Archive for August, 2022

August 31st, 2022


Heaven Is a Great Party

In this homily, Father Richard considers the parable of the wedding feast and points out how few of us seem even to desire to attend God’s banquet. Click here to read the Gospel passage (Matthew 22:1–10). 

God has always had a very hard time giving away God: No one wants seems to want this gift. We’d rather have religion, and laws, and commandments, and obligations, and duties. I’m sure many of us attend church out of duty, but gathering with the Body of Christ is supposed to be a wedding feast. Do you know how many times in the four Gospels eternal life is described as a banquet, a feast, a party, a wedding, the marriage feast of the Lamb? There are fifteen different, direct allusions to eternal life being a great, big party. 

Do you know how many parables there are about eternal life being a courtroom or a judgment scene? One. Matthew 25. And that’s good. We need Matthew 25 because it makes it very clear that the ultimate issue is about how we care for the poor and marginalized. But we forget this good news of Jesus, sending a message out to the highways and the byways, inviting everybody who’s willing to come to the banquet. It’s that simple!  

Jesus goes out of his way to mention the good and the bad alike. We don’t like that either. We only want the good people to be there at the banquet, assuming, of course, that we’re the good people. Did you ever see the irony of that? Don’t you realize that every religion thinks that they are the ones that God likes? And we end up gathering at the party with that smug certitude; but when we do, it resembles something that very often isn’t much like a party. I don’t want to offend anybody, but sometimes only half of us even sing when we’re at church; half of us don’t even pick up the hymnals. I’m not trying to be cruel, but let’s just be honest and admit that many of us aren’t excited to be at church. For many of us, the Body of Christ is not a party.

Instead, we often believe that heaven is a giant courtroom scene. The good people win, the bad people lose, and almost everybody is bad except our group. That won’t work! It gives no joy and no hope to the world. It tells people they’re on the right side when sometimes they’re very unloving people who don’t care about the poor or the marginalized at all. And the statistics prove that Christians are no better than anybody else, in fact, very often—I’m sorry to say it—we’re worse. 

Do we want to be a part of the wedding feast to which all are invited? The only people who don’t get in on the party are those who don’t want to come—so I guess we have to ask ourselves, “Do we want to come?”

August 30th, 2022

A Sheep Lost and Found

In this 1951 sermon, theologian and mystic Howard Thurman (1900–1981) reflects on Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep, starting with the sheep’s perspective. Click here to read the Gospel passage (Luke 15:4–7).

A sheep was enjoying his grass . . . and then when he started feeling chilly, he didn’t recall, but the only thing that he remembers is that suddenly he became aware that he was cold, and there was a throwback in his mind, and he realized that he had been cold for some time. But, the grass was good. Then he looked around, and he discovered that he was alone. That everybody had gone. That is, that all the sheep had gone. And he began crying aloud.

And then the shepherd, who had many sheep, missed him when he got back to the fold, and he left his ninety and nine . . . to try to find this sheep that was lost. And Jesus says, “God is like that.” Nothing heavy and theological about that. Very little that is dogmatic, technically, about it. Just that here is a shepherd who loves his sheep, and one of the sheep in doing the most natural thing in the world—and that is to eat the grass—did it with such enthusiasm and over a time interval of such duration that he didn’t know when the shepherd called, and he was lost.

And why was he lost? He was lost because he was out of touch . . . with the group that sustained him, the group that fed him, that gave him a sense that he counted. That’s all. And as soon as he was out there alone, he said, “I’m just here by myself. Nothing but me in all of this? And I want to feel that I count with the others.” There’s a certain warmth in that. There’s a certain something that is creative and redemptive about the sense of community, about the fellowship.

Thurman speaks of the pain of being separated from our communities:

Insulation is something that is spiritual; . . . there’s something inside of me that pulls up . . . the drawbridge. . . . Sometimes I do it because I’m afraid; sometimes I do it because I’m clumsy and awkward, and I don’t quite know how to establish a relationship or relationships with my fellows that can float my spirit to them and bring their spirit to me. . . .

