Archive for May, 2022

May 31st, 2022

Ever-Widening Circles

Father Richard describes his spiritual development as a “pilgrim’s progress,” with God using the circumstances of his life—particularly his international ministry and travel—to expand his vision, heart, and mind:

As I moved in ever-widening circles around the world, the solid ground of the perennial tradition never really shifted. It was only the lens, the criteria, the inner space, and the scope that continued to expand. I was always being moved toward greater differentiation and larger viewpoints, and simultaneously toward a greater inclusivity in my ideas, a deeper understanding of people, and a more honest sense of justice. God always became bigger and led me to bigger places. If God could “include” and allow, then why not I? If God asked me to love unconditionally and universally, then it was clear that God operated in the same way.

Soon there was a much bigger world for me than the United States and the Roman Catholic Church, which I eventually realized also contained paradoxes. The e pluribus unum (“out of many, one”) on American coinage did not include very many of its own people (women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ people, poor folks, people with disabilities, and so many more). As a Christian I finally had to be either Roman or catholic, and I continue to choose the catholic end of that spectrum—remember, catholic means universal. Either Jesus is the “savior of the world” (John 4:42), or he is not much of a savior at all. Either America treats the rest of the world and its own citizens democratically, or it does not really believe in democracy at all. That’s the way I see it.

But this slow process of transformation and the realizations that came with it were not either-or decisions; they were great big both-and realizations. None of it happened without much prayer, self-doubt, study, and conversation. The journey itself led me to a deepening sense of holiness, freedom, and wholeness. Although I didn’t begin thinking this way, I now hope and believe that a kind of second simplicity is the very goal of mature adulthood and mature religion.

My small, personal viewpoint as a central reference for anything, or for rightly judging anything, gradually faded as life went on. The very meaning of the word universe is to “turn around one thing.” I know am not that one thing. There is Big Truth in this universe, and it certainly isn’t mine.

Mature religions, and now some scientists, say that we are hardwired for the Big Picture, for transcendence, for ongoing growth, for union with ourselves and everything else. Either God is for everybody, and the divine DNA is somehow in all creatures, or this God is not God by any common definition, or even much of a god at all. We are driven toward ever higher levels of union and ability to include, even if some of us go kicking and screaming. “Everything that rises must converge,” as Teilhard de Chardin put it. [1]

Seeing All the Things

For Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, religion at its best teaches us how to “see” with greater clarity, which increases our courage and capacity to love ourselves, others, even our enemies.

In its truest sense, religion should reconnect human beings—bind them again—to the creation, to one another, to the divine, to love. Religion should reveal to us how much we need one another to survive and thrive. Religion should be revelatory and revolutionary, helping us see how our biases about color, gender, sexuality, and class cause deep hurt to both body and soul. . . .

The teaching of rabbi Jesus is simple: Love God. Love neighbor. Love self. Love period. . . .

At a lecture in Israel, I heard one of my favorite rabbis, Donniel Hartman, say, “A life of faith isn’t just about walking with God, but how one walks with humanity. The core feature of a moral life is to see. Choosing not to see is immoral. The goal of religion is to improve our willingness and our ability to see.” A spiritual life is supposed to help us see better. The aim of Love, and any God worth worshipping, is improved sight. . . .

An ethical and moral life is about letting go of indifference and learning how to see. It’s about waking up to love ourselves, love our posse, and love our world. Imagine love as our shared spiritual practice, binding us to one another, enabling us to see our connection—that we are kin. . . .

In order to live a moral life, a good life, an ubuntu life [1], we must commit to a life of love that means seeing all the things. See your neighbor suffering and do something about it. See a stranger laboring under a heavy load and help out. See lies spoken and shared in social media and call foul. See a friend soaring, and say, “I see you, beautiful creature!” to build their self-love tank. . . .

Friend, you are the only one standing where you stand, seeing what you see, with your vantage point, your story. You are right there for a reason: to have, as my dear friend Ruby Sales says, “hindsight, insight, and foresight.” I want us to learn to see, with our eyes wide open, how best to be healers and transformers. I want us to really see, to fully awaken, to the hot-mess times we are in and to the incredible power we have to love ourselves into wellness. . . .

