As we learned in last week's teaching, "We are not the same as we were when we began." Though our hunger for God is stronger than ever, spiritual practices, rituals, reading of Scripture may no longer have the same effect; gone are consolations and expectations of miracles, replaced instead by dryness and waning satisfaction in anything.
Many of us came to the spiritual journey hoping to become better, shinier, healthier, more prosperous people. As we progress, however, we begin to finally let go of the idea that the Work of Inner Christianity is a self-improvement project. We let go of the idea that we, without God, can change; we more fully understand that, on our own, we "cannot do."
So what is left when we let go of manifesting spiritual goodies and achieving some kind of ideal? In truth, it is in this very juncture of realizing our own nothingness — our enormous weakness — that we may experience our great dependence on God and a deepening commitment to the purification process, the progressive emptying out of self-motivations. Our orientation towards life has changed.
"If a man begins to take life as work, then his whole relationship to existence begins to change, because the meaning of life changes for him. He sees life in another light, not as an end, but as a means, and this enables him not to identify with life and its happenings, as he formerly did."
- Commentaries, "Commentary on Meaning," Vol. 1, September 21, 1941
As Fr. Thomas says in today's video, now we may be working with the Divine Therapist "at a different level of faith … not through a medium, but through the immediacy of faith and love." Perhaps we intuit that God is working through our gifts, words and even our presence to serve others; we feel "like a little pencil that is picked up at the appropriate time, and while [we] are writing, [we] know that this divine love or this presence is supporting [us.]"
Increasingly Jesus' message that "the Kingdom is present in the most ordinary circumstances (and not any less when the circumstances are difficult) begins to increase [our] sensitivity to the movements of the Spirit within us," says Fr. Thomas. He compares this closeness to a divine dance where we follow the lead of our partner in response to the cadence and sweep of our everyday lives — walking, sitting, breathing, speaking, working, playing, eating, sleeping. In the contemplative life, we grow in confidence that God is in all and all is in God.
Now all of life becomes a miracle.
"We [all] are confronted with the power, each one of us, to decide what kind of a human being we are going to be. All of us have an ideal and hopes for what we will become, but we know precious little about how to achieve it and how to equip ourselves to fill the part that we would like to fill. Until a person has awakened perceptions that enable him to see it, even the path he has to follow is hidden from him. A peculiar thing characterizes us: every human being has a cosmic role to fill, and we don’t know what it is. We do not know how to prepare ourselves for it, and yet inwardly every one of us … has a deep conviction that there is something we have to do with our lives. Each one of you knows that there is something that you have to find out about yourself and what you ought to be and that there is something that you need to know about how you become what you ought to be."
- J.G. Bennett, Needs of a New Age Community
"God is not saying, 'I demand this of you.' Rather, God is saying, 'I invite you into this mystery of who you already are in me.' Love is not something you decide to do now and then. Love is who you are! Your basic, foundational existence — created in the image of the Trinity — is love. Remember, Trinity is saying that God is not an isolated divine being; God is a quality of relationship itself, an event of communion, an infinite flow of outpouring. God is an action more than a substance, to put it succinctly."
- Richard Rohr, "Disciples: Those Who Love Others," Daily Meditations, December 20, 2016
Video Reflections: View the video excerpt "The Divine Banquet and Dance, Part 1." This excerpt is about 29 minutes in length. You will find it and a transcript here. If you would like to stream or Chromecast this video, use this link.
Examen: In today's video, Fr. Thomas reminds us that, as in the parable of the Great Feast or the Divine Banquet, we are invited into a co-creative relationship with God, who loves each of us — and all of us — unconditionally, just as we are, regardless of our looks, achievements, jobs or pasts. J.G. Bennett says that there is something we need to know about how we become what we ought to be. Richard Rohr says, "Love is who you are!" How might these teachings inform — and transform — your journey and daily life?
Resources for Further Study:
- Chapter 7, "Dancing with God" from Manifesting God
- Chapter 19, "The Great Dinner" from Meditations on The Parables of Jesus
- Chapter 12, "The Parable of the Great Dinner" from The Kingdom of God is Like …
- For more about meaning in one's life, see "Commentary on Meaning," Commentaries, September 21, 1941, Vol. 1, p. 62.
- An archive of previous emails may be found here.