LETTING GOD LOVE YOU

In the Paleolithic period when agriculture first developed

the fertility of the land was imaged

in the pregnant goddess statues

found all over Europe/the Middle East/India.

 

Modern science believes all religious claims

whether ancient/modern/literal/mystical

are a holdover from humanity’s childhood

like Santa Claus – science denies them all

as there is no empirical evidence for any of them.

 

However, religion is not focused on evidence

but on self-transformation – crossing the threshold

of any temple/church is meant to be self-annihilation

a reminder to let go of the small self/ego.

 

This is why entrances to the sacred are commonly guarded

by angels/saints/gargoyles/dragons/lions/bulls –

entering you undergo metamorphosis/

leave your secular/unholy self behind/

and discover the World’s Womb/Navel/Earthly Paradise.

 

The call to grandeur/union with God

and to the depths of misery/separation from God

are both integral parts of human experience

that only receive their ultimate explanation

in God’s revelation.

 

Christian love calls you to transcend your selfishness

to commit your self to the good of others

enabling them to realize their full potential.

 

But, contemporary society tells us that to love others

you must first love your self.

But true self-love involves loving your self

the way God loves you.

But none of us is capable of loving the way God loves –

you have to let God do it.

 

True self-love therefore involves letting God love you

the way only God can love you.

 

Then you can love your self and you can love others

the way God loves them.

COSMOGENESIS: THE EVOLUTION OF LOVE

Science has shown us:

– all life comes from a single event, the Big Bang

– the universe is not a static, fixed event

it is a ‘cosmogenesis’ – ongoing creativity

– all life participates in this birthing

and is deeply connected.

 

Teilhard described evolution as a “biological ascent

towards greater unity and complexity

in which qualitative differences spontaneously arise.”

 

According to Raimundo Panikkar’s ‘cosmotheandrism’

– we cannot say ‘I’ without the divine

– we cannot say ‘Thou’ without consciousness

– we cannot say ‘It’ without the world –

all three are necessary for cosmogenesis.

 

Descartes’ ‘cogito ergo sum’ (‘I think therefore I am’)

arrives at his ‘self’ as an objective reality, a ‘thing’

and then arrives at ‘God’ as another ‘thing’

another finite being

instead of transcendent and infinite.

 

Looking straight at our ‘self’ makes us uncomfortable

so the essence of bravery is to live without self-deception –

the more we get to know our judgmentalism/arrogance/pettiness

– the less they can sink their fangs into us

– the more they lose their power

– the more we can love.

 

“The purpose of spiritual books like Introduction to the Devout Life

is to bring us to the love of God despite

the thousand darts of mockery

worldly people will throw at you.”

– Francis de Sales

 

We need Teilhard/Panikkar/de Sales to overcome the world

and keep cosmogenesis/cosmotheandrism/the evolution of Love/

the galaxies and stars

flowing like a mighty river.

CLEARING UP RELIGIOUS MISUNDERSTANDINGS

 

 Stories move people more than reason

because they transport us right into the living context.

The Jewish and Christian scriptures are full of stories

that bring God into the richness/messiness of life.

 

Meister Eckhart knew that stories promote understanding

more than logic, and he defined ‘understanding’

as ‘deiformity’ – conformity to the mind of God –

when we rightly understand how the world works

we are drawn into/formed in the mystery of God.

 

There have been many misunderstandings in Christian history –

Saint Paul has been grossly misunderstood 

as anti-marriage/pro-patriarchy/anti-Semitic/pro-slavery.

In all this he did not betray Jesus or invent Christianity.

What he did was: challenge Jews to new ways of thinking

and confront Roman patriarchal theology by proclaiming

Jesus not Caesar is Lord.

 

More misunderstandings: some theologians think

the doctrine of original sin is optimistic –

it does not teach humans are evil by nature

but that evil in humans is unnatural/a disorder/a sin.

If evil were natural to humans

we would be perfectly happy in evil

but evil people are not happy

or if they are, it is not natural.

 

Misunderstandings caused his fellow monks

to treat Saint John of the Cross harshly.

After eight long months in prison/a dark closet

and constant beatings by other monks

he escaped in 1585 and wrote his spiritual classic

Ascent of Mount Carmel.

 

Misunderstanding Bible verses such as

“Be perfect as God is perfect”

results in perfectionism/fear/legalism/hypocrisy

but the context is: God exhorting us to love everyone

just as “God makes the sun rise and the rain fall

on the good and the evil” (Matthew 5:45-48).

Perfection therefore consists in 

unconditional love not moral flawlessness.

 

FRESH AND GREAT REVELATIONS

 

 St. Gregory of Nyassa wrote that the contemplative life

cannot be lived in secular society

but St. Basil claimed it is possible while you work

to pray with your mouth/heart/mind.

 

At the monastery, Thomas Merton learned:

– how to pray while working as a laborer

– how to be a member of the human race

– that every other human being is no more crazy

and ridiculous than he claimed to be – than we all are.

