The Way of the Cross by Richard Rohr

Following Jesus is a vocation to share the fate of God for the life of the world. Jesus invited people to “follow” him in bearing the mystery of human death and resurrection.

Those who agree to carry and love what God loves, which is both the good and the bad of human history, and to pay the price for its reconciliation within themselves—these are the followers of Jesus—the leaven, the salt, the remnant, the mustard seed that God can use to transform the world. The cross is the dramatic image of what it takes to be such a usable one for God.

These few are the critical mass that keeps the world from its path toward greed, violence, and self-destruction. God is calling everyone and everything to God’s self (Gen. 8:16-17, Eph. 1:9-10, Col. 1:15-20, Acts 3:21, 1 Tim. 2:4, John 3:17). But God still needs some instruments and images who are willing to be “conformed to the pattern of his death” and transformed into the power of his resurrection (Phil. 3:10). They illuminate the path because they allow themselves to be used.

Jesus crucified and resurrected is the whole pattern revealed, named, effected, and promised for our own lives. The Jesus story is the universe story.The Cosmic Christ is no threat to anything but separateness, illusion, domination, and the imperial ego. In that sense, Jesus, the Christ, is the ultimate threat, but first of all to Christians themselves. Only then will they have any universal and salvific message for the rest of the earth.

from Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Power

emphasis mine

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 File:Marco palmezzano, crocifissione degli Uffizi.jpg

Ode To a Passionflower

O, passionflower,
growing in Mary’s Garden—

your lavender flowers prophetic in unction:
your tendrils showing forth Christ’s scourging,

the three top stigma the nails,
the five lower anthers the wounds,

the radial filaments the crown of thorns
placed on the head of one called “King of the Jews.”

O, teach us, teach us, little reminder—
for red stains are His blood, shed,

the style to mock, to offer Him vinegar:
your fragrant spices to anoint,

and like the dogwood,
your taller neighbor

with each flower Calvary’s cross,
your blossoms focus on the sadness:

for, while gladly we walk in the garden,
the joy of heaven is yet a dream.

from Facing a Lonely West (May 2014) – now available in advance order from Main Street Rag

Anyone who wants to save his life, must lose it. Anyone who loses her life will find it. — Matthew 16:25

That’s a pretty strong, almost brutal, statement from Jesus. But it makes very clear that there is a necessary suffering that cannot be avoided, which Jesus calls “losing your very life,” or the False Self. Your False Self is your role, title, and personal image that is largely a creation of your own mind and attachments. It will and must die in exact correlation to how much you want the Real.

The Real is what all the world religions were pointing to when they spoke of heaven, nirvana, bliss, or enlightenment. Their only mistake was that they pushed it off into the next world. When you die before you die, you are choosing the Real—or union with God—over your imaginary separation from God. You are choosing “the kingdom of God” over your own smaller kingdoms. Heaven is the state of union both here and later. Only the True Self knows that.

The lasting question is: “How much False Self are you willing to shed to find your True Self?” Such necessary suffering will always feel like dying, which is what good spiritual teachers will tell you very honestly.

from Falling Upward: A Spirituality For the Two Halves of Life

emphasis mine

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Note: This is from the book I got for Christmas.  Very good.

 

CvrLonelyWest_1w

 

If you want to buy a copy of Facing a Lonely West from Main Street Rag at the advance sale price of $9 plus tax and shipping, I suggest you do it now.  Next week may be too late.  (Please note: I do not know the exact date the book will be published)

You are a son or daughter of the Good and Loving God. The Divine Image is planted inherently and intrinsically within you. You cannot create it, you cannot manufacture it, you cannot earn it, you cannot achieve it, you cannot attain it, you cannot cumulatively work up to it. Do you know why? Because you already have it! That is the core of the Gospel.

A preoccupation with False Selfgets in the way of experiencing and knowing this reality. The False Self is an imaginary self that thinks it’s separate; it is the self that I think I am. The False Self is what has to die so your True Self can live.