Now, Jesus says that God is like the shepherd, seeking always to find those who are out of community with their fellows, and when they have found it, when they have found their community with their fellows, then all the world seems to fit back into place, and life takes on a new meaning. . . .

The lost sheep. The searching shepherd. And the cry of anguish of the sheep was the voice of identification that the shepherd heard. That is how God is, if we let him.

August 29th, 2022

The Weeds and the Wheat

This week’s Daily Meditations focus on Jesus’ parables as teachings intended for our spiritual transformation. In this homily, Father Richard Rohr describes how Jesus’ parable of the weeds and wheat offers insight into becoming compassionate, “both-and” people instead of “either-or” people. Click here to read the Gospel passage (Matthew 13:24–30). 

This Gospel is not only extremely insightful, it’s also very realistic and compassionate. With injustices and crises in every part of the world, many of us are asking ultimate questions about good and evil. “Where do the weeds come from? Where does evil originate? Why do people do such harmful things?” I ask this about a dozen times every day. This world doesn’t make sense. How can people be so malicious, so unkind, so uncaring? It’s like we don’t know how to care anymore, as though we don’t know how to access our own hearts, our own souls, and our own spirits. 

For those of us who grew up as Christians, we may have heard this parable when we were younger. We may have been told to pull out the imperfect weeds and get rid of our faults. But since we really couldn’t get rid of them, we covered them up and pretended we didn’t have them. And that just doesn’t work.

Yet Jesus shows us an absolute realism. He says something that was never said to me when I was a young person: “Let the weeds and the wheat both grow together.” Wow! That’s risky. I can’t pretend to logically understand it, although I know it allows me to be compassionate with myself. After all, I’m also a field of weeds and wheat, just like you are, and just like everything is. Everything is a mixed bag, a combination of good and bad. We are not all weeds, but we are not all wheat, either. We have to learn, even now, to accept and forgive this mixed bag of reality in ourselves and in everybody else. If we don’t, we normally become very angry people. Our world is filled with a lot of angry people because they cannot accept their own weeds.

To accept this teaching doesn’t mean we can say, “It’s okay to be selfish, violent, and evil.” It simply means that we have some realism about ourselves and each other. We have to name the weed as a weed. We can’t just pretend it’s all wheat, all good, because it isn’t. We’re not perfect. Our countries are not perfect. The Church is not perfect. The project of learning how to love—which is our only life project—is quite simply learning to accept this. If you really love anybody, and I hope you all do, then you have learned to accept a person despite, and sometimes even because of, their faults.

What love means is to say, “I know your faults, I see your weeds, and I care for you anyway.” Only God’s heart, only the mind of Christ in us, really and fully knows how to do that.

Wisdom Teachings

Episcopal priest and CAC emerita teacher Cynthia Bourgeault describes how Jesus’ parables are a part of a genre that aims to bring about inner change in the hearer:

Parables are a wisdom genre. They belong to mashal, the Jewish branch of the universal tradition of sacred poetry, stories, proverbs, riddles, and dialogues through which wisdom is conveyed. . . .

We can see the razor edge of [Jesus’] brilliance as he takes the familiar world of mashal far beyond the safety zone of conventional morality into a world of radical reversal and paradox. He is transforming proverbs into parables—and a parable, incidentally, is not the same thing as an aphorism or a moral lesson. Its closest cousin is really the Buddhist koan, a deliberately subversive paradox aimed at turning our usual mind upside down. . . . Their job is not to confirm but to uproot. You can imagine the effect that had on his audience! Throughout the gospels we hear people saying again and again, “What is this he’s teaching? No one has ever said anything like this before. Where did he get this? Where did he come from?” [1]

Theologian Harvey Cox explores how parables invite the hearer to encounter God in an everyday and ever-changing reality: 

Stories were Jesus’ stock-in-trade, the main medium by which he conveyed his message. The parables occupy fully 35 percent of the first three Gospels. But one of their most surprising features is that they are not about God. They are about weddings and banquets, family tensions, muggings, farmers sowing and reaping, and shrewd business dealings. God is mentioned in only one or two. . . . Rabbi Jesus obviously wanted us to look closely at this world, not some other one. It is here and now—all around us in the most ordinary things—that we find the divine presence. . . .