I want us open to revelation, not afraid of it, and open to the ways that it will provoke us to believe assiduously in how lovable we each are, and in the love between us and among us because, actually, believing is seeing. 

Believing is seeing our connection: We are one.

Seeing Jesus Again

In the latest season of the CAC podcast Learning How to See, Diana Butler Bass speaks about seeing Christianity in a fresh way:

The question of how we see, and what the lenses are that allow us to understand our lives and the world more deeply is a question that I’ve cared about for a really long time. . . . How do we understand where and how the divine, where God, the Holy Spirit is operating in our lives, in our institutions, and the world around us? What gives us the capacity to even understand any of that? . . . In the latest book [Freeing Jesus], what I really wanted to do is settle down to the basic issue, or the basic central reality of Christianity. Because people started asking me about ten years ago, “Why do you stay Christian?” . . . And I’d have all sorts of fancy answers and then I’d just say, well, it’s because of Jesus. . . .

That’s where I wanted to go, and think about: who is Jesus really? Who has Jesus been for me? And why has that been so central to my own life story? . . . And I think where Freeing Jesus has taken me is that somehow staying Christian is about staying in and with and through Jesus. Jesus has everything to do with it. And that really matters to me. Yet Jesus has not stayed the same for me through my whole life’s journey. And so, I’ve had to be open to understanding that, even though there’s one verse in Hebrews that says “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever” [Hebrews 13:8], I have not stayed the same yesterday, today, and forever. The church does not stay the same yesterday, today, and forever. And so, in a very real way, Jesus has changed for me. Jesus changes for the world. Jesus changes for the institutions of faith, for the church. . . . If you’re not doing that kind of work, of letting the end of one image emerge for you and a new image of Jesus be born for you, you’re probably in a pretty static place in your own faith.

In Freeing Jesus, Bass describes our relationship with Jesus as a dynamic opportunity to see God and ourselves perpetually anew: 

If we think that being with Jesus means getting the right answers from a creed or remembering points of doctrine from a sermon, we probably will not manage to truly know Jesus. We will only succeed in keeping the right responses scribbled on some back page of our memory. “Who are you, Lord?” [Acts 9:3–5] is the question of a lifetime, to be asked and experienced over and over again. That query frees Jesus to show up in our lives over and over again, and entails remembering where we first met, how we struggled with each other along the road, and what we learned in the process. [1]

Living Our Faith in All Circumstances

May 27th, 2022

Wherever we are on our journey with Christianity, Brian McLaren invites us to return to the instructions given by the Hebrew prophet Micah: “O human being, this is what God desires for you. That you do justice. That you love kindness. That you walk humbly in the presence of your God” (Micah 6:8). Brian writes:

Micah turns a religious question into a human question.

Christians very much like to call Jesus the Son of God. Jesus much preferred to call himself the Son of Man (or son of humanity). There are many layers of meaning to the term. But the simplest and most obvious is this: a son of humanity is a human being. If you want to put a finer point on it, son of means the essence of or perhaps a new generation of. Jesus is saying that he represents the essence of humanity, a new generation of humanity, a new kind of human being. In this light, his constant invitation, follow me, means imitate me and join me on my journey toward a new way of being human. . . .

In that light, whatever you choose to call yourself, Christian or not, I hope you will aspire to be a humble human being . . . religiously. . . .

I hope you will desire to be a kind human being, because . . . that person you call your enemy . . . that person is part of your family, part of your species, part of your story, part of your kind. . . .

And in addition to being a humble and kind human being, I hope you will aspire to being a just human being. Don’t seek power over others to control or exploit them or harm them. Instead, use whatever power that comes your way for the common good, so that all people everywhere can share equal justice and equal dignity. Seek justice. Love justice. Do justice. Be a just human being . . . religiously.

When I say religiously, I mean intentionally, seeking out practices that promote justice, kindness, and humility. And I mean collaboratively, joining or building communities or networks that promote those practices. And I mean reverently, knowing how precious this heartbeat and this breath really are, and feeling every moment how much danger and opportunity are held in these human hands. Religiously, as I’m using the term, means with a sense of the sacredness of everything and a commitment to re-consecrate everything.

