Fr. Richard Rohr

It has been said that religion is largely filled with people who are afraid of hell, and spirituality is for people who have gone through hell. As all initiation rites say in one way or another: you have to die before you die, and then you know. Jesus is always on the side of the crucified ones. Jesus is what mythology called a “shape-shifter.” He changes sides in the twinkling of an eye to go wherever the pain is. He is not loyal to one religion, to this or that group, or to the worthy; Jesus is loyal to suffering! 

Do you realize that takes away all of our usual group-think? Jesus is just as loyal to the suffering of Iraqi and Russian soldiers as he is to the suffering of American and British soldiers. He grabs all our boundaries away from us, and suddenly we are forced to see that we are a universal people. Most people do not like being that exposed and that shared. Yes, God is on the side of the pain, and goes wherever the pain is (which is abundantly clear in the Gospels). We can no longer preempt Jesus for our own group, religion, or country. People seeking power cannot use him for their private purposes. He belongs to the powerless.  

 A lawyer who joined the Catholic Church and then became a Franciscan said to me one day, “You know, this Church is harder and harder for me to understand. We claim to have the perfect medicine, the healing power to restore and renew hearts and souls, but we seem to say in the same breath, ‘But make sure you don’t really need it! Because if you really need it, you are a less than ideal member!'”  

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Evolution of Desire

Once there was a man who feared God. One day while in prayer he asked for money. A modest sum, nothing too extravagant. God answered, “No! That request does not begin to touch my love for you. Dream bigger!”

So the man prayed for double the sum, humbly assuring God that it wouldn’t change him. “Look into my heart,” he prayed, “don’t you see the good I can do for you if you just allow me these riches?” God answered, “No! That request does not begin to touch my love for you. Dream bigger!”

So the man tripled the sum, and asked for pleasures beyond imagination. God answered again, “No! That request does not begin to touch my love for you. Dream bigger!”

So the man multiplied the sum 100 fold, asked for pleasure and power over men. Again God answered, “No! That request does not begin to touch my love for you. Dream bigger!”

“Oh Lord, I have searched my heart and mind. I cannot wait for you to grant me my fortune. I must go off and make it for myself, and I will return here to you once I have found the joy of heart and peace of mind that comes with the treasure I seek.”

So off went the man who feared God, and a fortune he did make, but to gain his fortune he lost his integrity, his purity, and his virtue. Many were the pleasures he had, and his days were full, but his heart was empty, and his mind was wrecked with anxieties.

“Oh God, I have made my fortune but it held none of the happiness it promised!  My sin is without number, my heart is restless, my mind disturbed, and my conscience is clamoring! I beg you take away my sin! God answered him, “Go! Your sins are forgiven!”

The man leaped with joy at his innocence regained. Gratitude filled his heart, and he spoke of God’s greatness and glory to all he met. But still his heart was restless, and his mind disturbed.

“Oh God,” he prayed, “take away my suffering.” God answered him, “No! That request does not begin to touch my love for you. Dream bigger!”

From there the man’s suffering grew stronger, his heart ached with a desire for God. His fear of God was reshaped into love for Him.
The man prayed again, “Let me be near you and feel the consolation of your presence!”  “No!” God replied, “that request does not begin to touch my love for you. Dream bigger!”

“My Lord and my God, how dare I ask of you more than to be near you? The sinner I know myself to be does not allow me to petition you for what my heart truly desires, but in my desperation I beg of you, let me live and breath inside you! Let me move and dwell in your most intimate heart! Let me remain eternally fused with you, my heart to yours, and let all these other things be given me besides! And I pray this not only for me but that every man be granted this Union with you!”

The Lord was swift in answering, “Be still and know that I am God!”

So the man entered into deep prayer, where the Lord of all prepared him. Every day, hidden in his room, the man sat while God performed his work. Day by day the man’s heart grew softer, and his mind grew quieter. In faith, hope, and love the man grew, until the day came, where God said to him, “My Son! Enter into your Father’s Kingdom!”

“The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.”

-Isaiah 1:11

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”

-Hosea 6:6

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

-James 4:10

My Prayer; July 2005

Found in an old book in my garage.

Remember your creator– to me this is the first commandment. The greatest, that contains all the rest. I remember you, but I used to remembered you more than I do now. I need the breath of prayer in my soul. I need my soul to breathe in your presence, the presence that surrounds me, that saturates everything. The presents that is so common that it seems invisible. I must remember how to search and seek that presence found in all things. I don’t need to go anywhere, just dig deep where I am. I need this breath to nourish my soul and my soul to exhale this breath through my body, into the life I live, to walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living. My place on this earth is growing, changing, living, breathing. It is not what I was, it is not what I will be. But it is rooted deeply in you, only that is constant. What am I to do with human concerns? All that is left is for me to choose. There is no right or wrong freedom. What I desire, what I aspire to, where I go, all touch that same freedom. But to do is little, it comes and goes, it’s me you desire, not my work. That is comfort to me. To remember is my work. To teach and pray my breath, you are my food. I am hungry Lord. Nourish me in your ways. Without remembering I look for breath here, but it is only stale air. It doesn’t move, it doesn’t feel me. I long for meaning beyond the realm of sense, beyond the veil in front of me. Your seed took root and flourished. It grew deeper roots but now longs to see the sun after a long winter. I am searching, my Lord. I am searching for faith. No, I’m searching to see the object of my faith. To experience it myself. To know what depth, to know it’s width and length. Where doesn’t belong? Where can it serve? Faith is each it’s own kind. It is a lonely place, to believe. But it is as real as I am since it cannot be separated from me, inked in my skin, no longer two, but one. I will walk, Lord. I will walk wherever I wish and please you. You have never left me. To me, this is comfort, I will bless you with my freedom. My humanity will be my song to you, You are to me all things.

