Richard Rohr reminds me that no matter how hard I fight with my brothers and sisters (of late, it’s been the U.S. Catholic bishops) that it should never be in such a way that I wouldn’t sit down to dinner with them when Jesus issues the invitation.
“When we start making the Eucharistic meal something to define membership instead of to proclaim grace and gift, we always get in trouble; that’s been the temptation of every denomination that has the Eucharist. Too often we use Eucharist to separate who’s in from who’s out, who’s worthy from who’s unworthy, instead of to declare that all of us are radically unworthy, and that worthiness is not even the issue. If worthiness is the issue, who can stand before God? Are those who receive actually saying they are “worthy”? I hope not. It is an ego statement to begin with.
The issue is not worthiness; the issue is trust and surrender or, as Thérèse of Lisieux said, “It all comes down to confidence and gratitude.” I think that explains the joyous character with which we so often celebrate the Eucharist. We are pulled into immense gratitude and joy for such constant and unearned grace. It doesn’t get any better than this! All we can do at Eucharist is kneel in gratitude and then stand in confidence. (Actually, St. Augustine said that the proper Christian posture for prayer was standing, because we no longer had to grovel before such a God or fear any God that is like Jesus.)”–Richard Rohr, ofm
Adapted from Eucharist as Touchstone
“We only become enlightened as the ego dies to its pretenses, and we begin to be led by soul and Spirit. That dying is something we are led through by the grace of God and by confronting our own shadow. As we learn to move into a Larger Realm, we will almost naturally weep over those sins, as we recognize that we are everything that we hate and attack in other people. Then we begin to become and to live the Great Mystery of compassion.
God’s one-of-a-kind job description is that God actually uses our problems to lead us to the full solution. God is the perfect Recycler, and in the economy of grace, nothing is wasted, not even our worst sins and our most stupid mistakes.” –Richard Rohr, ofm
From A Lever and a Place to Stand:The Contemplative Stance, The Active Prayer , pp. 39, 42
“Grace, which is charity, contains in itself all virtues in a hidden and potential manner, like the leaves and the branches of the oak hidden in the meat of an acorn. To be an acorn is to have a taste for being an oak tree. Habitual grace brings with it all the Christian virtues in their seed.”–Thomas Merton
Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merson (New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1999, p 20.)
Many American are starting to ask questions about the “quality” of life as opposed to the “quantity” of stuff. I hope people of faith will step in to this questioning time with the “good news” about lives lived with simple joy, free from undue anxiety, bound by relationships of deep fidelity, and fueled by an economy of grace.
We need to be running classes in this stuff. We need to be leading the trainings – this is what Sunday worship should be about, a training ground for the Good Life in God.
Here’s a quote from Catholic hermit and spiritual writer Thomas Merton:
The life of contemplation in action and purity of heart is, then, a life of great simplicity and inner liberty. One is not seeking anything special or demanding any particular satisfaction. One is content with what is. One does what is to be done, and the more concrete it is, the better. One is not worried about the results of what is done. One is content to have good motives and not be too anxious about making mistakes. In this way one can swim with the living stream of life and remain at every moment in contact with God, in the hiddenness and ordinariness of the present moment with its obvious task.–Thomas Merton
From The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation (edited by William H. Shannon, HarperSanFrancisco, 2003)
I have a bumper sticker that reads: “Lord, help me to be the person my dog thinks I am.” This is a theological replacement for my shy and vulnerable mid-20s angst which shrink-sized to “I think your karma just ran over my dogma.”
In poet Denise Levertov’s poem “Overland to the Islands” she lets her imagination map out her way to God:
Let’s go—much as the dog goes,
intently haphazard, …
edgeways, there’s nothing
the dog disdains on his way,
keeps moving, changing pace
and approach but
not direction—‘every step an arrival.’
My dog is like this. Always exuberantly joyful. Always forgiving of my many faults. Where I fail in hospitality, she welcomes friend and stranger alike. When intellectual theology fails, my dog nudges me back to the heart of my faith w-a-l-k. (No, sweetie, not right now.).