But Jesus’ stories, though similar to Zen koans in some ways, were also different in important respects. While the Zen stories aim at changing one’s perception of the world, Jesus wanted people to see that the world itself was changing, and that therefore, they had better change the way they looked at it. He invited them, in effect, to become part of the change. Time after time he said, “They that have eyes to see, let them see, and they that have ears, let them hear.” He simply wanted people to pay attention to what was going on around them and to discern a reality that was just under their noses. To describe this change he used a term that his listeners would have found familiar, though they might have been startled by the way he used it. He called it the coming of the “reign of God.” What he meant was that something was happening, not just in the consciousness of the listener, but also in the world itself. Something new and unprecedented was happening, and they could be a part of it. [2]

Engaged Contemplation

August 26th, 2022

Author Sophfronia Scott draws on the wisdom and example of Trappist monk Thomas Merton (1915–1968) to discern her own response to the world’s pain: 

A hermitage is not where I’m supposed to be. Somehow I sense this. I’m supposed to be saying something, doing something. And yet I feel anything I could offer would get swallowed up in the noise—I’d be an infant crying out into a hurricane. I stand on the edge of an abyss, my hands in my pockets. . . . I feel as though Thomas [Merton] stands next to me in a similar stance. He helps me think about the possibilities. I think he’d say I have to get out there. I have to find a way to serve. He’d definitely say my hermitage idea is wrongheaded. 

The contemplative life is not, and cannot be, a mere withdrawal, a pure negation, a turning of one’s back on the world with its sufferings, its crises, its confusions and its errors,” he writes. “The attempt itself would be illusory. No person can withdraw completely from the society of other people.” [1] When he entered the monastery after months of spiritual struggle, Merton described a lightness, as of . . . a leaving of the world. . . . His writings from his earlier years focused mainly on the cultivation of interior spirituality. . . . But as he matured, both emotionally and spiritually, he too sensed there was more—way more—he could be doing. The world, the very state of it, required that he bring his voice to the table. . . .

In 1961, he wrote his first article on peace, “The Root of War Is Fear,” and laid out the place for Christians in the struggle for peace. He writes, “The duty of Christians in this crisis is to strive with all their power and intelligence, with their faith, hope in Christ, and love for God and humankind, to do the one task which God has imposed upon us in the world today. That task is to work for the total abolition of war.” [2] . . .  

In the introduction to Merton’s book Passion for Peace, author William H. Shannon writes, “What had happened to him was that his solitude had issued into what all true solitude must eventually become: compassion. . . . This sense of compassion . . . moved him to look once again at the world he thought he had left irrevocably twenty years earlier, in 1941, when he had entered the monastery. He now felt a duty, precisely because he was a contemplative, to speak out.” [3]
Scott takes consolation from Merton’s reflections on contemplative life and the world:   I only have to step forward in my own vulnerable, broken, unkind, silly humanity. And I need to keep writing. I feel, as Thomas once did, I’ve come to a starting point: “The conviction that I have not yet even begun to write, to think, to pray, and to live and that only now I am getting down to waking up.” [4]

Sarah Young….

Trust Me in the midst of a messy day. Your peace-in my presence need not be shaken by what is happening around you.

When you start to feel stressed, surrender and detach yourself from the issues surrounding you.

Know that in your surrendered state you will be at peace, the peace I give you and it is more than sufficient.

John 16:33
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Psalm 105:4
Seek out the LORD and His strength; seek His face always

JOHN 14:27
Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled …

Seeking God’s Will

August 25th, 2022

You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer the world before you can make it a better place. Discovering your unique gift to bring to your community is your greatest opportunity and challenge. The offering of that gift—your true self—is the most you can do to love and serve the world. And it is all the world needs. —Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft

Once we have discerned “What is mine to do?” it can be tempting to believe we have settled the question once and for all. However, clinging to a single answer may limit our ability to grow and to trust the ongoing guidance of the Holy Spirit. After founding the CAC, Father Richard remained open to discerning anew how he might serve those on the margins. He explains:  

In the mid 1990s, the head of the Franciscan Order in Rome said that he wanted each province in the world to send someone to Africa.  

