even recognized:

Today on many levels, we are witnessing an immense longing for the mature feminine at every level of our society—from our politics to our economics, in our psyche, our cultures, our patterns of leadership, and our theologies, all of which have become far too warlike, competitive, mechanistic and non-contemplative. We are terribly imbalanced.

Like the Christ Mystery itself, the deep feminine often works underground and in mysterious ways, and—from that position—creates a much more intoxicating message. While church and culture have often denied women roles, offices, and formal authority, the Divine Feminine has continued to exercise incredible power at the cosmic and personal levels. Feminine power is deeply relational and thus transformative, bringing new life from both the womb and the symbolic tombs where we have locked away our hurt and pain. [1]

Hear this magnificently courageous poem from the Book of Proverbs 8:30–31:

“I was by God’s side, a master craftswoman, delighting God day after day, ever at play in God’s presence, at play everywhere in God’s world, delighting to be with the children of humans.” [Father Richard: Read Proverbs 8:22–31 to be both enthralled and shocked by this notion of Sophia as the feminine side of creation from the very beginning. Who had the courage to talk this way in a monotheistic religion?]

The mystic and Doctor of the Church Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) proclaimed the feminine aspects of God, challenging both church and culture. Author and spiritual teacher Mirabai Starr considers Hildegard’s relevance for our time:

Although Hildegard was recognized as a saint among her own people . . . over the ages, her teachings faded into obscurity. It has only been since the twentieth century, in light of a renewed interest in feminine spirituality, that Hildegard’s transmission has been revivified. Her recognition of nature as sacred and her outstanding musical gifts directly address our contemporary hunger for a spirituality that is both socially relevant and passionately alive. [2]

Starr explores Hildegard’s visions:

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. This life-giving energy is imbued with a distinctly feminine quality.

The earth is at the same time
she is the 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 [in human form], but the Mother forms the very stuff from which the Word of God issues forth into the world. [4]

March 16th, 2022

The Circle Dance of God

Father Richard writes that our images of God become more fluid as we grow in spiritual maturity: 

God comes to each of us in unique ways throughout our lives. It may be good if God comes to us as a Father, but sometimes God must come as a friend and other times as a lover. Yet as we continue on our spiritual journeys, I promise that sometimes God will reveal himself in feminine form: himself as herself. (Perhaps it will be through Sophia infusing us with wisdom, or Mary loving us as she loved her son Jesus.) For some of us, this may be the first time that we fall in love with God. I know many such people myself.

We have to break through our ideas about God to find out who God really is. Our early and spontaneous images of God are typically a mixture of our experiences with our own mothers and fathers. If our mother was harshly critical, so is our God. If our father was domineering or authoritative, likewise our God. It’s almost tragic to witness how many people are afraid of God, experience God as cold and absent, and even have a sense of God as someone who might hurt and betray them. These ideas about God reveal far more about the state of our parent symbols than they do about our Trinitarian God.

Many of us, consciously or unconsciously, have pictured God and reality as a pyramid-shaped universe. We placed a male God at the top of the triangle and everything else beneath. Most Christian art, church design, and architecture reflects this pyramidal worldview. Humanity’s capacity to disguise its own flaws, even through religion, seems endless. Pyramid or patriarchal logic is only “logical” when applied in favor of the system and the status quo—which it proudly calls the “real world.” Our very inability to recognize that shows how little influence the dynamic Trinity had on our historical ways of thinking. Trinitarian thinking is more spiral, circle, and flow than pyramid.

We truly have nothing to be afraid of. The Trinitarian flow of God’s love is like the rise and fall of tides on a shore. In a Trinitarian Universe, reality can be pictured as an Infinite, Loving Outpouring that empowers and generates an Eternal, Loving Infolding. This eternal flow outward is echoed in history by every animal, fish, flower, bird, and planet you have ever seen. It is the universe: the first incarnation of God.

All we have to lose are the false images of God that do not serve us and are too small.

The foundational good news is that all of creation and all of humanity have been drawn into this loving flow (no exceptions)! We are not outsiders or spectators but inherently part of the divine dance. Such good theology was supposed to create good politics and history. We still have hope.