God will lead you to that new, transformed place of the True Self if you get out of the way. You don’t have to do it; it will be done to you. Don’t try to engineer your own death. That just reinforces the ego.

A situation in your life will lead you to a place, an event, a relationship, a failing or falling apart of something wherein you can’t control life anymore and you can’t understand it. Your little, separate, False Self is simply inadequate to the task. And finally, thankfully, you collapse into the larger self, who you are in God, the True Self, which is inherently beloved.

You can’t make yourself more beloved, and you can’t make yourself less beloved. You just have to one day recognize that it is true and start drawing your life from that much larger Source.

from Dying: We Need It For Life

emphasis mine

The Path of Waiting by Henri Nouwen

Passion is a kind of waiting – waiting for what other people are going to do. Jesus went to Jerusalem to announce the good news to the people of that city. And Jesus knew that he was going to put a choice before them: Will you be my disciple, or will you be my executioner? There is no middle ground here. Jesus went to Jerusalem to put people in a situation where they had to say “Yes” or “No”. That is the great drama of Jesus’ passion: he had to wait for their response. What would they do? Betray him or follow him?

In a way, his agony is not simply the agony of approaching death. It is also the agony of being out of control and of having to wait. It is the agony of a God who depends on us to decide how to live out the divine presence among us. It is the agony of the God who, in a very mysterious way, allows us to decide how God will be God. Here we glimpse the mystery of God’s incarnation. God became human not only to act among us but also to be the recipient of our responses.

. . . And that is the mystery of Jesus’ love. Jesus in his passion is the one who waits for our response. Precisely in that waiting the intensity of his love and God’s is revealed to us. 

emphasis mine

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What Must Die by Richard Rohr

All the great religions of the world talk a lot about death, so there must be an essential lesson to be learned through death. The problem has been that we might know something has to die, but throughout much of religious history our emphasis has been on killing the wrong thing and therefore not learning the real lesson. Historically we moved from human sacrifice to animal sacrifice to various modes of seeming self-sacrifice, usually involving the body self.

God was not considered friendly. God was distant and scary. God was not someone with whom you fell in love or with whom you could imagine sharing intimacy. Instead, God was viewed as an angry deity who must be placated with some sort of blood sacrifice. Jesus presented a much different image of God, but it seems very hard for people to let go of their punitive ideas of God.

Sadly, the history of violence and the history of religion are almost the same history. When religion remains at the immature level, it tends to create very violent people who ensconce themselves on the side of the good and the worthy and the pure and the saved. They project all their evil somewhere else and attack it over there. At this level, they export the natural death instinct onto others, as though it’s someone else who has to die.

The truth is it’s you who has to die, or rather, who you think you are, the False Self.

Authentic religion is always about you. It’s saying you change first.

Dying:We Need It For Life

Emphasis mine

 

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Transformative Suffering by Richard Rohr

 

If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.

Jesus is not observing human suffering from a distance; he is somehow in human suffering with us and for us.

Don’t get rid of the pain until you’ve learned its lessons.

Suffering is the only thing strong enough to destabilize the imperial ego.

The cross is always unto resurrection.

Transformed people transform people.

**

Meditating on the Cross

Spend some time meditating on an image of the cross. Allow your body, mind, and heart to be completely present to the suffering of Christ. Welcome your own memories or sensations of pain, sorrow, grief. Hold them gently within the circle of God’s presence—God’s solidarity with human suffering. Then let this suffering, yours and Christ’s, go, and rest in faith that from every death comes new life, in every wound there is the opportunity for healing and hope.

 

 

Only people who have suffered in some way can save one anotherexactly as the Twelve-Step Program also discovered. Deep communion and dear compassion is formed much more by shared pain than by shared pleasure. I do not know why that is true.

