Richard Rohr: A Spirituality of the Beatitudes

In the Franciscan reading of the Gospel, there is no reason to be religious or to “serve” God except “to love greatly the One who has loved us greatly,” as Saint Francis said. [1] Religion is not about heroic will power or winning or being right. This has been a counterfeit for holiness in much of Christian history.

.. While the Ten Commandments are about creating social order (a good thing), the eight Beatitudes of Jesus are all about incorporating what seems like disorder, a very different level of consciousness. With the Beatitudes, there is no social or ego payoff for the false self. Obeying the Commandments can appeal to our egotistic consciousness and our need to be “right” or better than others.

.. Obedience to the Ten Commandments does give us the necessary impulse control and containment we need to get started, which is foundational to the first half of life. “I have kept all these from my youth,” the rich young man says, before he then refuses to go further (Mark 10:22).

The Beatitudes, however, reveal a world of pure grace and abundance, or what Spiral Dynamics and Integral Theory would call the second tier of consciousness and what I call second-half-of-life spirituality.

His actual life and practice show how he deliberately undercut the entire “honor/shame system” on which so much of culture, violence, false self-esteem, and even many of the ministrations of church depends. Doing anything and everything solely for God is certainly the most purifying plan for happiness I can imagine. It changes the entire nature of human interaction and eliminates most conflict.

A New Way of Seeing

Suddenly an inspiration arrived. She threw away her prepared speech, smiled warmly, and began, “I want to thank you all for the generous funding we received from you last year. Here’s how we spent it.” She then went on to detail all the good work they had managed to accomplish on what was actually a very small subsidy. As she spoke, she could sense the board members visibly relaxing and her colleagues staring in amazement. She concluded, “We are not asking you for a single additional penny this year, and if we need to cut back, this is the strategy we’ve put in place to do so with minimal impact on our service.”

It almost goes without saying that she received the full amount requested. By introducing gratitude as the missing third force, she managed to shift the energetic field from a sense of scarcity to a sense of abundance. And from that field of abundance she did indeed receive her daily bread.