At Home in God

March 28th, 2019 by JDVaughn No comments »

Growing in Christ: Week 2

At Home in God
Thursday, March 28, 2019

If I am not doing my Father’s work, there is no need to believe in me, but at least believe in the work I do; then you will know for sure that the Father is in me and I am in the Father. —John 10:37-38

David Benner, a friend and depth psychologist, explores what it means to grow in Christ, and I think he does it very well:

Being one with the Father seems to have been central to the consciousness of Jesus. His whole life flowed out of this fundamental awareness. I am quite convinced that this [awareness] had to be cultivated. It makes a mockery of his humanity to think that as an infant he knew he was God. His humanity demanded that he grow physically, psychologically, and spiritually. . . .

[Jesus’] own teachings assure us that we also can and are meant to know a similar oneness. This is the testimony of those who have encountered their divine self. . . .

Mystics [across all spiritual traditions] love the Divine so much that they no longer see any boundaries between God and mortals. . . . They point to a single center of their deepest knowing—that they are one with the Beloved, and that the further they go in this journey of love into the Beloved, the less clear any boundaries between God and self become. Cynthia Bourgeault states, “As we move toward our center, our own being and the divine being become more and more mysteriously interwoven.” [1]

Meister Eckhart [c. 1260–c. 1328] speaks of a place in the depths of our soul in which God alone can dwell and in which we dwell in God. Meeting God in this place, we are invited to sink into what he calls “the eternity of the Divine essence.” Doing so, however, we never become the Divine essence. This, he says, is because “God has left a little point wherein the soul turns back on itself and finds itself, and knows itself to be a creature.” [2] The Christian mystics do not confuse themselves and God. They know that in union with God, human personality is neither lost nor converted into divine personality. But they also know the profound inadequacy of language to either hold or communicate these deep mysteries.

I have been blessed to have the opportunity to know well several people for whom union with God was not just a momentary experience but a relatively stable part of their ongoing journey. . . .

What struck me most as I related to them over time was that their ever-deepening journey into God made them more deeply human, not less human. . . . None showed an avoidance of the realities of life, and none seemed to use their spiritual experience as an escape. Although by this point they had all established a contemplative dimension to their life, they all were active in serving others in the world. This, they knew, was their home, and it was here that they had learned to meet God.

A Hidden Wholeness

March 27th, 2019 by Dave No comments »

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

As we grow spiritually, we discover that we are not as separate as we thought we were. Separation from God, self, and others was a deep and tragic illusion. As we grow into deeper connection and union, the things that once brought meaning and happiness to our small self no longer satisfy us. We tried to create artificial fullness through many kinds of addictive behavior, but still feel empty and nothing, if we are honest. We need much more nutritious food to feed our Bigger Self; mere entertainments, time-fillers, diversions, and distractions will no longer work.

At the more mature stages of life, we are even able to allow the painful and the formerly excluded parts to belong to a slowly growing and unified field. This shows itself as a foundational compassion, especially toward all things different from us and those many people who don’t fit society’s standards. If you have forgiven yourself for being imperfect, you can now do it for everybody else too. If you have not forgiven yourself, I am afraid you will likely pass on your sadness, absurdity, judgment, and futility to others. What comes around goes around.

Many who are judgmental and unforgiving seem to have missed out on the joy and clarity of the first childhood simplicity, perhaps avoided the suffering of the mid-life complexity, and thus lost the great freedom and magnanimity of the second naïveté as well. We need to hold together all of the stages of life, and for some strange, wonderful reason, it all becomes quite “simple” as we approach our later years. The great irony is that we must go through a lot of complexity and disorder (another word for necessary suffering) to return to the second simplicity. We must go through the pain of disorder to grow up and switch our loyalties from self to God. Most people just try to maintain their initial “order” at all costs, even if it is killing them.