I spoke with my spiritual director about it. We agreed that I was probably experiencing “success guilt,” feeling that everything had come far too easily to me. I think I still live with this. I really didn’t seek or search for such success, but now I am used to it. I am used to having power and used to being listened to and being kowtowed to. It’s dangerous when you are always the person that others are listening to. I guess I was afraid I was becoming too well-known and that my ego had gotten too big! So when this invitation came from Rome, I said, “I think I should go to Africa.”

I left CAC for a thirty-day discernment retreat with Maryknoll. My goal was to discover God’s will for my life, but I was fully expecting to go to Africa afterward. 

Near the end of the retreat we each sat down privately with the leadership team of four or five wise people, primarily nuns. They told us what they saw and heard and thought, so we didn’t have to take the decision on by ourselves. Nor did we have to follow their recommendations. We could go back to our own superiors and make the final decision. 

Well, the leadership team told me, “We are convinced that you have a gift for America—to preach the gospel to a first world country. There’s not much point in you talking about the poor in Kenya; you need to talk about it in North America.” It was the consensus of the whole group. They said, “It’s your decision, but we strongly recommend that you stay here and keep doing what you are doing. If you are worried about your success guilt, well, you can worry about it!” 

I remember driving back from San Antonio, Texas, all the way through the Guadalupe Mountains, and everything was beautiful! I felt so happy, relieved and recommitted to working with the Center for Action and Contemplation. 

Sara Young….

I am the eternal I am; I always have been, and I will always be.

I am intimately involved in all your moments and am training you to be aware of Me at all times.

When your thoughts wander, simply bring your thoughts back to Me….surrender, be connected and live out of that.

Exodus 3:14
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

1 Corinthians 3:16
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

Psalm 25:14-15
The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. 15 My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare. 

August 24th, 2022

Spirit-Led Action

CAC teacher Brian McLaren shares the power of ongoing discernment, allowing ourselves to be ever drawn by the Holy Spirit into service and action on behalf of others: 

The Spirit leads us downward. To the bottom, to the place of humility, to the position and posture of service . . . that’s where the Spirit, like water, flows. . . . 

If you listen to the Spirit, here is what will happen to you. You’ll be at a party and you’ll notice on one side of the room all the beautiful people laughing and having fun together. In a far corner, you’ll notice a person who is alone, feeling awkward, not knowing anyone. The Spirit will draw you to the person in need. You may become the bridge that connects the outsider to the insiders—and in that connection, both will be better off. . . .

Here’s what will happen to you if you listen to the Spirit. You will realize that someone is angry at you or resentful toward you . . . or worked behind your back to do you harm. Everything in you will want you to write them off or get them back. But the Spirit will draw you toward them in humility. . . . 

Here’s what will happen if you listen to the Spirit. You will see a person or a group being vilified or scapegoated. Everyone is blaming them, shaming them, gossiping about them, feeling superior to them, venting their anxieties on them. . . . But the Spirit will draw you to differ courageously and graciously. . . . You will risk your reputation in defending the person or people being scapegoated. And in that risk, both you and they will know that God’s Spirit is alive and at work in your midst. 

If you listen to the Spirit, here’s what will happen to you. It will be late. You will be tired. There will be dishes to do or clothes to pick up or trash to empty. Someone else should have done this, you will think with anger. You will rehearse in your mind the speech you will give them. And then you will think, But I guess they’re just as tired and overworked as I am. So maybe I can help.You won’t do this as a manipulative ploy but as a simple act of service. . . . 

There is a prison near you. A hospital. A park or a bridge or an alley where homeless people sleep. . . . There’s a country in great need or a social problem that few people notice. If you listen to the Spirit, you will be drawn toward an opportunity to serve. At first, the thought will frighten or repel you. But when you let the Spirit guide you, it will be a source of great joy—one of the richest blessings of your life. 

