I am doing a short study of the Letter to the Ephesians on this lovely Sunday morning, and have had time to absorb some of its amazing insights. Paul, or whoever wrote it, says that the exact meaning of the cross is that “Jesus destroyed in his own person the hostility” between groups (In fact, he repeats it twice in both 2:14 and 2:16) Jesus did not take sides with his Jewish religion against the pagans, but instead he did a most amazing thing, which we have yet to comprehend. The author says that he destroyed the hostility “THAT WAS CAUSED BY THE RULES AND DECREES OF THE LAW”. In other words, the very identification of his group (or any group) with its own customs and practices is what justifies their hostility toward another group, and maintains their own superiority system–which is always violent in maintaining itself.
Is this not the core historical problem that continues to justify most hostility to this day? My group versus your group thinking? We do it this way and you do it the wrong way? Think of the genocides of the last century, which were usually in Christian based cultures, to realize how we have missed the message. Ephesians says that Jesus “killed” or “destroyed” the very ground of this hostility by himself being killed “under the law” (with the blessing of both religion and state), and thus revealing the limitations, blindness, and often complicity in evil of what are usually nothing more than cultural customs passing for divine law. Our “sacred order” is usually maintained at someone else’s expense. This is so much of a surprise that most of us still refuse to be surprised–and also disappointed in our capacity for missing the profound revelation from the cross of Jesus. Ephesians goes on to say that Jesus is trying to “create one single New Humanity” (2:15). We are still waiting for this new single humanity. It could still change history, and it eventually will, but probably we have to hit bottom first–and see how our sacralized beliefs and customs are themselves much of the problem.
As I grow older, I find more and more people, in all fields of life, who seem more and more trapped and unfree. They seem unable to adjust to their own growing truth. The price is just too high, and so they choose security over honesty. In my field, I see bishops, priests, and ministers, who in moments of private honesty, reveal they do not really believe this or that any more, but they have to pretend to believe it to be faithful to the persona they built and created in their first 40-50 years. After a while, they actually think they DO believe it, but their lack of enthusiasm, commitment, or joy shows you that they do not. It is so much easier to repeat formulas and keep everybody–and your own soul–at bay. I would say this pattern represents the norm not the exception, at least in the church. So many are split personalities. And why wouldn’t they be? In fact, it would seemingly be predictable with the mystery of God always unfolding and leading us to ever further depths. If you do go to the depths, the price of speaking your honest truth from that level is just too high. Imagine all the people you would upset! It will call your job and self image into question. Plus, it is like throwing your previous life script out the window and admitting that much of it was mistaken. But that should be a given–if we are at all growing! THE STEPS TOWARD MATURITY ARE NECESSARILY IMMATURE.
Hold onto your first half of life agendas with a light grip, or you may never get to your second half of life–at least spiritually speaking.
This has become clearer to me in the many daringly honest conversations I have had with older people since the publication of FALLING UPWARD, on “the two halves of life”.
Yes, we must write ourselves a life script. We have no choice, but do not make it too public too certain and too superior, or you might just find yourself trapped there forever–defending the immature and indefensible position. Could this be what Jesus means by the necessity of “dying to the self”? The same is, of course, true for politicians and all public identities. Many of our politicians are more eager to be loyal Democrats or Republicans than honest about their own human experience. Image wins out over substance far too often.
Well, today is a wonderful turning point in the 25 year history of the Center here in Albuquerque!
As of our web announcement today, we are moving from an internship and conference
based education center, to a year long school curriculum, ecumenical and interfaith, that will start next year after I turn 70.
Franciscans do not retire as such, but I can at least stop traveling–and let that itself be part of our message.
None of us are necessary, surely not me. If it is truly God’s work–and represents the Perennial Tradition–it has a truthful and wonderful LIFE of its own.
The Center for Action and Contemplation plans to make use of the wonder of webcasting and on-line education to both teach students here in New Mexico and simultaneously to stream all of those classes worldwide–in a certificate program that an ordinary person–anywhere–and with limited means can still access. If only Jesus would have had such technical possiblities! Our webcasts from the last 4 years reach all 50 USA states and usually 30-40 other countries, from isolated people in Cambodia to aware South Africans, and from sophisticated theology students in England to working women in Belize. This is a new kind of open education possibility for our world, and no denomination, seminary professor, or church prelate can any longer limit the truths that are now being validated by science, cultural studies, psychology, and the revelations of history. We are inviting a cadre of “master teachers” who can put these things together, and will join me in presenting the Perennial Traditon, the “alternative orthodoxy” that Franciscanism has always represented, and frankly many clear elements of the Gospel that denominations never seem to get around to. We hope it can be both
academically quite serious but also emphasizing practice and lifestyle–all with the trained contemplative mind that seminaries do not seem able or willing to teach.
Our whole staff and Board are so excited, and we hope you will be too. Check it out at our website: cacradicalgrace.org, or just cac.org But mostly pray that we can do “something beautiful for the Gospel”, to slightly paraphrase Mother Teresa kind phrase.