As we grow in wisdom, we realize that everything belongs and everything can be received. We see that life and death are not opposites. They do not cancel one another out; neither do goodness and badness. There is now room for everything to belong. A radical, almost nonsensical “okayness” characterizes the mature believer, which is why they are often called “holy fools.” We don’t have to deny, dismiss, defy, or ignore reality anymore. What is, is gradually okay. What is, is the greatest of teachers. At the bottom of all reality is always a deep goodness, or what Thomas Merton called “a hidden wholeness.” [1]

Human Development in Scripture

March 26th, 2019 by JDVaughn No comments »

Growing in Christ: Week 2

Human Development in Scripture
Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Walter Brueggemann, one of my favorite Scripture scholars, brilliantly connects the development of the Hebrew Scriptures with the development of human consciousness. [1]

Brueggemann says there are three major parts of the Hebrew Scriptures: the Torah, the Prophets, and the Wisdom Literature. The Torah, or the first five books, corresponds to the first half of life. This is the period in which the people of Israel were given their identity through law, tradition, structure, certitude, group ritual, clarity, and chosenness. As individuals, we each must begin with some clear structure and predictability for normal healthy development (a la Maria Montessori). That’s what parents are giving their little ones—containment, security, safety, specialness. Ideally, you first learn you are beloved by being mirrored in the loving gaze of your parents and those around you. You realize you are special and life is good—and thus you feel safe.

The second major section of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Prophets, introduces the necessary suffering, “stumbling stones,” and failures that initiate you into the second half of life. Prophetic thinking is the capacity for healthy self-criticism, the ability to recognize your own dark side. Without failure, suffering, and shadowboxing, most people (and most of religion) never move beyond narcissism and clannish thinking (egoism extended to the group). This has been most of human history up to now, which is why war has been the norm. But healthy self-criticism helps you realize you are not that good and neither is your group. It begins to break down either/or, dualistic thinking as you realize all things are both good and bad. This makes idolatry, and the delusions that go with it, impossible.

My mother could give me “prophetic criticism” and discipline me and it didn’t hurt me indefinitely because she gave me all the loving and kissing and holding in advance. I knew the beloved status first of all, and because of that I could take being criticized and told I wasn’t the center of the world.

The leaven of self-criticism, added to the certainty of your own specialness, will allow you to move to the third section of the Hebrew Scriptures: the Wisdom Literature (many of the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, and the Book of Job). Here you discover the language of mystery and paradox. This is the second half of life. You are strong enough now to hold together contradictions in yourself and others with compassion, forgiveness, and patience. You realize that your chosenness is for the sake of letting others know they are also chosen. You have moved from the Torah’s exclusivity and “separation as holiness” to inclusivity and allowing everything to belong.

From Naïveté to Wisdom

March 25th, 2019 by Dave No comments »

Sunday, March 24, 2019

To grow toward love, union, salvation, or enlightenment (I use the words almost interchangeably), we must be moved from Order to Disorder and finally to Reorder.

ORDER: At this stage—our “first naïveté,” if we are granted it (and not all are)—we feel innocent and safe. Everything is basically good and has meaning. We have a seemingly God-given, unshakable, and satisfying explanation of how things are and should be. Those who try to stay here tend to refuse and avoid confusion, conflict, inconsistencies, suffering, or darkness. They do not like disorder or change. Even many Christians do not like anything that looks like “carrying the cross.” (This is the huge price we have paid for just thanking Jesus for what he did on the cross, instead of actually imitating him.) The ego compels each one of us to hunker down and pretend that my status quo is entirely good, should be good for everybody, and is always “true” and even the only truth. Permanent residence in this stage tends to create naïve people and control freaks. “Conservatives” tend to get trapped here.

DISORDER: Eventually our ideally ordered universe—our “private salvation project,” as Thomas Merton (1915–1968) called it—will disappoint us, if we are honest. As Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen (1934–2016) put it, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” [1] Your loved one dies, you lose a job, your children leave the church, or you finally realize that many people are excluded from “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This is the disorder stage, like the “fall” Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). It is necessary in some form if real growth is to occurbut some of us find this stage so uncomfortable we try to flee back to our contrived order. Others today seem to have given up and decided that “there is no universal order,” or at least no order we will submit to. Permanent residence in this stage tends to make people rather negative, cynical, angry, opinionated and dogmatic about one form of political correctness or another. “Liberals” tend to get trapped here.

