Serendipity enriches life. Yesterday before going to Eucharist, I read several articles by Bishop Spong on Paul and his epistles. Spong’s approach to Paul makes sense. Paul had a mystical experience of the Risen Jesus. When Paul tried to communicate the experience in words, he was limited by his first century worldviews. Thus we have Jesus explained in terms of atonement theory because that was Paul’s background from Yom Kippur. Closer examination makes us wonder what kind of God would demand the death of the only Begotten in order to appease anger over our sinfulness. It just does not make sense under the microscope.
On to Eucharist. Father King said essentially the same thing. Jesus died for our sins should be translated as Jesus thought I was worth dying for. As I pondered this, I went back to Spong. There was nothing for Jesus to rescue us from such as a fall. We have taken the explanation of human weakness and depravity in the Garden story and the ensuing murders that permeate the first chapters of Genesis as fact rather than myth. The story of the fall was a myth—a symbolic account of human weakness. A place called paradise with a wonderful garden never existed. Creation from the beginning has been flawed and groaning toward completion.
Jesus LIVED and died for us to show us the way up and out, the way to closer union with God, the way to become what we already are. We are created in the imago Dei. Jesus became human so that we might become divine.
The spirit fills us with the power to become what we already are. God dwells within us. Today’s reading from Kings says that God dwelled in the Temple in a cloud of darkness. God is light-darkness—the opposites hold in God.
I recommend Rohr’s The Naked Now. The subtitle is “Learning to See as Mystics See.” Mystics see with the third eye. They can look beyond fact and appearance to see with Gerard Manley Hopkins called the “inscape” of things. In “Hagai Sophia,” Merton picks up on inscape and says that there is an “invisible fecundity,” and invisible richness in things. Hopkins sees “the dearest freshness deep down things.” “All things are charged with the grandeur of God.” See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNQpWgFvb_U&feature=related
I believe that Merton’s staying power lies in his ability to see with the third eye. He can peel the onion and get to the heart of things. Thus, he discovered foundations for his mystic, contemplative practice in Islamic Sufism, Eastern theology, and Asian religions. He was not a syncretist; however, God comes in various guises in different cultures.
Contemplative practice allows us to see with the third eye. The fall is a symbol for human frailty, human weakness, human self-centeredness and, at times, human depravity, the false self. By his life, death and resurrection, Jesus lifts us up so that we can became what we already are. Our true self lies hidden deep down in us.
Individuals have been lifted up but not all. Our society and culture has not been lifted to a higher plane. Patriarchal greed, exploitation, and domination fuel unbridled capitalism. In the 80s, Looking Out for Number One was a best seller. This was the playbook for the false self. Me, me, me. I have got mine, you try and get yours. Unbridled capitalism creates wealth, and only unbridled capitalism will lift up the poor. Nevertheless, in spite of its noble claims, capitalism as it works in reality is making the rich richer and the poor poorer.
Meanwhile in a tiny corner of the world, guys wearing tiaras and flowing robes speak about solidarity and the common good. Given the apparent flaws in the church, nobody listens. They do not live in the real world.
Rahner has said that the church in the 21st century will be mystical or it will not be church. It behooves us to go back and revivify the mystical tradition. When we and society learns to see with the third eye, we will be lifted up. We will understand that we are all one regardless of race, class, color, creed, nationality, or sexual orientation. We will arrive at a sense of our solidarity with one another, with God, with ourselves, and with creation. We will understand that the common good beckons us to look beyond our own comfort and consumption. We will realize that creation is gift to be enjoyed by all and not something to be exploited by the few.
Failure to develop the ability and receive the gift of the third eye hardens us in our frailty, our self-centeredness, our greed. When we make a decision and claim Jesus as our Lord and Savior and do not step into discipleship for justice, we are exploiting Jesus. He did not come just to help me save my individual soul. Jesus came to show us how to live and die for one another. Jesus came to show us how to life ourselves and others up. Jesus came to show u how to develop right relationship (justice) with our true self, with God, with others, and with creation. We are part of the Web of Life.