In the midst of uncertainty for what the future of Christianity holds, Brian invites us to continue what he calls “our spiritual quest”:

To become the most just, kind, and humble version of ourselves that we possibly can, day by day . . . to practice a faith that expresses itself in love . . . to lean with others into a new humanity, a new generation or new kind of humanity, open to every good resource that can help us, explicitly Christian or not.

Sarah Young Jesus Calling

Seek My face at the beginning of your day. Put me on; “wear Me”, think My thoughts allow the Holy Spirit to control your thinking.

Psalm 27:8 NKJV… When You said, “Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”

Romans 13:14… Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.–A continuation of the metaphor introduced in Romans 13:12.So invest and identify yourselves with the spirit of Christ as to reproduce it in your outward walk and conduct.

1 Corinthians 2:16…For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”

Colossians 3:12…You are God’s chosen people. You are holy and dearly loved. So put on tender mercy and kindness as if they were your clothes. Don’t be proud.

What Does it Mean to Set Jesus Free?

May 26th, 2022

Church historian Diana Butler Bass shares a moment she experienced while at prayer before the icon of Jesus in the Washington National Cathedral:

“Get me out of here,” the voice said again.

I stared up at the icon. “Jesus? Is that you?”

“Get me out of here,” I heard again, more insistent now.

“But Lord . . .”

The chapel fell silent, but I know I heard a divine demand for freedom. . . .

Millions of Americans have left church behind, probably many more have left emotionally, and countless others are wondering if they should. One of the most consistent things I hear from those who have left, those doubting their faith, and those just hanging on is that church or Christianity has failed them, wounded them, betrayed them, or maybe just bored them—and they do not want to have much to do with it any longer.

Bass reflects on the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our building-bound Christianity:

As millions have discovered in these many months, Jesus was not confined to a building. Jesus was around our tables at home, with us on walks and hikes, present in music, art, and books, and visible in faces via Zoom. Jesus was with us when we felt we could do no more, overwhelmed by work and online school. Jesus was with us as we prayed with the sick in hospital over cell phones. Jesus did not leave us to suffer alone. COVID-19 forced Jesus out of the cathedral into the world, reminding Christians that church is not a building. Rather, church is wherever two or three are gathered—even if the “two” is only you and your cat—and where Jesus is present in bread that regular people bake, bless, and break at family tables and homemade altars. I did not liberate Jesus from the cathedral; a pandemic did. Jesus is with us. Here.

One day, the doors will open again. Many will not go back to church, mostly because they left some time ago. They did not need help to find Jesus in their lives and in the world. They were already discovering what it meant to follow Jesus beyond the church. Perhaps the pandemic hastened the process, caused them to ask new questions, or renewed their courage on the journey.

But many others will return. And, as before, people will sit close, hug and pass the peace, and share bread and wine. I suspect I will pray again at the altar in the National Cathedral, under the gaze of Jesus. I cannot predict what he might say. I do, however, know what I will say: “Thank you.” Whatever happens, however, I hope none of us will ever forget the Jesus we have met in our own lives, who has been with us in fear and confusion and loss, in forced isolation and the surprising moments of joy, and through the ministrations of our shared human priesthood. It all matters. All of it.

Sarah Young….

I Am the first and the last. Find in Me the stability you need in your life.

Revelations 22:13… I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

Romans 5:12…Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way, death came to all people,

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.”

May 25th, 2022

What Does It Mean to Be Black, Christian, and American? 

Danté Stewart, a minister and writer, honors the central place the Bible held in his family: 

There’s an old King James Version Bible sitting on my bookshelf. It is black, rugged; the gold lining on the pages shines as light hits it. The jacket is missing, and the threads have unloosened from one another over the years. It has been tried. It has traveled across the South, across time. Now it sits on a shelf where it keeps the company of books written by Black folk. Black folk who have read a similar Bible, who have wrestled with it, been confused by it. Black folk who have held it as tight as I do today.

When I open up this old Bible . . . I am suddenly surrounded by preachers and mothers and friends and saints and sinners who tried to love and live well—while failing, learning, and trying again. When I read these ancient scriptures, I hear the way they flowed from my momma’s lips. . . .

This was her language. It was the language of my grandmother, the language of her mother. . . .

