Richard Rohr: Patriotism as the False Sacred

Today’s meditation from Richard Rohr probably sounds like blasphemy to millions of American fundamentalists, especially those who believe in that oh-so-not-Christian idea of “American Exceptionalism.”

“Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9) was proclaimed by the early church, as their most concise creedal statement. No one ever told me this was a political and subversive statement, until I learned a bit of Bible history. To say “Jesus is Lord!” was testing and provoking the Roman pledge of allegiance that every Roman citizen had to proclaim when they raised their hand to the imperial insignia and shouted, “Caesar is Lord!” Early Christians were quite aware that their “citizenship” was in a new universal kingdom, announced by Jesus (Philippians 3:20), and that the kingdoms of this world were not their primary loyalty systems. How did we manage to lose that? And what price have we paid for it? (More)

“The mystery of the Incarnation…..”

FeetCloseup“….is precisely the repositioning of God in the material world once and forever. Continual top-down religion often creates very passive, and even passive-dependent and passive-aggressive Christians. I know this as a Catholic priest for over 40 years. Bottom-up, or incarnational religion, offers a God we can experience for ourselves. We have nothing to fight or prove, just something to know for ourselves. This is what we are about to celebrate at Christmas.”

from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Richard Rohr on Intimacy


“One’s biggest secrets and deepest desires are usually revealed to others, and even discovered by ourselves, in the presence of sorrow, failure, or need when we are very vulnerable and when one feels entirely safe in the arms of someone’s love….People who have avoided all intimacy normally do not know who they are at any depth—and cannot tell others who they are.”

From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, Nov. 14, 2012

786 Years Ago Today

Francis of Assisi died.  Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone was 45 years old (b. 1181; d. Oct. 3, 1226).  His view of himself and the world is an utterly Christian, incarnational view, seeing in all creation the wonderful and sustaining presence of the Divine.  The sun and the moon, the earth and the mountains, vegetation and animals and all humanity are bursting with the Spirit of God.

Perhaps this is why Francis and the orders of friars and sisters who bear his name today are so appealing to God’s LGBT children.  Having been told by others with a more dualistic outlook that our bodies and desires are merely sources of sin, LGBT people (and all people, really) experience in the flesh the untruth of such assertions. What Francis knew almost eight centuries ago so many of us, our fellow Christians, and especially our Church leaders are still learning.

Franciscan Father Richard Rohr puts it this way (reblogged from his Daily Meditation):

Richard's Daily Meditations

St. Francis of Assisi by Nancy Earle, SMIC.


In most paintings of people waiting for the Holy Spirit they are looking upward, with their hands outstretched or raised up, the assumption being that the Holy Spirit will descend from “up” above. In the Great Basilica in Assisi where St. Francis is buried, there’s a bronze statue of him honoring the Holy Spirit. His posture and perspective are completely different from what we have come to expect. He’s looking down into the earth with expectation and desire! This is the change of perspective that became our alternative orthodoxy—although it should have been mainline orthodoxy! He was merely following the movement of the Incarnation, since Christians believe that the Eternal Word became “flesh” (John 1:14), and it is in the material world that God and the holy are to be found.

Francis recognized and took to the logical conclusion the implications of the Incarnation. If God became flesh in Jesus, then it is in the world, the physical, the animal, in the natural elements, in human sexuality that God must be found. Speak of embodiment, physicality, and the world—use whatever words you want—these are the hiding places and the revelation places of God. This is how Christianity was supposed to change everything. Most of us just kept looking up, when God in Jesus had, in fact, come down. (This is the foundation of Franciscan mysticism.) On this day in 1226, Francis died at sunset and asked to lie naked and exposed on the earth as he died. The friars were embarrassed, but conceded to his wish. Now you know that it made total sense.

From an unpublished talk in Assisi, Italy, May 2012

Silence, Not Pushing, and the Stillness of God

Silence is the necessary space around things that allows them to develop and flourish without my pushing. God takes it from there, and there is not much point in comparing who is better, right, higher or lower, or supposedly saved.

(from Silence, by Richard Rohr)

One of my many Achilles’ heels is the tendency to push, to poke, to analyze, to discuss, to pull-apart a situation until there’s nothing left. Today I pray for the gift of allowing this dimension of Silence to surround all my work, my relationships, and my encounters with others.

As Fr. Rohr says, let us listen to Stillness, the language  of God.

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

Reconciliation, Forgiveness, and “Letting go”

Yesterday, in reflecting on some particular aspects of my life over the past few years, I found myself meditating on the difference between Reconciliation and Forgiveness.

Fr Rohr’s daily meditation is timely:

“The religious word for this letting go is forgiveness. You see the imperfect moment for what it is, and you hand it over to God. You refuse to let any negative storyline or self-serving agenda define your life.”

To let go isn’t always easy, especially when there is the need for forgiveness without the possibility of reconciliation. Reconciliation with another means both must be involved; both must actively be seeking to mend that which has been injured or broken. Forgiveness, on the other hand, is something I can (and often must) do on my own. When we find ourselves in situations where, for whatever reasons, the cooperative work of reconciliation isn’t possible, we must still work to find the ability to forgive, lest we allow some past hurt or injury to keep us from being who we are called to be.

And, as Fr. Rohr points out, letting go of something doesn’t mean simply ignoring it, denying it, or tossing it away with the morning trash. It means handing it over to God, trusting that God will do with it whatever is best to bring about full healing in ways we can’t even imagine.

Is there room in our lives for another?

This is a question I’ve been meditating on in recent weeks, perhaps even longer. In his daily meditation continuing his reflections on Eucharist, Richard Rohr puts it this way:

Somehow we have to make sure that each day we are hungry, that there’s room inside of us for another presence [emphasis added]. If you are filled with your own opinions, ideas, righteousness, superiority, or sufficiency, you are a world unto yourself and there is no room for “another.”