Peter, you must be ground like wheat, and once you have recovered, then you can turn and help the brothers” (Luke 22:31-32), Jesus says to Peter. Was this his real ordination to ministry? No other is ever mentioned. I do believe this is the ordination that really matters and that transforms the world. Properly ordained priests might help bread and wine to know what they truly are, but truly ordained priests are the “recovered” ones who can then “help” people to know who they are too. We have been more preoccupied with changing bread than with changing people, it seems to me.

In general, you can lead people on the spiritual journey as far as you yourself have gone. You can’t talk about it or model the path beyond that. That’s why the best thing you can keep doing for people is to stay on the journey yourself. Transformed people transform people. And when you can be healed yourself and not just talk about healing, you are, as Henri Nouwen so well said, a “wounded healer.” Which is the only kind of healer!

from Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps and The Authority of Those Who Have Suffered

emphasis mine

The “cross,” rightly understood, is precisely and always unto resurrection. It’s as if God were holding up the crucifixion as a cosmic object lesson, saying: “I know this is what you’re experiencing. Don’t run from it. Learn from it, as I did. Hang there for a while, as I did. It will be your teacher. Rather than losing life, it is gaining life. It is the way through.”

The mystery of the cross has the power to teach us that our suffering is not our own and my life isnot about “me.” Redemptive suffering is, I believe, a radical call to a deeper life and deeper faith that affects not only the self, but also others. We should pray for the grace to bear our sufferings as Christ bore his for us.

Hopefully, a time will come when the life of Christ will be so triumphant in us that we care more about others than about our own selves, or better, when there is no longer such a sharp distinction between my self and the other self. Remember that conversion is more than anything else a reconstituted sense of the self. As Paul puts it, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

The suffering that we carry is our solidarity with the one, universal longing of all humanity, and thus it can teach us great compassion for and patience with both ourselves and others (see Colossians 1:24).

From Job and the Mystery of Suffering

emphasis mine

Suffering Can Bring Us to God by Ricahrd Rohr

The genius of Jesus’ ministry is that he reveals that God uses tragedy, suffering, pain, betrayal, and death itself, not to wound you, but in fact to bring you to God. So there are no dead ends. Everything can be transmuted and everything can be used.

After all, on the cross, God took the worst thing, the killing of God, and made it into the best thing—the redemption of the world! If you gaze upon the mystery of the cross long enough, your dualistic mind breaks down, and you become slow to call things totally good or totally bad. You realize that God uses the bad for good, and that many people who call themselves good may in fact not be so good. At the cross you learn humility, patience, compassion, and all of the Christian virtues that really matter.

Jesus says, “There’s only one sign I’m going to give you: the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Luke 11:29, Matthew 12:39, 16:4). Sooner or later, life is going to lead you (as it did Jesus) into the belly of the beast, into a place where you can’t fix it, you can’t control it, and you can’t explain it or understand it. That’s where transformation most easily happens. That’s when you’re uniquely in the hands of God.

Suffering is the only thing strong enough to destabilize the imperial ego. It has to be led to the edge of its own resources, so it learns to call upon the Deeper Resource of who it truly is, which is the God Self, the True Self, the Christ Self, the Buddha Self—use the words you want. It is who we are in God and who God is in us. At this place you are indestructible!

from The Authority of Those Who Have Suffered and A New Way of Seeing, A New Way of Being: Jesus and Paul

emphasis mine

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Being Handed Over to Suffering by Henri Nouwen

People who live close together can be sources of great sorrow for one another.  When Jesus chose his twelve apostles, Judas was one of them.  Judas is called a traitor.  A traitor, according to the literal meaning of the Greek word for “betraying,” is someone who hands the other over to suffering.

The truth is that we all have something of the traitor in us because each of us hands our fellow human beings over to suffering somehow, somewhere, mostly without intending or even knowing it.  Many children, even grown-up children, can experience deep anger toward their parents for having protected them too much or too little.  When we are willing to confess that we often hand those we love over to suffering, even against our best intentions, we will be more ready to forgive those who, mostly against their will, are the causes of our pain.

emphasis mine
**

April 2014
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