After many years of worshipping and working in white church spaces, Stewart came to a crossroads in his faith:

As I live and move and have my being in this country, I wonder to myself: How do I be Black and Christian and American?

So I return to this old King James Bible, and our Black prayers, and Black sermons. . . .

I have learned that many of us have not given up on faith, just the way our faith has been used to oppress others. We have not given up on the Bible, just the way it has been used to marginalize others. We have not given up on Jesus . . . we’re not becoming less spiritual or religious. It’s just that we have learned to put up with less, much less. Today many people talk a lot about people leaving churches, giving up on Christianity, and rejecting Jesus. In reality, they have given up on the white supremacist brand of Christianity that cares more about power than Jesus, that does not care enough to take either our bodies or our futures seriously. Like James Baldwin, we are holding on to Jesus while also living with our fear, trauma, doubts, and hope. Our story and the story of Jesus are bound together in faith, hope, love, and community. . . .

Faith—honest, deep, vulnerable faith, as Baldwin writes—is about growing up, becoming more loving, more honest, and more vulnerable. It is facing ourselves and what we desire. It is finding a way to begin again each day. It is not that we have the right answer, or all the right solutions. It is that we have found deep meaning in the story of Jesus. We have learned, as James Cone writes, that “being black and Christian could be liberating.”

May 24th, 2022

Staying Out Loud

Over the decades Brian McLaren has had many conversations with faithful Christians who are also disillusioned by church and religion. After one evening spent in the company of two Roman Catholic sisters who have stayed in service to the church for over fifty years, McLaren reflects: 

“There are more than two options,” I thought. “I don’t have to choose between staying Christian compliantly or leaving Christianity defiantly. I can stay defiantly, like Sr. Ann and Sr. Jean [not their real names]. I can intentionally, consciously, resolutely refuse to leave . . . and with equal intention and resolution, I can refuse to comply with the status quo. I can occupy Christianity with a different way of being Christian.”

When I say stay defiantly, I don’t mean ungraciously. Srs. Ann and Jean radiate such gentleness and inner calm that accusations of being ungracious simply don’t stick. No, with firm yet gracious defiance, they will keep speaking their truths and will continue doing so from the inside as long as they can.

McLaren finds encouragement to remain a committed Christian in Jesus’ own decision to stay and wrestle with his Jewish faith even as he was rejected: 

I can no longer put a naïve trust in the structures of the Christian religion, seeing and knowing what I see and know now. But instead of rejecting my religious community, I remain paradoxically present to it, neither minimizing its faults nor hating it for its faults. . . .

Jesus, of course, counted this cost. He stayed out loud. And it’s worth noting where his staying led him. Not to winning. Not to success. It led him to the utter defeat and humiliation of the cross.

Was he a fool to keep faith through his dying breath, to translate his feeling of forsakenness into a prayer? Was he a fool to think that the legacy of the prophets, the legacy of his cousin John, and the legacy of his mother, Mary, were worth staying for, to save that legacy from corruption by the religious gatekeepers of his day?

Was he a fool to stay in the fray with the religious company men of his day, naming their corruption and toxicity with carefully chosen words like “whitewashed sepulchers” and “brood of vipers” [Matthew 23:27, 33]? Would he have been wiser to leave quietly for India and become Hindu, or to go quietly to China and become Buddhist instead of challenging the status quo of his own religion?

Was he a fool to think that the tiny handful of people who got only a tiny sliver of his message and saw some faint glimmer of what he saw could outlive him and do greater things than he had done?

Are you willing to be that kind of fool? Am I?

Today, at least, inspired by the example of Sr. Jean and Sr. Ann, I am.

May 22nd, 2022

Rebuilding from the Bottom Up

For over fifty years as a Franciscan priest, Father Richard Rohr has worked to reawaken Christians to the radical and transformative message of Jesus. It’s a message that is often distorted by culture and even by the Christian tradition itself. Richard reflects:

Our religion is not working well: suffering, fear, violence, injustice, greed, and meaninglessness still abound. This is not even close to the reign of God that Jesus taught. And we must be frank: in their behavior and impact upon the world, Christians are not much different than other people.