REORDER: Every religion, each in its own way, is trying to move us to enlightenment, nirvana, heaven, salvation, or resurrection. Mature spirituality points to life on the other side of death, the victory on the other side of failure, the joy on the other side of the pains of childbirth. It insists on going throughnot under, over, or around. There is no nonstop flight to reorder. To arrive there, we must endure, learn from, and include the disorder stage, including the first naïve orderbut also transcending it! That is the hard won secret. Hold on to what was good about the first order but also offer needed correctives. People who have reached this stage, like the Jewish prophets, might be called “radical traditionalists.” They love their truth and their group enough to critique it. And they critique it enough to maintain their own integrity and intelligence. These wise ones have stopped over-reacting and over-defending. This is the real goal.


My Own Journey
Monday, March 25, 2019

One always learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence. —Robertson Davies [1]

We all came into this world gifted with innocence, but gradually, as we became more intelligent, we lost our innocence. We were born with silence, and as we grew up, we lost the silence and were filled with words. We lived in our hearts, and as time passed, we moved into our heads. Now the reversal of this journey is enlightenment. It is the journey from head back to the heart, from words, back to silence; getting back to our innocence in spite of our intelligence. Although very simple, this is a great achievement. Knowledge should lead you to that beautiful point of “I don’t know.” . . . The whole evolution of man [sic] is from being somebody to being nobody and from being nobody to being everybody. —Sri Sri Ravi Shankar [2]

The journey from order to disorder to reorder must happen for all of us; it is not something just to be admired in Abraham, Moses, Job, or Jesus. Our role is to listen and allow, and at least slightly cooperate with this almost natural progression.

My life journey began as a very conservative pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic, pious and law-abiding, living in quiet Kansas, buffered and bounded by my parents’ stable marriage and many lovely liturgical traditions that sanctified my time and space. I was a very happy child and young man. That was my first wonderful simplicity.

I was gradually educated in a much larger world of the 1960s and 1970s with degrees in philosophy and theology and a broad liberal arts education given me by the Franciscans. I left the garden of innocence, just as Adam and Eve had to do. My new scriptural awareness made it obvious that Adam and Eve were probably not historical figures but important archetypal symbols. I was heady with knowledge and “enlightenment,” no longer in “Kansas.” Though leaving the garden was sad and disconcerting for a while, there was no going back.

As time passed, I became simultaneously very traditional and very progressive. I don’t fit in with the liberals or the conservatives. I found a much larger and even happier garden (note the new garden described in Revelation 22). I thoroughly believe in Adam and Eve now, but on about ten different levels, with literalism being the lowest and least fruitful.

This “pilgrim’s progress” was, for me, sequential, natural, and organic as the circles widened. I was steadily moved toward larger viewpoints and greater inclusivity in my ideas, a deeper understanding of people, and a more honest sense of justice. If God could include and allow, then why couldn’t I? If God asked me to love unconditionally and universally, then it was clear that God operated in the same way. This process of transformation was slow, and none of it happened without much prayer, self-doubt, study, and conversation.

It seems we all begin in naïveté and eventually return to a “second naïveté” or simplicity, whether willingly or on our deathbed. This blessed simplicity is calm, knowing, patient, inclusive, and self-forgetful. It helps us move beyond anger, alienation, and ignorance. I believe this is the very goal of mature adulthood and mature religion.

The Performance Principle

March 22nd, 2019 by JDVaughn No comments »

Growing in Christ: Week 1

The Performance Principle
Friday, March 22, 2019

Religion in the second half of life is finally not a moral matter; it’s a mystical matter. While most of us begin focused on moral proficiency and perfection, we can’t spend our whole lives this way. Paul calls the first-half-of-life approach “the Law”; I call it the performance principle: “I’m good because I obey this commandment, because I do this kind of work, or because I belong to this group.” That’s the calculus the ego understands. The human psyche, all organizations, and governments need this kind of common sense structure at some level.

