Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. — James 1:27
Whenever the human and the divine coexist at the same time in the same person we have Christianity. I don’t know that it finally matters what Scriptures you read, liturgies you attend, or moral positions you hold about this or that—as much as “Do you live trustfully inside of God’s one world?”(Richard Rhor) This creates honest people, people who don’t waste time proving they’re right, superior, or saved, but just try to live and love the daily mystery that they are in the loving presence of God. “God comes to you disguised as your life,” as Paula D’Arcy loves to say. Imagine that!
There are basically four world views: (Fr. Richard Rhor)
1) Reality is just matter
2) Reality is just spirit
3) Through religion and morality we can work to put matter and spirit together
4) The material world has always been the place where Spirit is revealed.
You cannot put them together. They already are—as in Jesus. Only the fourth position, “incarnationalism,” deserves to be called authentic Christianity. It has to do with the right reality, not the right rituals.
“Might the authority of those who suffer bring the diverse cultural and social worlds together?” –Johann Baptist Metz
I believe this profound question about suffering, from a modern German theologian, succinctly and precisely expresses the religious breakthrough that Christ has offered humanity. It is also foundational to understanding the unique Franciscan view of the world. True gospel authority, the authority to heal and renew things and people, is not finally found in a hierarchical office, a theological argument, a perfect law, or a rational explanation. The Crucified revealed to the world that the real power that changes people and the world is an inner authority that comes from people who have lost, let go, and are re-found on a new level. Twelve-step programs have come to the same conclusion in our time.
Both Francis and Clare had this kind of inner authority that is still part of their essential message for the world. They let go of all fear of suffering; all need for power, prestige and possessions; any need for their small self to be important; and came to know something essential–who they really were in God and thus who they really were. Their house was then built on “bedrock,” as Jesus says .
Such an ability to really change and heal people is often the fruit of suffering, and various forms of poverty, since the false self does not surrender without a fight to its death. If suffering is “whenever we are not in control” (which is my definition), then you see why some form of suffering is absolutely necessary to teach us how to live beyond the illusion of control and to give that control back to God. Then we become usable instruments, because we can share our power with God’s power (Romans 8:28).
Such a counterintuitive insight surely explains why these two medieval dropouts–Francis and Clare–tried to invite us all into their happy run downward, to that place of “poverty” where all humanity finally dwells anyway. They voluntarily leapt into the very fire from which most of us are trying to escape, with total trust that Jesus’ way of the cross could not, and would not, be wrong. They trusted that his way was the way of solidarity and communion with the larger world, which is indeed passing away and dying. By God’s grace, they could trust the eventual passing of all things, and where it was passing to. They did not wait for liberation later–after death–but grasped it here and now.
God is always bigger than the boxes we build for God, so we should not waste time protecting the boxes.
—–Richard Rhor from Everything Belongs
Several years ago, when such things appealed to me, I bought a “high quality” counterfit Rolex watch while on a mission trip to Mexico. My fake was so good, it had the sweep second hand, a serial number, and all the rest. After about three months the stem just came off. I hesitated but decided to bring it to a jeweler to be repaired. The clerk treated me very nicely when I brought my watch into his shop. A few days later I received a call that my watch was fixed and ready for pickup. For reasons I can’t remember, my wife went to the store for the pickup. When she arrived and presented the claim ticket, she was told it would be a few minutes because my watch had been put in the safe for security reasons. Imagine that – a fifty dollar fake Rolex locked in the safe with the real ,valuable stuff! I would call that protecting an empty box.
So many of our ideas about God are so far off base, but we defend them to the last breath. Our “boxed” God is further away from the real God that we can ever imagine. Your idea. my idea of God is limited by our ability to understand the supernatural. That’s why it is childish to be so protective of our “boxed” God. Denominations have been formed, people have been imprisioned, all to protect empty boxes.
Today I challenged you to take a look a your “God Box” and determined its value. I think you will find it lacks the true awe and majesty of God, and yet you defend it on a regular basis. Let’s all try to see God as so big that we can never fit him into a box. In doing so, life becomes a journey beyond our imagination, and God becomes more majestic.
Some thoughts by Richard Rhor
In Romans 8:22, Paul says, “From the beginning until now, the entire creation as we know it has been groaning in one great act of giving birth.” That is a very feminine notion of creation, giving birth slowly through labor pains. It complements Genesis’ masculine statement: “Let there be light!” (1:3). Just this one line from Paul should be enough to justify a Christian belief in evolution. Yet to this day, the issue of evolution still divides some Christians, questioning what is rather obvious: that God creates things that create themselves. Wouldn’t this be the greatest way that God could create–to give autonomy, freedom, and grace to things to keep self-creating even further? (Non-creative minds tend to not see or allow creativity anywhere else. In fact, that is what makes them so uncreative!)
Healthy parents love their children so much that they want them to keep growing, producing, and performing to their highest potential. Good parents are even excited when their children surpass them, as my uneducated farmer parents were when I went off to higher studies. Mature parents are generative about their children and say, in my paraphrase of Jesus’ words: “Don’t get too excited about the things that we did. You’re going to do even greater things!” (John 14:12). Immature parents only see their children as images and extensions of themselves. True love empowers and delights in the even larger and independent successes of those they love. (It is often would-be successful sons who are most resented and abused by jealous and weak fathers.)
For a long time most people were satisfied with a very static universe. Yet Jesus understands reality as dynamic and evolutionary. Clearly there is an unfolding to the universe (we are literally still expanding!). Reality is going somewhere. It’s moving, until “In the end there will only be Christ. He is everything and he is in everything” (Colossians 3:11). The One > Multiplicity > Conscious Unity seems to be the underlying pattern. Paul sees history as an ongoing process of ever greater inclusion of every lesser force until in the end, “God will be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). The notion of the Cosmic Christ is precisely “the One” reality that includes everything and excludes nothing. As St. Bonaventure put it, “God is the One whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”
People have long known the story of Francis of Assisi. He turned from a life of luxury to one of voluntary poverty with the intention of sharing his possessions with the poor. Francis became an example to his fellow townspeople of the biblical assurance that God does provide.
Francis attracted others to his way of life and began the Order of Mendicant Friars. A sister order was established by Clare, to whom Francis was both friend and mentor. In the hymn of praise attributed to Francis, God is exalted for creating all of the elements of the world of which, according to Francis, humans are only one part. Francis placed people in the perspective of God’s whole creation and asserted a kinship among all the elements. The example of his impoverished life drew others to him and increased the numbers of the Franciscan Order. He began the first of the Monastic groups to develop a spiritual life that included a life lived as much in the world as it was a life of contemplative solitude.
“He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”
― St. Francis of Assisi
― St. Francis of Assisi
The rose transmits its scent without a movement. I have a definite feeling that if you want us to experience the aroma of Christianity you must copy the rose. It irresistibly draws people to itself and the scent remains with them. A rose does not preach … it simply spreads its fragrance.
Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.
― St. Francis of Assisi
At first glance these two famous men would appear to be at the opposite ends of the religious and spiritual perspectives. Gandhi, a Hindu, and Francis, a Christian, are essentially saying the same thing. Why? The direct answer is: God is the God of the universe. He truths are universal and not owned by any particular group. To live out a life of faith requires three things:
- Action… The willingness and eagerness to get something done and the conviction to act on it.
- Being… Possessing the qualities that identify you as a person of faith.
- Words… The ability to choose the right words at the right time
- G. K. Chesterton and Saint Francis (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- Evangelism (ijboudreaux.com)