As a gay man “of a certain age” who is also single and would prefer not to be, I wonder if the history of my own life sometimes gets in the way of having youth’s openness to possibility, to new experiences, and especially to new people whom God may bring my way?  I ask this of myself, but also wonder if it might be true for others who have also lived for some time, perhaps many years, establishing their own daily routines, interests, and ways of spending time? Are our lives so utterly fulfilling that there is no longer any room for “another”? How do my/your “independence” fit with our “interdependence” as neighbors, acquaintances, friends, dates or partners? As Fr. Rohr says, if there is no emptiness or hunger, then what is there to be satisfied? To be sure, only God can fulfill that ultimate emptiness and hunger so eloquently stated by Augustine — “My heart will not rest until it rests in Thee” — but are there not hungers at the level of human relationship and intimacy that we are called to fulfill for one another?

Just as there is possibility within every springtime bud, is there not great possibility within every human heart and soul?

Benedict, Nuns, Christians…and “freedom” to proclaim the Gospel

In his daily meditation for today (April 24, 2012), Franciscan Fr. Richar Rohr writes:

I am not denying that Jesus could and undoubtedly did physical healing. It still happens, and I have seen it, but the healings and exorcisms in Mark’s Gospel are primarily to make statements about power, abuse, relationships, class, addiction, money, the state of women and the poor, and the connections between soul and body—the exact same issues that we face today. [emphasis added]

Just as Jesus’ actions made statements about those parts of the world in need of healing, so have the actions of many of his followers. In the United States, religious women — sisters and nuns (there is a difference, by the way!) — for more than two centuries have been at the heart and forefront of two of the most important activities of any society:  Education and Healthcare.  Communities of religious women have founded hospitals and clinics and hospices; they have opened schools and colleges and universities. And while they have ministered to people across the social spectrum, they typically would be willing to serve where others would dare not tread.

Even Pope Benedict XVI has praised the historic role of women in building the Church in America.  Just yesterday, the pope noted that two women from this continent will be canonized later this year — Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha and Blessed Mother Marianne Cope.

While recalling the historic role of women in the Church in the United States, the pope notably did not praise the current role played by so many tens of thousands of women religious in the daily lives of hospitals, schools, parishes and communities across this land.  Instead, he gave voice to that growing canard that the bishops of the US have latched on to, i.e. the notion that the “freedom” of religion is somehow under attack.  In concluding his speech to some visiting Americans, Benedict stated:

In these days I ask your continued prayers for the needs of the universal Church and in particular for the freedom of Christians to proclaim the Gospel and bring its light to the urgent moral issues of our time.

I don’t know where the Pope gets his information, though given the Vatican’s recent actions regarding congregations of women religious in the US (see coverage in US Catholic for one perspective), I suspect it’s not from very good sources. Concerning religious freedom, however, I’ve yet to see any roadblocks put forth hindering the proclamation of the Gospel or the light it sheds on the “moral issues of our time.”  What the Pope fails to understand is that his voice and the voices of his brother bishops are not the only voices empowered to proclaim the Gospel. The voices of religious women and men, of priests and lay people, all the Baptized together have a right and responsibility to proclaim the Gospel in both word and — like Jesus in Mark’s Gospel — in action. At times, those voices will differ as we collectively discern “the signs of the times” and struggle to understand where and how God’s Spirit might be leading us here and now.

Benedict rightly notes that “Christians” (he didn’t limit this to the hierarchy!) have the freedom to proclaim the Gospel.  I pray that he and his brother bishops will listen to the voices of Christians doing just that, even when what they have to say might not be what Benedict wants to hear!

“Addiction doesn’t work”

Richard Rohr writes (On the Threshold of Transformation: Daily Meditations for Men, Day 110):

Addiction happens when we no longer want to feel our feelings. Addiction happens when we don’t want to know our own thoughts or feel our own pain. But you know what? Addiction doesn’t work. In the long run, addiction brings ten times more pain than you would experience by accepting the legitimate pain of being a human being. Religion needs to be teaching this up front and without apology.

And by “addiction,” Fr. Rohr refers not only to alcohol, street drugs, or the abuse of other substances that those in treatment facilities and halfway houses are addicted to. He’s also talking about the unfettered consumerism and materialism of our culture. To this list, I would add the addiction to self-righteousness which, in the extreme, is expressed as hate. It’s the view heard so frequently on talk radio, seen often in the comments of “anonymous,”and even heard preached from pulpits. It’s the view that says, “I’m right, you’re wrong; I possess truth, and you are filled with lies.”

There are treatment options and 12-step programs for those struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction. But where’s the 12-step program for consumerism and the addiction to hate? Where’s the treatment plan for the addiction that never has enough “stuff” or that so quickly judges others who are “different” by equating “different” with evil?

Where there is pain and suffering, there is God

“Jesus forever tells us that God is found wherever the pain is, which leaves God on both sides of every war, in sympathy with both the pain of the perpetrator and the pain of the victim, with the excluded, the tortured, the abandoned, and the oppressed since the beginning of time. I wonder if we even like that. There are no games of moral superiority left. Yet this is exactly the kind of Lover and the universal Love that humanity needs.

What else could possibly give us a cosmic and final hope? This is exactly how Jesus redeemed the world “by the blood of the cross.” It was not some kind of heavenly transaction, or “paying a price” to God, as much as a cosmic communion with all that humanity has ever loved and ever suffered. If he was paying any price it was for the hard and resistant skin around our souls.”

From Richard Rohr’s Holy Week/Good Friday meditation.