August 23rd, 2022

Our Unique Path to Action

Writer and educator Cole Arthur Riley describes contemplation’s integral connection to action that supports justice:  

Activism is the body of justice. It invites you into embodied declarations of dignity and worth. As you participate in its body, you find yourself increasingly grounded in your own.

I think activism is a virtue. To be a person who cares and honors creation is to be a person who acts in favor of its flourishing. I am distrustful of spiritual people who are not roused in their bodies on behalf of justice. We can disagree on what activism should look like, but not on the necessity of its existence or your participation in it. . . . 

A mentor and friend once said to me, If there is someone who is both activist and contemplative and who does both well, I have not yet met them. I silently accepted the challenge. He was articulating a very credible tension between the heart of the contemplative and the heart of the activist. At first strike, they appear inherently in conflict. The contemplative, some pillar of stillness, tasked with thinking and asking enduring questions that require a kind of slowness and pause. The activist, a beacon for the movement, committed to the doing of justice and mercy—not later but now, which does, as the name suggests, require action. 

But what if what we take as stillness is not always inactivity as we perceive it? Can there be a form of contemplation that is at once stillness and movement? Some might say the beginnings of Christian monasticism were, in part, a defiant protest against the elitism and centering of the upper class in the faith. And today, activism tells the truth about what is and imagines what should be. This imagination for justice requires contemplation. 

While committed to activism, it took Riley time to discern her true calling as a writer in the service of justice:  

For quite some time, the only portraits of activism I had were Dr. King and Malcolm X. Marches, rallies, sit-ins—holy embodiments that should be respected deeply, for they protect and guide us today. But the first time I picked up James Baldwin, I finally saw myself. It occurred to me that I could be an activist from my own source of power—words. 

It can only make our journey toward justice more robust, more beautiful, when we offer a diversity of paths, a more expansive vision of action. This is not new. This is Detour and Hiero Veiga’s graffiti art resurrecting Black faces slain by the police. This is Tricia Hersey and The Nap Ministry creating collective sleeping experiences to reclaim the justice and liberation in rest. . . . If writing is a calling, I have a responsibility to demand justice in my writing as much as in the streets. When we expand our imaginations for activism,

 When we expand our imaginations for activism, we enter into practices of lament and rage with more particularity, and we begin to realize more nuanced paths to justice.

August 21st, 2022

We Are Being Guided

What will happen if I really trust God’s love for me and allow God to direct my life? —Ilia Delio, Franciscan Prayer  

This week’s meditations focus on how we discern what actions are ours to do. As Francis of Assisi said on his deathbed, “I have done what is mine; may Christ teach you what is yours!” [1] Father Richard teaches that discernment begins with an authentic trust in God’s presence and guidance:

The full life of faith becomes a life of deep joy and rest. Once we are “grafted to the Vine,” to use Jesus’ words (see John 15:4–5), we don’t have to be anxious about many things (see Luke 10:41). We don’t have to be worried about the next moment or about tomorrow (see Matthew 6:34). We can trust that we are being guided; in fact, almost everything is seen as guidance. Our ability to trust that there is guidance available allows it to become guidance! Basically, we switch from the fixing, fully understanding, and controlling mode to the trusting, listening, and allowing mode. Then we start allowing the Divine Flow instead of stopping it with a “no” or a question mark

The Spirit in us knows how to use everything that happens to bring about healing and growth. We can trust that “God is even in this!” That does not mean we shouldn’t work to change and improve things; in fact, quite the contrary. But when our first heart and soul response is a “yes” and not a “no,” then we can experience God in the moment and see guidance in the events of our lives. We can trust that nothing is wasted. If there are changes and fixes that have to be made, we can now take care of them in an appropriate, calm, and positive way. That is what characterizes a mature believer in any religion.

Faith, as we see in the Hebrew Scriptures and Jesus’ usage of them, is much closer to our words “trust” or “confidence” than it is about believing doctrines to be true. Simply believing doctrines demands almost no ego-surrender or real change of the small self. Holding confidence that God is good, God can be trusted, and God is actively involved in my life is a much more powerful and effective practice. This is the practical power of biblical faith. Faith-filled people are, quite simply, usable for larger purposes because they live in and listen to a much Larger Self.  