But that game has to fall apart or it will kill you. Paul says the law leads to death (e.g., Romans 7:5, Galatians 3:10). Yet many Catholics I meet—religious, laity, and clergy—are still trapped inside the law, believing that by doing good things or going to church, they’re going to somehow attain worthiness or acceptance from God. This was Luther’s authentic critique of much of the Catholic church as he knew it.

One of the only ways God can get us to let go of our private salvation project is some kind of suffering. This is why Christians hang the cross at the center of our churches, why we kiss the cross, and why we say we’re “saved” by the cross. Yet for all this ritualization, it seems we don’t really believe what the cross teaches us—that the pattern of death and resurrection is true for us, too, that we must die in a foundational way or any talk of “rebirth” makes no sense. I don’t know anything else that’s strong enough to force you and me to let go of our ego. However we’ve defined ourselves as successful, moral, better than, right, good, on top of it, number one . . . has to fail us!

This is the point when we don’t feel holy or worthy. We feel like a failure. When this experience of the “noonday devil” shows itself, the ego’s normal temptation is to be even stricter about following the first half of life’s rules. We think more is better, when in fact, less is more. We go back to laws and rituals instead of the always-risky fall into the ocean of mercy.

Yet that is the only path toward our larger and True Self, where we don’t need to prove ourselves to God anymore; where we know, as Thomas Merton (1915–1968) put it, it’s all “mercy within mercy within mercy.” [1] It’s not what we do for God; it’s what God has done for us. We switch from trying to love God to just letting God love us. And it’s at that point we fall in love with God. Up to now, we haven’t really loved God; we’ve largely been afraid of God. Finally, perfect love casts out all fear. As John says, “In love there can be no fear. Fear is driven out by perfect love. To fear is to still expect punishment. Anyone who is still afraid is still imperfect in the ways of love” (see 1 John 4:18).

Relinquishing Ego

March 21st, 2019 by JDVaughn No comments »

Relinquishing Ego
Thursday, March 21, 2019

God’s seed is in us. If it were tended by a good, wise and industrious laborer, it would then flourish all the better, and would grow up to God, whose seed it is, and its fruits would be like God’s own nature. The seed of a pear tree grows into pear tree, the seed of a nut tree grows to be a nut tree, the seed of God grows to be God. —Meister Eckhart (1260–1328) [1]

James Hollis reflects on what it means to “die before we die” like the seed falling into the ground:

In the second half of life the ego is periodically summoned to relinquish its identifications with the values of others, the values received and reinforced by the world around it. It will have to face potential loneliness in living the life that comes from within rather than acceding to the noisy clamor of the world, or the insistency of the old complexes. [2] It will have to submit itself to that which is truly larger, sometimes intimidating, and always summoning us to grow up. . . . And how scary is that, to each of us? . . . No wonder so few ever feel connected to the soul. No wonder we are so isolated and afraid of being who we are.

Yet, paradoxically, the very achievement of ego strength is the source for our hope for something better. We need to be strong enough to examine our lives and make risky changes. A person strong enough to face the futilities of most desires, the distractions of most cultural values, who can give up trying to be well adjusted to a neurotic culture, will find growth and greater purpose after all. The ego’s highest task is to go beyond itself into service, service to what is really desired by the soul. . . .

During the second half of life, the ego will be asked to accept the absurdities of existence, that death and extinction mock all expectations of aggrandizement, that vanity and self-delusion are the most seductive of comforts. . . . How counterproductive our popular culture [in the United States]—with its fantasies of prolonged youthful appearance, continuous acquisition of objects with their planned obsolescence, and the incessant, restless search for magic: fads, rapid cures, quick fixes, new diversions from the task of soul.

The relinquishment of ego ambition, as fueled and defined by first-half-of-life complexes, will in the end be experienced as a newfound and hitherto unknown abundance. One will be freed from having to do whatever supposedly reinforced one’s shaky identity, and then will be granted the liberty to do things because they are inherently worth doing. . . . One can experience the quiet joy of living in relationship to the soul simply because it works better than the alternative. The revisioned life feels better in the end, for such a person experiences his or her life as rich with meaning, and opening to a larger and larger mystery.