 

Merton also learned and contemplated:

– fear is the awareness of one’s own finitude

– the possibility of one’s own nonbeing

– that anxiety is natural for mere mortals.

All these were great revelations to him.

 

Today extreme theological traditionalists

try to overcome anxiety by ignoring the past two centuries

while extreme theological progressives

subordinate Christianity to worldly philosophies.

The former flounder like fish-out-of-water in contemporary culture.

The latter flounder like fish-out-of-water in the church

and, despite their protests, are not Christian –

you have to draw the orthodox line somewhere.

 

The years when the religious right ordains

fundamentalist presidents always result in religious disaster –

alienating all young Americans

who hold completely different values

about women/homosexuality/poverty/climate change.

 

According to the great Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel

the problem for both extreme right and left is: no awe.

After all, radical amazement lies in all reality:

not only in amazing things I can see – like the Milky Way –

that filmy white night banner overhead – but also in the fact that:

– I can see

– I can reflect on my ability to see

– I have a self that can reflect on things

– that this self is part and parcel of all that was/is/will be.

 

All these were great revelations to Heschel

and revelations always light up our footsteps on the path to God.

OPENING TO THE GOD WITHIN ALL

If the devout life is the same as true love of God

and the essence of the devout life is prayer

then the essence of the love of God is prayer.

 

Communion/connection with God or another person

involves the security and insecurity of trust

and a constant battle against all the forces

of fear and selfishness within us.

 

But to love is to be on the path of integral wholeness –

to see the ‘other’ not as ‘stranger’ but as ‘brother’

and ‘sister’ as part of one’s self, as belonging to another

and as part of a greater whole.

 

Objective theology may give you the right answers

but it doesn’t help you with prayer/union with God/

compassion for the lost. It excludes subjective experiences

like John of the Cross’s ‘Dark Night’

and Meister Eckhart’s inner freedom/energy/joy.

The result: if you only deal with Eckhart’s external writings

divorced from his inner spirituality

he can seem like a heretic.

 

There are three styles of religiosity:

‘intrinsic’ – religion as an end in itself;

‘extrinsic’ – religion as a means to an end/social justice

‘quest’ – religion as openness to change –

even to changing one’s religious beliefs/values.

 

Going from ethnocentric to worldcentric belief

means changing from a group-based identity –

this is my tribe –

to a person-based identity –

this is what I believe –

Jesus is still your and everyone’s personal Savior

no matter what you believe

but you realize the Holy Spirit speaks to people

in different faiths in different ways

and so others may find different paths to salvation.

 

Yes, the Universal Christ/God is the only way to God

but this is because the Universal Christ/God

is everywhere and depending upon one’s culture

takes many different forms.

THE SOURCE OF VIOLENCE AND PLEASURE

According to Teilhard de Chardin

religion itself is the fruit of evolution

and has spread across the globe by peace and violence

because the world has been converging

on Christ throughout its history

as its personal center of fulfillment.

 

Christian faith takes hold when people look at the Cross

and can no longer deny their chains of sin/guilt/death

and when complete individuation/autonomy/irresponsibility

for others fails to fulfill them.

 

Beyond not being their brother or sister’s keeper

aggression, like a drug for an addict

gives temporary relief but then

the nightmare and hatred continue to grow inside you –

violence is picking up burning coals with your bare hands

and throwing them at your enemy.

Whether you hit them or not, you are guaranteed

to burn yourself.

 

The biggest source of violence from religious people

is a colossal modern problem:

the pressure cooker of science has kept a lid on faith

so people feel pressured to give up their beliefs

to be part of the modern/postmodern world

and some rebel with violence.

But some gifts of religious people

to the modern/postmodern world involve seeing:

sin/darkness is an inescapable part of us

there can be joy in imperfection

and Jesus built community not hierarchy

circles not pyramids.

 

Our sins come out of our God-given desires

which are healthy in themselves

but God is the only real fulfillment of those desires –

godless luxury wants over-abundance to fill its soul-hole

but God is

an inexhaustible treasure of incorruptible pleasure:

“At your right hand there are pleasures forever”

– Psalm 16:11

TAKING THE HARD/EASY ROAD WITH CHRIST

Jesus was a layman with no formal training as a priest

he was at parties and in the streets

far more than at liturgy. Yet the early Church

created elaborate liturgies to worship a man

who never asked to be worshiped

only followed. Worship is easy, following is hard.

So, we took the easy road.

 

Circa 250 AD Christians took the road to the desert

to escape Decian persecution/corruption/decadence

of the Roman Empire. Like Moses/Elijah/Jesus

they were convinced that in the absolute silence of the desert

they could hear God speak again.

In the desert they learned for all time

that God is in the present moment, the NOW.

 

In our NOW, people in both individualist and collectivist societies

feel anxiety about death/non-being.

Capitalist/ego societies encourage individuals

to assert themselves against the threat of non-being

whereas communist/state societies allay anxiety

with massive military parades and rituals

signifying the collective will survive

individual non-being – being part of the collective

saves you from death.