Many Christians are not highly transformed people; instead, they tend to reflect their own culture more than they operate as any kind of leaven within it. I speak especially of American Christians, because I am one. But if you are from another country, look at the Christians where you live and see if the same is true there.

Let’s be honest: religion has probably never had such a bad name. Christianity is now seen as “irrelevant” by some, “toxic” by many, and often as a large part of the problem rather than any kind of solution. Some of us are almost embarrassed to say we are Christian because of the negative images that word conjures in others’ minds. Young people especially are turned off by how judgmental, exclusionary, impractical, and ineffective Christian culture seems to be.

Most Christians have not been taught how to plug into the “mind of Christ”; thus, they often reflect the common mind of power, greed, and war instead. The dualistic mind reads reality in simple binaries—good and bad, right and wrong—and thinks itself smart because it chooses one side. This is getting us nowhere.

Throughout the history of Christianity, it would seem Jesus’ teaching has had little impact, except among people who surrendered to great love and great suffering. Could this be the real core of the Gospel? Such people experience God rather than merely have disconnected ideas about God. We need to rely on the mind of mystics now to offer any kind of alternative—contemplative or nondual—consciousness. We need practice-based religion that teaches us how to connect with the Infinite in ways that actually change us from our finite perspectives.

We must rediscover what St. Francis of Assisi (1182–1226) called the “marrow of the Gospel.” [1] It’s time to rebuild from the bottom up. If the foundation is not solid and sure, everything we try to build on top of it is weak and ineffective. Perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise that so much is tumbling down around us. It’s time to begin again. In the year 1205, Jesus spoke to Francis through the San Damiano cross: “Francis, rebuild my church, for you see it is falling into ruin.” If Jesus himself says the church is falling into ruin, I guess we can admit it also without being accused of being negative or unbelieving. Maybe we have to admit it for anything new and good to happen.

Christianity’s Violence Problem

CAC teacher Brian McLaren has long asked questions out loud that many have often asked only to themselves. In his new book Do I Stay Christian?,Brian outlines compelling reasons both to leave and stay within Christianity. Today we share his critique of Christianity’s complicity with violence. Such truth-telling can be difficult to read. We invite you to practice the contemplative stance of “holding the tension of opposites”:

Echoing its founder’s nonviolence, the Christian faith initially grew as a nonviolent spiritual movement of counter-imperial values. It promoted love, not war. Its primal creed elevated solidarity, not oppression and exclusion [see Galatians 3:26–28]. . . . The early Christians elevated the equality of friendship rather than the supremacy of hierarchy (John 15:15; 3 John 14, 15).

This commitment to nonviolence rapidly eroded in the early fourth century when the emperor Constantine declared Christianity the religion of the empire. This led to an acceptance of violence and domination against the empire’s enemies, but also perceived “enemies” from within: 

What the empire wanted to do, the church generally blessed. . . . This cozy relationship with empire continued long after the Roman Empire had fully collapsed. The church supported the empire’s many reincarnations in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, British, Russian, German, and American imperial ventures. Each empire could count on the mainstream Christian church to bless its successes, pardon its failures, and pacify and unify its masses.

A community with a history of violence to Jews . . . does not sound like a safe place for non-Christians. But as a chaplain to empire, Christianity was not a particularly safe place for Christians either—at least not those who chose to differ from the authorities of the church or state. Choosing to differ, in fact, was the root meaning of the word heresy. . . .

Historians generally agree: while the records are unreliable and incomplete, at least tens of thousands of suspected nonconformists were prosecuted by church courts between 1180 and 1450; many thousands were tortured; over a thousand were executed by church authorities. . . . In a seventy-year period starting in 1560, 80,000 women were tried as witches and 40,000 were killed. . . .

Today, abuse of Christians by Christians tends to be more emotional and spiritual than physical. But shunning and disowning (forms of relational banishment), public shaming and character assassination, private humiliations, church trials of nonconformists, blacklisting, and other forms of Christian-on-Christian cruelty continue, and more and more traumatized people are coming forward with their stories. . . .

To state the obvious: Jesus never tortured or killed or ruined the life of anyone, but the same cannot be said for the religion that claims to follow him.

Knowing what I now know, if I were not already a Christian, I would hesitate in becoming one, at least until the religion in all its major forms offers a fearless, searching, public moral accounting for its past crimes . . . first, against Jews, and also against its own nonconformist members.