Warning Label

When meditation becomes a serious endeavor, beware. You are leaving your world where you rule and you are entering God’s Kingdom where God rules. By your presence there you give Him permission to do whatever he likes to you. No one leaves the kingdom of God unaltered, but no one leaves the Kingdom of God unloved either.

New Life

  
A man that cannot let go of his dead ideas, and accept the interior winter that comes, is as sick at heart as a tree that cannot let go of its leaves, but clings to them in unnatural attachment. To what gain comes from clinging to what is dead! Let go and let new life flower within you.

  

The Widow’s Mite

Easter joy has disappeared!

A somber heart that can’t be cheered!

The field of wheat has all been cleared! 

Easter joy has disappeared!

 
An offering’s ash on me is smeared!

For fear of men is not revered!

A cross of love in me is seared!

An offering’s ash on me is smeared!

 

A child of God is nearly reared!

A heart from sin is gently steered!

Towards  widow’s mite it’s softly veered!

A child of God is nearly reared!

Awakened Gaming

Maya and I spend some time together playing Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess. In this game the character Link wakes up in a small village where he lives in a tree cottage. He gets to walk around town and look for what he is supposed to do. 

The funny thing is that there must be something wrong with my version of the game. The programming must be off because, for example, let’s say I want Link to go to the town and buy a glass jar as everything in the game is telling me to do. Well, when I try to do that Link does not respond to any of my controller’s “commands” and instead just lies in bed until noon, then looks for something to eat. Whenever I try to get him back on task he goes off on his own and ends up talking to one of the village girls who is obviously not interested in him.

After a while of this I contacted Nintendo and asked them what was wrong. They told me that this was a very common problem but there was nothing I could do about it short of deleting the game and downloading it again. But they explained to me that even this wouldn’t take care of the problem. They said that it would be quickest to just let Link do his thing until he gets so thoroughly bored with himself he finally gives up control, and he lets me follow the heroic role he is fated to play.

So that’s what I did. I deleted the version of the game I had and downloaded a new version of the game (each time I re-download it takes several hours). This time Link had no problem doing what I wanted him to until he met the Mayor’s daughter. They got married and had 4 kids, and Link died a grandfather of 12.

Then I downloaded it again and Link never left the woods by his house this time. He was so interested in the trees, vegetation, insects, and animals that surrounded his immediate dwelling. He categorized every species and then wrote a book about the nature in the village, and got an adjunct teaching position at the local community college.

The next download was rather quick, Link got a pretty nasty addiction to an herb that he studied in the last version. It had a narcotic effect when he smoked it, but it killed him off before the day was over.

We went through many hundreds of downloads, where Link was a girl, the village Doctor, a blade of grass, part of the military, a fireman, a speech-therapist, an insurance agent, a mayor, a magician, an oceanographer, and then finally a rather dramatic fashion designer. All of these versions were quite entertaining, and some quite likable, but none of them where what Link was made to do.

Finally, this latest version of the game, Link didn’t feel like doing much at all. Nothing seemed to interest him. He found himself quite detached from all the hustle and bustle of the village. Other characters around town gossiped that he was depressed and maybe just needed to “get over it.” Link knew however that there was something deeper going on. He turned and looked right at me through the screen and as he spoke the subtitles typed below, “I now know that you are the real me. I want you to take over my life. I have looked everywhere for my purpose in this place and cannot find it. You take control, enter my life as you wish, and take me to my destiny.”

His lack of ego was refreshing. I was finally free to follow the game as Nintendo designed. Things were not perfect, he lost some battles, got turned into a wolf, and he got lost a lot, but he grew in strength and courage and eventually became the hero of the land, saving the world of light from the enemies of darkness. 

Weird, huh.

Give Us a Sign

When a car makes a strange noise it’s a sign something is wrong with the car.

When a computer crashes it’s a sign that something is wrong with the computer.

When a speaker gives feedback it’s a sign something is wrong with the speaker.

When a record skips and repeats it’s a sign something is wrong with the record.

When our body is in pain it’s a sign that something is wrong with the body.

But when our minds are in anguish it’s a sign that there is something wrong with everyone else around you? 

Hmm…

(Listen to that mind protest this idea!)