The reading from Exodus exposes a constant problem for the Israelites. They lived among peoples who worshipped a multiplicity of other gods while they claimed to believe in the one true God, Yahweh. The fact is that people who belong to a particular religion always live among those who follow other gods. Tribal gods abound. Perhaps, Yahweh was once a Canaanite war god who once had a female goddess consort; however, patriarchy slowly but surely moved the divine feminine into the background. One stunning example in the Christian tradition is how Mary of Magdalene, the first apostle of the resurrection, centuries later became a prostitute who had been forgiven by Jesus.
True religion must always make a place for the divine feminine. We are fashioned in the image of God—male and female. Richard Rohr writes:
Most of us know that God is beyond gender. When we look at the Book of Genesis, we see that the first thing God is looking for is quite simply “images” by which to communicate who-God-is (Genesis 1:26-27). God is not looking for servants, for slaves, or for people who are going to pass loyalty tests. God is just looking for images—“images and likenesses” of the Inner Mystery. Whoever God “is,” is profoundly and essentially what it means to be both male and female in perfect balance. We have to find and to trust images that present both a healthy feminine face for God and a healthy masculine face for God. Both are true and both are necessary for a vital and loving relationship with God. Up to now, we have largely relied upon the presented masculine images of God (which closed many people down) while, in fact, our inner life is much more drawn to a loving feminine energy. That is much of our religious problem today, and I do not believe that is an exaggeration.
Men who do not take steps to develop the feminine within are rather incomplete and lack qualities such as tenderness, mercy, love and compassion. Likewise for women who do not develop their masculine image.
Second, true religion must emerge from tribalism. My god can beat up your god is not going to get it any more in a pluralistic world that is wired electronically. Tribal religion is always hooked to culture. True religion goes beyond local culture to find the oneness inherent in all creation. If God created every person, then God does not pick and choose favorites to receive special blessings. God has the capacity to bestow blessings on each person regardless of race, creed, sex, national origin, or sexual orientation. Speaking of national origin, notice how we are not the United staes isolated from the rest of the Americas when we reflect on the elction of the first pope from the Americas. Seems we want to be part of the bigger picture which is captured by none other than a scientist:
The most important characteristic of the Eastern world view – one could almost say the essence of it – is the awareness of the unity and mutual interrelation of all things and events, the experience of all phenomena in the world as manifestations of a basic oneness. All things are seen as interdependent and inseparable parts of this cosmic whole; as different manifestations of the same ultimate reality. The Eastern traditions constantly refer to this ultimate, indivisible reality which manifests itself in all things, and of which all things are parts. It is called Brahman in Hinduism, Dharmakaya in Buddhism, Tao in Taoism. . . .
The Sanskrit term for meditation – samadhi – means literally ‘mental equilibrium.’ It refers to the balanced and tranquil state of mind in which the basic unity of the universe is experienced:
Entering into the samadhi of purity, (one obtains) all penetrating insight that enables one to become conscious of the absolute oneness of the universe.
(Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics)
Third, true religion demands a surrender to someone/something beyond self. Based on cultural conditioning, we may call the divine by different names; however, the Creator from whom everything flared forth is the one and the same for all peoples. In today’s Gospel, Jesus, said, “But you do not want to come to me to have life. But you do not want to come to me to have life.” The fact is that people do not want to come to the Buddha either. People prefer to stay isolated in the myth of their tiny false self rather than surrender to the larger divinity. This is why the “religion” of the 20th century—Alcoholics Anonymous—has been so successful in releasing people form the addictions spawned by the false self.
Having seen that we are in the male-female image of the divine and are one with all that is, surrender to divinity manifests as compassion, mercy, tenderness, and joy. It is important to “Let go, and let God” however we label or define God.