Dear Friends,

 We hope that you are safe and well.

 Today's meditation features Richard Rohr sharing how he came to experience God's Love as purely a gift not something that he had to earn--a journey common to us all.

 We invite you to join us as we commit ourselves to working tirelessly to end systemic and structural racism in our society, in the church, in healthcare, in the workplace--wherever it shows up so that everyone may come to have more abundant life. May this meditation nourish our contemplative-active hearts and sustain all of us in action.

In the spirit of our philosophy of co-creating community and our awareness that the Spirit speaks through each of us, we invite you to share your meditations with us as well. We truly believe that it is God's economy of abundance: when we share our blessings, our thoughts, our feelings, we are all made richer.

We hope and pray that you find peace, healing, hope and the infusion of joy in your life!

With our love and care,

Ron and Jean

MEDITATION 501: Richard Rohr: "Absolute Grace and Acceptance"

Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation

From the Center for Action and Contemplation

Image credit: Raul Diaz, White Sands New Mexico (detail), 2006, photograph, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Week Thirty-Five: Living Inside God's Great Story

Absolute Grace and Acceptance

After high school seminary, my [Richard’s] next step toward becoming a Franciscan was a year-long novitiate in Cincinnati, Ohio. In those days we knelt a lot. I had calluses on my knees because we knelt so much. It was not modern spirituality, but it was a wonderful container that kept me in myself, in my inner world, in the silence. Most of the day we had to keep quiet. This was a medieval novitiate still based on asceticism. Before Vatican II, the Catholic Church was still law-based, disconnected from experience, and not incarnational. It all circled around priests and their ministrations.

I was nineteen years old and trying to be the most fervent student possible: on time, clean, reverent, and respectful, like a Boy Scout. “Yes, Father. No, Father. Whatever you want, Father.” I’d had such a good father, and I knew how to be a good son. I didn’t have the usual opposition toward authority figures, but I was still going crazy with trying to be perfect. Fortunately, over time, I discovered it was my definition of perfection, not God’s, so I learned not to take it too seriously. Everyone creates their own definition of perfection that they try to live up to, and then they experience the illusion that they’re either perfectly wonderful or completely inadequate.

Sometime in the middle of that year, I was kneeling in the choir in the Franciscan community’s novitiate house on Colerain Avenue. Suddenly, I felt chains fly in all directions. The Scripture that I had read that day was Philippians 3:7­–9: “What I once considered an asset, now I consider a liability. The law that I thought was going to save me, now is my curse” (my paraphrase). Not coincidentally, I had just read the autobiography of Thérèse of Lisieux. She can change anybody.

Suddenly, I knew that God’s love did not depend on me following all these laws and mandates or being worthy. I knew I wasn’t worthy, and yet here I was experiencing absolute grace and absolute acceptance. The whole system I’d grown up with had implied that God will love us if we change. That day I realized God’s love enables and energizes us to change.

I already had that boyhood secret discovered gratuitously in front of the Christmas tree: where I felt I had been taken over to another world, which was really this world as it truly is. I’d realized, “My God, this is inside of what everybody is living, and they don’t see it!” Now once again, I somehow knew that I was good, God is good, life is good. And I didn’t have to achieve that goodness by any performance whatsoever. At that point, I was—like a good Lutheran—saved by grace. Grace was everything!

In one moment, I got the Gospel! And I knew it had nothing to do with legalism, priestcraft, or punitiveness. I hadn’t studied theology yet, so I had no intellectual foundation by which to justify it, but I just knew that everything was grace. I was very free—inside—after that.

Adapted from Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love, selected by Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Orbis Books: 2018), 49–51.

Image credit: Raul Diaz, White Sands New Mexico (detail), 2006, photograph, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Image inspiration: The natural grandeur of this photo reveals the creative and mysterious aspects of the Divine. But it doesn’t capture the dryness of the air, the heat of the sand, the sounds, the smells, and the tastes. That requires us to be there, present inside the landscape and story.

Prayer For Our Center for Action and Contemplation Community

Loving God, you fill all things with a fullness and hope that we can never comprehend. Thank you for leading us into a time where more of reality is being unveiled for us all to see. We pray that you will take away our natural temptation for cynicism, denial, fear and despair. Help us have the courage to awaken to greater truth, greater humility, and greater care for one another. May we place our hope in what matters and what lasts, trusting in your eternal presence and love. Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our suffering world. Please add your own intentions . . . Knowing, good God, you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God. Amen.

Listen to Father Richard pray this prayer aloud.

Story From Our Community

The Daily Meditations allow me to reconnect with my Catholic upbringing. I am reminded of the Franciscan sisters that allowed me to visit when I was lost and lonely and the magic I felt in my faith as a youth. As the church became more patriarchal and shame-based, I abandoned it. With Father Rohr's teaching, I can see the expansiveness of the Bible and faith. I can reconnect with that goodness.

—Kirstin G.