Vocation, even in the most humble of circumstances, is a summons to what is divine. Perhaps it is the divinity in us that wishes to be in accord with a larger divinity. Ultimately, our vocation is to become ourselves, in the thousand, thousand variants we are. . . . As all of the great world religions have long recognized, becoming ourselves actually requires repeated submissions of the ego.

Individuation

March 20th, 2019 by Dave No comments »


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

I first learned about the two halves of life from Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (18751961). Today we’ll hear from a Jungian analyst, James Hollis, who is saying the same thing I am trying to say, but better. Hollis writes:

The second half of life presents a rich possibility for spiritual enlargement, for we are never going to have greater powers of choice, never have more lessons of history from which to learn, and never possess more emotional resilience, more insight into what works for us and what does not, or a deeper, sometimes more desperate, conviction of the importance of getting our life back. . . .

Just what are those inner imperatives that rise to support us and challenge us in the journey of the second half of life? Perhaps Jung’s most compelling contribution is the idea of individuation, that is, the lifelong project of becoming more nearly the whole person we were meant to be—what [God] intended, not the parents, or the tribe, or, especially, the easily intimidated or inflated ego.

While revering the mystery of others, our individuation summons each of us to stand in the presence of our own mystery, and become more fully responsible for who we are in this journey we call our life. So often the idea of individuation has been confused with self-indulgence or mere individualism, but what individuation more often asks of us is the surrender of the ego’s agenda of security and emotional reinforcement, in favor of humbling service to the soul’s intent. . . .

The agenda of the first half of life is predominantly . . . framed as “How can I enter this world, separate from my parents, create relationships, career, social identity?” Or put another way: “What does the world ask of me, and what resources can I muster to meet its demands?” But in the second half of life . . . the agenda shifts to reframing our personal experience in the larger order of things, and the questions change. “What does the soul ask of me?” “What does it mean that I am here?” “Who am I apart from my roles, apart from my history?” . . . If the agenda of the first half of life is social, meeting the demands and expectations our milieu asks of us, then the questions of the second half of life are spiritual, addressing the larger issue of meaning.

The psychology of the first half of life is driven by the fantasy of acquisition: gaining ego strength to deal with separation, separating from the overt domination of parents, acquiring a standing in the world. . . . But then the second half of life asks of us, and ultimately demands, relinquishment—relinquishment of identification with property, roles, status, provisional identities—and the embrace of other, inwardly confirmed values.

In Need Of Guidance

March 19th, 2019 by JDVaughn No comments »

Growing in Christ: Week 1

In Need of Guidance
Tuesday, March 19, 2019

There’s a somewhat overlooked passage in the middle of Romans where Paul says, “The only thing that counts is not what human beings want or try to do [that’s the first half of life], but the mercy of God [that’s the second half of life]” (9:16). But we only realize this is true in the second half of life. We had to do the wanting and the trying and the achieving and the self-promoting and the accomplishing. The first half of life is all about some kind of performance principle. And it seems that it must be this way. We have to do it wrong before we know what right might be.

In the second half of life, we start to understand that life is not only about doing; it’s about being. I remember going home to Kansas after my father had just retired at age sixty-five. For thirty-six years, he had painted trains for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. Daddy grew up very poor during the Depression and the dust storms of western Kansas. In his generation, of course, a job was something you valued deeply; and once you got it, you weren’t going to lose it. He never missed a day of work in all those years. He turned on the lights every morning, they told us.

After he retired, my father cried in my arms and said, “I don’t know who I am now. I don’t know who I am. . . . Pray with me, pray with me.” Here I was a grown-up man, a priest, supposed to be strong for my father. I didn’t know how to do it. I guess I said the appropriate priestly words. But I didn’t know how to guide him into the second half of life, and he was begging for a guide.