Richard shares that contemplative practice helps us grow in such trusting faith:

From my own experience, I know I need a contemplative practice. Some form of the prayer of quiet is necessary to touch me at the unconscious level, the level where deep and lasting transformation occurs. From my place of prayer, I am able to understand more clearly what is mine to do and have the courage to do it.  

Contemplation and Right Action

Father Richard shares about an important time of discernment in his life:

There are two spiritual disciplines that keep me honest and growing: contemplative prayer and the perspective from the bottom. In 1985, I was freed for a year to pursue the contemplative part of my vocation. It was a major turning point. Father William McNamara’s definition of contemplation—“a long loving look at the real”—became transformative. [1] The world, my own issues and hurts, all goals and desires gradually dissolved into proper perspective. God became obvious and everywhere. 

Ultimately, we do not earn or find God. We just get ourselves out of the way. We let go of illusions and the preoccupations of our smaller selves. As the cheap scaffolding falls away, the soul stands revealed. The soul, or True Self, cannot be created or achieved by our work. It just is, and it is already. The soul is God’s “I AM” continued in me. That part of me already knows, desires, and truly seeks God. Discernment of God’s will comes naturally to the True Self because here “I” and God seem to be one “I.” 

Richard reflects on how this extended time of contemplation brought him to a point of decisive action: 

After my sabbatical year, I found my way to the conviction that I should open the Center for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico. I wanted to help people get thoroughly involved in the issues and goals of social justice, to help people work in solidarity with those on the margins, but from the right point of departure. It is possible to do the right thing for the wrong reasons! 

Contemplation is a way to hear with the Spirit and not just with the head. Contemplation is the search for a wide-open space, a space broad enough for the head, the heart, the feelings, the gut, the subconscious, our memories, our intuitions, our whole body. We need a holistic place for discerning wisdom.

The effect of contemplation is authentic action; if contemplation doesn’t lead to genuine action, then it remains only navel-gazing and self-preoccupation. 

I’m convinced that if we stick with it, if we practice contemplation regularly, then we will come to an inner place of compassion—for ourselves and for others. In this place, we notice how much the suffering of the world is our suffering. We become committed to this world, not cerebrally, but from the much deeper perspective of our soul. At this point, we’re indestructible, because in that place we find the peace that the world cannot give. We don’t need to win anymore; we just need to do what we have to do, as naive and simplistic as that might sound. That’s why Augustine could make such an outrageous statement as “Love [God] and do what you will”! [2] People who are living from a truly God-centered place instead of a self-centered place are dangerously free precisely because they are tethered at the center. 

The Sign of Jonah

August 19th, 2022

Father Richard describes the pattern of transformation Jesus offers through “the sign of Jonah,” which is the mystery of death and resurrection:

Jesus’ primary metaphor for the mystery of transformation is the sign of Jonah (Matthew 12:39, 16:4; Luke 11:29). Jesus tells the growing crowds, “It is an evil and adulterous generation that wants a sign” (Luke 11:29), and then says the only sign he will give is the sign of Jonah. As a Jew, Jesus knew well the graphic story of Jonah the prophet who ran from God and was used by God almost in spite of himself. Jonah was swallowed by a whale and taken where he would rather not go. This was Jesus’ metaphor for death and rebirth.

Rather than look for impressive apparitions or miracles, Jesus said we must go inside the whale’s belly for a while. Then and only then will we be spit out on a new shore and understand our call, our place, and our purpose. Paul wrote about “reproducing the pattern” of Jesus’ death and thus understanding resurrection (Philippians 3:10–11). Unless we have gone down, we do not know what up is! Unless we descend, we won’t long for and make inner space for ascent.

This is the only pattern Jesus promises us, and we see it mirrored in other traditions as well. Native religions speak of winter and summer; mystical authors speak of darkness and light; Eastern religions speak of yin and yang or the Tao. Christians call it the paschal mystery; all point to the same necessity of both descent and ascent, usually in that order.