Transformed by the Dark Night

May 13th, 2022

If something does not give birth to humility, and love, and dying to self, and godly simplicity, and silence—what can it be?
—John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, book 2, chapter 29

Although the dark night of the soul is a deeply personal experience, it has far-reaching implications for how we show up in our lives and interact with others with whom we live, work and pray. In the CAC podcast Turning to the Mystics, James Finley speaks of John of the Cross as a model for how the union of our souls with God in the dark night transforms our humanity.

When we look at the Spiritual Canticle and the light that shines out of the darkness and being married to God, mystical marriage and so on, [John] was really known for a sensitivity to the poor, his sensitivity to the sick. He was also known for his compassion. One of the friars writes in their journal, “When we go off on our little Sunday groups and small groups for our walk, we always hope John of the Cross will join us because he always makes us laugh.” The deep love he had for Teresa [of Ávila], this deep mystical friendship bond that they had, he was fully alive. At his death, the monastery that he went to, he deliberately chose one of the superiors who didn’t like him. On his death bed, he called the superior, “So whatever I did to contribute to the conflict between us, I want to apologize.” That’s how he died and it [was] said the superior came out crying. It changed his life.

So that’s the evidence of this [dark night]. It radicalizes, which I think is Christ consciousness in the world. It’s beyond the darkness of this world in a way that paradoxically radicalizes our presence in it to the holiness of life on life’s terms. . . . Sometimes I say to myself a little prayer in my advancing years, “God, help me to be the kind of old person young people want old people to be. Help me not just to talk like this, but help me to walk around like this and answer the phone like this and talk to my grandchildren like this.” We’re all trying to do our best here to walk the walk. [1]

Finley speaks of the fruit of our fidelity to the experience of the dark night:

If we stay the course and go through this, we find our way deeper, deeper, deeper, and then we can see that at any given moment in these ways, through marital love, through parenting, through solitude, through oneness with the world, through silence, through service to community, through art, in any given moment, there can come flashing forth our unexpected proximity to this mystical dimension of union. [2]

Sarah Young……

Thank Me in the midst of the crucible; look for areas where you need to let go and surrender.

1 Peter 5:6-7…⁶Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. ⁷Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Psalm 62:8…. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

1 Thessalonians 5:18…Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


May 12th, 2022

The mystic is not somebody who says, “Look what I’ve experienced. Look what I’ve achieved.” The mystic is the one who says, “Look what love has done to me.”. . .  There’s nothing left, but the being of love itself giving itself away as . . . the concreteness of who you simply are.
James Finley, Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate

Father Richard affirms love as the heart of all mystical experience:

It seems to me Christianity has put major emphasis on us loving God. Yet the mystics consistently describe an overwhelming experience of how God loves us! In their writings, God is the initiator, God is the doer, God is the one who seduces us. It’s all about God’s initiative. Then we certainly want to love back the way we have been loved. As Franciscan Jacopone da Todi (1230–1306) would say, weeping, “Love is not loved! Love is not loved!” [1] I want to love back the way I have been loved. But it’s not like I’ve got to prove my love for God by doing things. My job is simply to complete the circuit!

Mystics experience a full-bodied embrace and acceptance by Divine Love, and then spend their lives trying to verbalize and embody it. They invariably find ways to give that love back through forms of service and worship, but it’s never earning the love—it’s always returning the love. Can you feel the difference? Returning God’s love is almost a different language. It’s not based in fear, but in ecstasy.

God is always given, incarnate in every moment and present to those who know how to be present themselves. It is that simple and that difficult. To be present in prayer can be an experience of being loved at a deep level. I hope you have felt such intimacy alone with God; I promise it is available to you. Maybe we just need to be told that this divine intimacy is what we should expect. We’re afraid to ask for it; we’re afraid to seek it. It feels presumptuous. We don’t trust that such a love exists—and for us. But it does.

Mystics often use erotic language to describe the deep human-divine relationship found in contemplation. I have often wondered why God would give us such a strong and constant fascination with one another’s image, form, and face. I think it’s because all human loves are an increasingly demanding school preparing us for an infinite divine love.