The church wasn’t much of a guide in such things. The common sermon was on the evil of abortion. My mom in her 70s would come home and say, “Why does the priest keep telling us the same thing? I can’t have babies anymore!” That’s what happens when the Church doesn’t grow up or support its growing members. We focus on something that’s quantifiable and seemingly clear and has no subtlety to it. It’s mostly black and white thinking, usually about individual body-based sins. We know who the sinners are, and we know who the saints are, and we don’t have to struggle with the mixed blessing that every human being is. We’re all mixed blessings and partly sinners, and we always will be. But this wisdom only comes later, when we’ve learned to listen to the different voices that guide us in the second half of life.

These deeper voices will sound like risk, trust, surrender, uncommon sense, destiny, love. They will be the voices of an intimate stranger, a voice that’s from somewhere else, and yet it’s my deepest self at the same time. It’s the still, small voice that the prophet Elijah slowly but surely learned to hear (see 1 Kings 19:11-13).

The Task within the Task

March 18th, 2019 by Dave No comments »

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Religion and various models of human development seem to suggest there are two major tasks for each human life. The first task is to build a strong “container” or identity; the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold. The first task we take for granted as the very purpose of life. This does not mean we do it well, but because we’re so focused on it we may not even attempt the second task.

Western society is a “first-half-of-life” culture, largely concerned about surviving successfully. Most cultures and individuals across history were likely situated in the first half of their own development until recent times; it may have been all they had time for because of shorter life expectancy. The first task life hands us has to do with establishing an identity, a home, relationships, friends, community, security, and building a proper platform for our only life.

But it takes much longer to discover “the task within the task,” as I like to call it: what we are really doing when we are doing what we are doing. Two people can have the same job description, and one is holding a subtle or not-so-subtle life energy (eros) in doing his or her job, while another is holding a subtle or not-so-subtle negative energy (thanatos) while doing the exact same job.

We respond to one another’s energy more than to people’s exact words or actions. In any situation, the taking or giving of energy is what we are actually doing. What we all desire and need from one another, of course, is that life energy called eros! It always draws, creates, and connects things.

It is when we begin to pay attention, and to seek integrity in the task within the task, that we begin to move from the first to the second half of our own lives. Integrity largely has to do with purifying our intentions and being honest about our motives. It is hard work. Most often we don’t pay attention to that inner task until we have had some kind of fall or failure in our outer tasks.

During the first half of life we invest so much of our blood and sweat, eggs and sperm, tears and years that we often cannot imagine there is a second task, or that anything more could be expected of us. “The old wineskins are good enough” (Luke 5:39), we say, even though according to Jesus they often cannot hold the new wine. If we do not get some new wineskins, “the wine and the wineskin will both be lost” (Luke 5:37). The second half of life can hold some new wine because by then there should be some tested ways of holding our lives together. But that usually means the container itself must stretch or die in its present form and be replaced with something better.


The Container and the Contents
Monday, March 18, 2019

Theologically and objectively speaking, we are created in union with God from the beginning (e.g., Ephesians 1:3-9). But it is hard for us to believe or experience this without a healthy ego and boundaries. Thus, the first part of the spiritual journey is about externals, formulas, superficial emotions, flags and badges, rituals, Bible quotes, and special clothing, all of which largely substitute for an authentic spiritual experience (see Matthew 23:13-32). Yes, it is largely style and sentiment instead of real substance, but it is probably necessary—as long as we don’t devote our entire life to it. This familiar motto, which Pope John XXIII commended, is apt: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.” [1] That is second-half-of-life, hard-won wisdom.

In the first half of our lives, we have no container for such content as true love or charity, no wineskins that are prepared to hold such utterly intoxicating wine. Authentic God experience always “burns” you, yet does not destroy you, just as the burning bush revealed to Moses (see Exodus 3:2-3). Most of us are not prepared for such burning, nor even told to expect it. By definition, authentic God experience is always “too much”! It consoles our True Self only after it has devastated our false self.

