I occasionally consider what I believe in and why I believe it. When I use the word believe I don’t mean to express it as a way of just thinking. Believing for me is as much as more of be-living. Where, Why, How, Who do I profess and express faith and practice in my daily life. Am I faithfully devoting myself to issues and principles greater than my own free will and best interest. Do I minimize hypocrisy as much as possible?
I am both a spiritual and religious person. That is to say that I practice Christian rituals and believe in a triune God. That doesn’t suggest that I’m an orthodox Christian. In fact, my hypothesis is that I’m actually more heretical or universalist than many of my Christian contemporaries. I’ve become less dualistic in my thinking and beliefs. I slowly and steadily am stepping beyond my ego toward engaging the actual and mysterious paradoxes of life. Such paradoxes are full of koans . For example – evil, vicious actions indeed may lead to renewed life. The innocent murder of a sinless person possesses the capacity to redeem the world, not in a substitonary fashion but rather in transformational ways.
This past week, I (and millions of other Christians) traveled through Holy Week. This story is a religious and spiritual meta-metaphor for not only Jesus of Nazareth but for us as well. The Holy Week pilgrimage proclaims theosis. God offers in-breaking presence and power in Holy Week. Power in weakness and defeat, then and now, provides means for resurrecting and guiding our steps toward becoming more human and divine.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and protest at the Jerusalem temple create conditions for tumult. He accepts these challenges even as he celebrates a first sacramental communion and last mortal supper with his disciples. He suffers the shame of betrayal. He is falsely accused of crimes. Roman officials, most likely with the assistance of fearful and/or jealous religious leaders, conspire to murder Jesus. All of these events provide the passionate stew for something miraculous to happen. Jesus dies a horrible death. Then, amazingly – three days later he appears in a wounded yet transformed being to demonstrate loves power over hate, grace’s victory over evil.
All of this “greatest story” is a dramatic representation as well as a demonstration of Divine, in-breaking manifestation for transforming our abilities to become more human and divine. Do you want a current example today, here and now in America. ‘Consider the activities of the Parkland High School Students before, during, in front of, and “Behind The March.”
Richard Rohr OFM, describes human development in a couple of coincidental ways. First, he (along with Carl Jung) suggests that God offers people of faith opportunities to mature in two halves. These two segments do not have to be equivalent in time. Some, perhaps many of us (and the communities they live in) never reach the second half. We spend the first half of our lives building up our senses of individual and tribal powers, security, and ego-based (false) identities. Rohr, October, 2012). We construct laws, rituals, and structures to support these values. It’s therefore important for children to learn quickly that God and their families love them as well other people different than them. Children who feel safe, beloved, and connected to God, themselves, their communities, and the creation more broadly develop healthy ego structures and boundaries. (Rohr, March, 2018). As we all know, or discover, this process isn’t easy. We live into the harsh and often perplexing realities of being human. This is the stage for the first portion of Jesus’ Holy Week as well as our own.
In life’s second half, our egos and we along with them come to understand that life isn’t all about us and/or the groups we belong to in this world. Our egos and souls emerge to claim what is our truest being. We adopt a holistic sense of who we are and why we are here, now. We have a shadow side as well as a bright side. Psychotherapy, and authentic religious, spiritual experiences unleash us from the bonds of our disbelieving what we understand about ourselves and the world we live in. Living in this half of life redeems us from selfishness, elitism, consumerism, and a host of other ego-based vices we are witnessing today. Peter begins this process when he betrays Jesus three times on the night of Jesus’ trial.
Regrettably, we can’t just leap-frog from the first stage of development onto the second stage. We require a bridge. Often, it is a treacherous one. Moving from life’s ego-based into life’s soul-based domains typically requires us undertaking and accepting deep loss (death), shame, and wholehearted love. People living with the disease of addiction(s) encounter the Divine through a vital spiritual experience. Victims of trauma and grief receive God’s Grace from unexpected encounters and unexpected healing circumstances.
Witness how the two halves of life and the bridge between them happens between Palm Sunday and Easter Day. Jesus’ followers and enemies alike believe that he is a king. Victims of the Roman Empire seek a Messiah. Political, imperial, and religious authorities observe a threat. A clash happens leading to chaos, confusion, and death. And then new life happens in The Resurrected Jesus Christ. Women witness The Lord on Easter Sunday morning. They set set aside their fears. They had possessed an understanding of how their world was supposed to work. It didn’t. Powerful religious and political officials collaborated to execute their King. He died …. And then rose again. Thus the disciples who encounter The Christ cross over from the first to second half of life. They choose to adopt new beliefs, regardless of the costs. They remain in Jerusalem accepting the possibilities of being slain as their Messiah had died just a couple of days before them. They were, as Jesus was, reborn and willing to offer new life to other people too.
This process of “order, disorder, and reorder” is what life, death, and resurrection should be all about as followers of Jesus Christ. Every day provides each of us moments to contemplate and act upon what half of life are we living in. Who are the people transformed by their soulful, sorrowful, and life-giving experiences who inspire us? What stories from scripture remind and redeem us? How does Christ’s compassionate life of offering sight to the blind, food to the hungry, and peace to victims of violence. Have we picked up on our crosses and struggled up Calvary’s hill to die as one of the men who hung on crosses next to Jesus? What may we do to live with him now, forever on the other side of Easter’s empty tomb? How was your Holy Week? How is it going today on this side of Jesus’ and your own potential resurrection.