Today we recognize this school of love as the only real training ground for “all the saints,” and it can never be limited to those who have fully graduated. As the entire New Testament does, we must apply the word “saints” to all of us who are in kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, or graduate programs. Love is one shared reality, and our common name for that one shared reality is “God” (see 1 John 4:7–21).

Sarah Young

Learn to relate to others through my love, not yours. My unlimited supply of Love is always available to you.

Psalm 36:5.. Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.

Exodus 33:14…The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28-29…”Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. ²⁹Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

May 11th, 2022


In his poem “Glosa á lo Divino,” John of the Cross reveals his deep trust in the mystery of “not knowing,” confident that it will lead him into greater intimacy with God. We share with you Mirabai Starr’s translation.

I would not sacrifice my soul 
for all the beauty of this world. 

There is only one thing
for which I would risk everything: 
an I-don’t-know-what
that lies hidden
in the heart of the Mystery. 

The taste of finite pleasure
leads nowhere.
All it does is exhaust the appetite 
and ravage the palate.
And so, I would not sacrifice my soul 
for all the sweetness of this world. 

But I would risk everything 
for an I-don’t-know-what 
that lies hidden
in the heart of the Mystery. 

The generous heart
does not collapse into the easy things, 
but rises up in adversity.

It settles for nothing.
Faith lifts it higher and higher. 

Such a heart savors
an I-don’t-know-what
found only in the heart of the Mystery. 

The soul that God has touched 
burns with love-longing.
Her tastes have been transfigured. 
Ordinary pleasures sicken her. 
She is like a person with a fever; 
nothing tastes good anymore. 

All she wants
is an I-don’t-know-what 
locked in the heart of 
the Mystery. . . .

I will never lose myself
for anything the senses can taste, 
nor for anything the mind can grasp, 
no matter how sublime, 
    how delicious.
I will not pause for beauty,
I will not linger over grace.
I am bound for
an I-don’t-know-what
deep within the heart of the Mystery.

—John of the Cross, Glosa á lo Divino, trans. Mirabai Starr

May 10th, 2022


What we need most
in order to make progress
is to be silent
before this great God
with our appetite
and with our tongue,
for the language
he best hears
is silent love. 

John of the Cross, Sayings of Light and Love, trans. Mirabai Starr

John of the Cross describes the doubt that disrupts a soul in the dark night, when all sense of knowing God is absent. Mirabai Starr translates from John’s classic work Dark Night of the Soul

The deep suffering of the soul in the night of sense comes not so much from the aridity she must endure but from this growing suspicion that she has lost her way. She thinks that all spiritual blessing is over and that God has abandoned her. She finds neither support nor delight in holy things. Growing weary, she struggles in vain to practice the tricks [prayer practices] that used to yield results. 

John of the Cross encourages those experiencing this dark night to trust the silence that comes when we surrender our need to speak to God using our own words: 

This is no time for discursive meditation. Instead, the soul must surrender into peace and quietude, even if she is convinced she is doing nothing and wasting time. She might assume that this lack of desire to think about anything is a sure sign of her laziness. But simple patience and perseverance in a state of formless prayerfulness, while doing nothing, accomplishes great things.

All that is required here is to set her soul free, unencumbered, to let her take a break from ideas and knowledge, to quit troubling herself about thinking and meditating. The soul must content herself with a loving attentiveness toward God, without agitation, without effort, without the desire to taste or feel him. These urges only disquiet and distract the soul from the peaceful quietude and sweet ease inherent in the gift of contemplation being offered.

The soul might continue to have qualms about wasting time. She may wonder if it would not be better to be doing something else, since she cannot think or activate anything in prayer. Let her bear these doubts calmly. There is no other way to go to prayer now than to surrender to this sweet ease and breadth of spirit. If the soul tries to engage her interior faculties to accomplish something, she will squander the goodness God is instilling in her through the peace in which she is simply resting. . . .

The best thing for the soul to do is to pay no attention to the fact that the actions of her faculties are slipping away. . . . She needs to get out of the way. In peaceful plentitude, let her now say “yes” to the infused contemplation God is bestowing upon her. . . . Contemplation is nothing other than a secret, peaceful, loving inflow of God. If given room, it will fire the soul in the spirit of love.