Early-stage religion is primarily preparing you for the immense gift of this burning, the inner experience of God, as though creating a proper stable into which the Christ can be born. Unfortunately, most people get so preoccupied with their stable, and whether their stable is better than other stables, or whether their stable is the only “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” stable, that they never get to the birth of God in the soul.

As a priest for over four decades, I find that much of the spiritual and pastoral work of churches is often ineffective at real transformation of consciousness. As a spiritual director, I find that people facing important issues of social injustice, divorce, failure, gender identity, an inner life of prayer, or a radical reading of the Gospel are usually bored and limited by the typical Sunday church agenda. And these are good people! But they keep on doing what Bill Plotkin calls their survival dance because no one has told them about their sacred dance. [2] In short, Christianity has not helped many people do the age-appropriate tasks of both halves of life.

Most churches just keep doing the first half of life over and over again. Young people are made to think that the container is all there is and all they should expect, that believing a few doctrines or performing some rituals is all religion is about. The would-be maturing believer is not challenged to adult faith or service to the world, much less mystical union. Everyone ends up in a muddled middle, where “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity,” as poet William Butler Yeats put it. [3] I am convinced that much of our pastoral and practical confusion has emerged because we need to clarify the real differences, the needs, and the somewhat conflicting challenges of the two halves of our own lives.

Ephesians 1:3-9 New Living Translation (NLT)

Spiritual Blessings

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.[a] He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan.

Matthew 23:13-32 New Living Translation (NLT)

13 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.[a]

15 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell[b] you yourselves are!

16 “Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’17 Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding. 19 How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. 21 And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. 22 And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne.

23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,[c] but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.24 Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel![d]

25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish,[e] and then the outside will become clean, too.

27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. 30 Then you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have joined them in killing the prophets.’

31 “But in saying that, you testify against yourselves that you are indeed the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started.

The Pattern of Evolution

March 18th, 2019 by Dave No comments »

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Perhaps the reason it is so hard for us to see the evolution of the Cosmic Christ in our individual lives and in the arc of history is that this groaning and this giving birth (see Romans 8:22) proceeds by a process of losses and gains, and the losses are very real. There is no doubt that history goes three steps forward and two steps backward, but thank God there always seems to be a net gain. Even though we continue to see war, racism, classism, genocide, and ignorance, violence is actually declining. We may be more aware of the world’s suffering now than ever before, but as compared with previous periods in history, we are living in a relatively peaceful time. [1]

Historically and to this day, it seems that when a new level of maturity is found, there is an immediate and strong instinct to pull backward to the old and familiar. Thankfully, within churches and society at large there is always a leaven, a critical mass, a few people who carry the momentum toward greater inclusivity, compassion, and love. This is the Second Coming of Christ: Christ embodied by people who know that hatred and greed are always regressive, and who can no longer live fearfully or violently. There are always some who have touched upon Love and been touched by Love, which is to touch upon the Christ Mystery. This is the shape of “salvation.”

Teilhard de Chardin writes: “Everything that rises must converge.” [2] In other words, higher levels of evolution are always a movement toward greater unity. Along the way there will be differentiation and complexity, but paradoxically, that increased complexity moves life to a greater level of unity, until in the end there is only God who is “all in all” (see 1 Corinthians 15:28). If it isn’t moving toward unity, it is not a higher level of consciousness.

But along with differentiation and complexity there will also be an equal pushback, fear, and confusion. We see this in our current political climate in America and much of the world. The United States has suffered eight years of nonstop gridlock and opposition to any creative governance. It mirrors Newton’s Third Law of Motion that “every action elicits an equal and opposite reaction.” Today many people are reverting to tribal thinking, denial, fear, and hatred, rather than turning to compassionate, creative solutions to real challenges of poverty, climate change, and the many worldwide forms of injustice.

I highly recommend here any of the writings of Thomas Berry, who in many ways brings Teilhard de Chardin realistically forward because he has sixty more years of science, and also sixty more years of planetary push back, to bring to the present conversation. [3] Berry is another prophet in our times.

Gateway to Silence:
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.