The paschal mystery is the pattern of transformation, and it indeed is a mystery—that is, it is not logical or rational at all. We are transformed through death and rising, probably many times in our lifetime. For some cosmic reason, there seems to be no better crucible of growth and transformation. 

We seldom go freely into the belly of the beast. Unless we face a major disaster such as the death of a friend, child, or spouse or the loss of a marriage or career, we usually will not go there. As a culture, we have to be taught the language of descent because we are by training capitalists and accumulators. Mature religion shows us how to enter willingly and trustingly into difficult periods of life. These hard passages are good teachers.

We would prefer clear and easy answers, but questions offer the greatest potential for opening us to transformation. We try to change events in order to avoid changing ourselves. We must learn to stay with the pain of life, without answers, without conclusions, and some days without meaning. That is the perilous hidden path of contemplative prayer. Grace leads us to the state of emptiness—to a momentary sense of meaninglessness—in which we ask, “What is it all for?” The spaciousness within the question allows Love to fill and enliven us.

Sarah Young….

I continually call you to closeness with Me. I can read the emptiness of your thoughts when you wander from Me. Find fulfillment in Me as you surrender and release all your deficiencies onto Me. This is how to trust Me in the moments of your life.

Psalm 131:2
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 

Psalm 21:6
For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

Psalm 37:7
Be still before the Lord. and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Jeremiah 17:7
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord — That lives in continual obedience to him, and relies entirely upon him for every

Dazzling Darkness

August 18th, 2022

Author and CAC friend Mirabai Starr finds inspiration in mystics Julian of Norwich (1343–c. 1416) and John of the Cross (1542–1591). Both endured profound suffering and yet discovered a deep and Divine love in its midst.

Mystics see through a lens of paradox: dazzling darkness, beautiful wound, the longing that is the remedy for longing. Paradox points beyond itself to a truth that both transcends and includes logic, a truth that is alive, generative, and whole. Such a dynamic mode of knowing demands our complete attention. . . . 

What does a religious woman who dwelt in an anchor-hold during the Middle Ages have to do with you and me today? Julian endured a long and cruel pandemic. The disease ravaged her community and carried off the people that she loved. She learned to shelter in place, focusing on cultivating her interior landscape and sharing the fruits of her wisdom through the window that opened from her cell onto the busy streets of her city (think computer screen and Zoom), where she offered counsel to visitors . . . each day. 

She found solace, not in the wrathful father-god of her childhood, but in an unconditionally loving Mother-God who could not help but forgive the transgressions of each one of her darling kids. She recognized that everything that is could be contained in a hazelnut in the palm of God’s hand, and that it all endures because God adores every particle of Her creation. She also realized that, even though the night feels impenetrable now, dawn is coming, when we will see with our own eyes that not only is every little thing going to be alright, but that it has been all along. 

And how could a renegade monk, who survived the Spanish Inquisition despite the Jewish and Moorish blood that flowed through his veins, have anything to teach us about flourishing in our own dark nights? John of the Cross illumines the transformational power of radical unknowing. He rekindles our latent longing for union with the Beloved and, through sublime poetry and precise prose, blows on the flames so that they dance back to life in our beleaguered hearts.

He reminds us that when everything in us wants to rush out and fix the problem of our brokenness, both individual and collective, the wisest and most loving thing to do is to be still, letting go of our attachment to the way we thought the spiritual life was supposed to feel and the sense we assumed it should make. Once we step out of our own way, into the dark and empty vessel of the soul, “an ineffable sweetness” will begin to rise, permeating and nourishing the quiet earth, uncovering a resurrection we never dreamed possible: a dazzling darkness, a radiant night, a revolutionary newness of being.

But maybe not quite yet. 

We are not alone. The wise ones who walked before us have left luminous footprints for us to follow in our own apocalyptic times.

Sarah Young…..

Expect to encountered difficulties in life. Stop trying to find a way to circumvent life’s difficulties. Know that your trials bring you closer to Me as you surrender and allow Me to fight for you.

Job 5:7
Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward

Revelation 19:1
After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,

Psalm 91:1
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High. will rest in the shadow of the Almighty