 

But both the capitalist and communist credos

are heresy. In Jesus the Christ one evolves

from fragmentation and alienation

of the individual and the masses

to wholeness and integration

from nihilism and irony

to deep meaning and value

from scarcity to abundance

from self-centeredness to self-transcendence.

 

When capitalism and communism both fail to satisfy the soul

it humbly turns back to God and finds

“Your soul is who you are in God and who God is in you.

Nothing more, nothing less” – Richard Rohr

and taking the hard road is surprisingly easy in Christ

who said “Take my yoke upon you for my yoke is easy

and my burden is light” – Matthew 11:28-30

 

 

 

 

 

CHALLENGING OUR PARADIGMS

The new cosmology revealed by science

like the parables of Jesus

shatters our old paradigms

and challenges us to broader/more inclusive thinking.

 

Irenaeus had a cosmic Christology

largely lost because the Church Fathers

focused on practical/down-to-Earth matters

such as combating Arianism

which claimed Christ is not divine.

The Council of Nicea (325 AD) asserted that

Christ’s incarnation saves us and deifies us –

we become like Christ.

 

Theology has always been otherworldly –

about metaphysics – “What is the nature of God

and God’s Kingdom?” – things ultimately ineffable

instead of teaching us how to live the teachings of Jesus.

 

Teilhard de Chardin’s hyper-physics (union before being)

overthrew metaphysics focused on

stasis/unchangeability/sameness.

Union always searches for ‘moreness’ –

more being/consciousness/love –

it is never satisfied with the status quo.

 

But in the West, religion has done our work

for us: scholars and bishops have told us

what to know not how to know

and what to see not how to see.

The result? People who never had to think

and are unable to comprehend

great and holy things.

 

Still, a spirit of prayer pervaded the Second Vatican Council

and reading the documents of Vatican II

can be a form of ‘lectio divina.’

The Council encouraged all believers to put prayer first

urged people to pray while reading scripture

pray for the conversion of hearts

and begged all of us to follow the ways of

universal love/peace/justice –

it was a fresh take

on an old paradigm.

FALLING (SUPER-SPIRITUAL) STARS

Many people have a multi-faith identity:

Catholic/Protestant; Buddhist/Jewish;

Baptist/Episcopalian; Christian/Hindu.

 

People are called in many different ways

but if you refuse God’s call

you turn the adventure/your true life

into meaningless boredom/a wasteland/

death.

 

Our only true greatness lies in

the humility of living faithfully.

The purer our faith, the closer we come to God.

The one who desires to exalt herself/himself

with extraordinary sexual or mystical experiences

becomes less/not more in the eyes of God.

 

If you can abandon all desire 

for the fruits of your actions/results

you can perform freely/without attachment

your duty – to love.

 

One’s duty may be to be a good spouse –

the intimate partnership of married life and love

has been established by the Creator

and is defined/qualified/bounded

by the Creator’s laws/thou-shalt-nots –

THOU SHALT NOT: lie/steal/covet thy neighbour’s

wife/husband/commit adultery.

 

Like Ravi Zacharias, Jean Vanier was a super-saint –

his work with the developmentally delayed

in L’Arche/the Ark became world-wide

group homes for those rejected by society

and his book Becoming Human

helped us discover our common humanity

the journey from loneliness to belonging

and to a love that includes all –

people of multiple faiths and no faith

people able/differently abled/disabled –

Vanier was a saint until the MeTooMovement

caught him with his pants down

with multiple women. Another spiritual superstar

had fallen – to everyone’s utter dismay.

RETURNING TO RADICAL AMAZEMENT

The sexual/social/self-preservation drives

are the raw material of who we are as humans

and so cannot be killed off

although ascetics try their hardest.

 

According to Rohr/Rolheiser/Fox

these drives are all good and just need to be

harnessed/channeled/integrated not killed off

so they give energy to our spiritual endeavours

and serve us not destroy us – they are good

not evil monsters/dragons/demons.

 

According to Immanuel Kant as you move morally

from being biocentric (sex and survival) to egocentric

to ethnocentric to worldcentric (universal compassion)

you also discover your higher/truer/deeper self.

 

If you expand your heart and mind infinitely

you come to God’s Infinite Love, the “Ultimate Thou”

and to your self as the “Ultimate I”

culminating in the “Ultimate I-Thou Relationship.”

 

But as we take on jobs/get married/join religions

everyone pressures us to do

in order for us to live up to their ideals

and as we shove more and more stuff

into our shadow-bag

by midlife we are a mere slice

of the 360-degree-self we started with.

 

We become fraught with “sins of omission”

including: not living lives of justice/

not being transformed/being ‘born again’

only once instead of many times/

leaving creativity/divinization/original blessing/

the cosmos out of our theology.

 

Radical Amazement by Judy Cannato

invites us back into contemplative awe/awareness

of black holes/supernovas/the wonders of the universe

 which are the key to self-transformation

and transformation of the world.