Jim said, “Ok, you be you and I’ll be God. And since I’m God, I’m watching you get up exhausted every morning, and I’m so touched that you want to spend this time with me. Really, I am! It just means the world to me. The thing is, I just can’t bear how much I love you. It’s too much! And so at a certain point I rush into the bodies of your children and wake them up because. . . .”
Jim paused. “Because I want to know what it feels like to be held by you.”
Yes, the interruption is the presence of God that I was so desperately trying to access in moments of stillness and silence. With or without the luxury of stillness and silence, God comes to us disguised as our very lives (as Paula D’Arcy has said). In my case, Jim helped me to discover how my path as an exhausted young parent was the monastery of my own transformation. If I learned to let my heart open enough, I just might begin to recognize each cry, each diaper change, every choo-choo play time request . . . all of it, as the startlingly stunning, diaphanous infusion of infinite love colliding into the small shape of my very finite and ordinary reality. There, at the intersection of everything, is God with us . . . wanting to be touched, noticed, nurtured . . . held by us. All we have to do is behold.
Rather than consuming spiritual gifts for yourself alone, you must receive all words of God so that you can speak them to others tenderly and with subtlety. If any thought feels too harsh, shaming, or diminishing of yourself or others, it is not likely the voice of God but the ego. Why do humans so often presume the exact opposite—that shaming voices are always from God and graced voices are always the imagination? That is a self-defeating (“demonic”?) path.
If something comes toward you with grace and can pass through you and toward others with grace, you can trust it as the voice of God. One holy man who recently came to visit me put it this way: “We must listen to what is supporting us. We must listen to what is encouraging us. We must listen to what is urging us. We must listen to what is alive in us.” I personally was so trained not to trust those voices that I often did not hear the voice of God speaking to me, or what Abraham Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature.”
Yes, a narcissistic person can misuse such advice, but someone genuinely living in love will flourish inside such a dialogue. That is the risk that God takes—and we must take—for the sake of a fruitful relationship with God. It takes so much courage and humility to trust the voice of God within. Mary personifies such trust in her momentous and free “Let it be” to the Archangel Gabriel (Luke 1:38). Don’t you suppose that Gabriel sounded just like her own mind? She never talks about such an angel again.
We must learn how to recognize the positive flow and to distinguish it from the negative resistance within ourselves. It takes years of practice. If a voice comes from accusation and leads to accusation, it is quite simply the voice of the “Accuser,” which is the literal meaning of the biblical word “Satan.” Shaming, accusing, or blaming is simply not how God talks. God is supremely nonviolent. God only cajoles, softens, and invites us into an always bigger field and it is always a unified field.
We owe a great deal of Western thinking to the Greek philosopher and scientist, Aristotle (384–322 BCE). Aristotle taught that there were ten different qualities to all things, including “substance” and “relationship.”
Substance is that which is “independent” of all else and can stand on its own. Aristotle ranked substance as the highest quality. In early Christian traditions, the West tried to build on Aristotle to prove that this God whom we had come to understand as Trinitarian was a substance. We didn’t want an ephemeral old relationship God, you know. We wanted a substantial God whom we could prove was as good as anybody else’s God!
Yet, when Jesus called himself the Son of the Father and yet one with the Father, he is giving clear primacy to relationship. Who you are is who you are in the Father, as he would put it. That is your meaning and your identity. Jesus says to his Father, “I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:22-23).
In the fourth and fifth centuries, Augustine (354–430) described Trinity as God in three substances united as one. By the next century, God is one substance who happens to have three relationships. Aquinas (1225–1274) comes along in the thirteenth century saying that God is one substance, but the relationships constitute the very nature of that substance, subsistent relationship. Now we are prepared to say that God is not, nor does God need to be, “substance” in the Aristotelian sense of something independent of all else. God is relationship itself.
I would name salvation as simply the readiness, the capacity, and the willingness to stay in relationship. As long as you show up with some degree of vulnerability, the Spirit can keep working. Self-sufficiency makes God experience impossible! That’s why Jesus showed up in this world as a naked, vulnerable one, a defenseless baby lying in the place where animals eat. Talk about utter relationship! Naked vulnerability means I’m going to let you influence me; I’m going to allow you to change me. The Way of Jesus is an invitation to a Trinitarian way of living, loving, and relating—on earth as it is in the Godhead. We are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in absolute relatedness. To choose to stand outside of this Flow is the deepest and most obvious meaning of sin.
We call the Flow love. We really were made for love, and outside of it we die very quickly.
Second, for Teilhard, to love God requires loving the world as well, since what God brought forth in the evolving cosmos is precisely God’s loving self-expression. For Teilhard, because God loves the totality of creation unconditionally and wants it to evolve to its destined completion, we too should learn to love the cosmos with a passion. Our challenge in spirituality is to realize how totally integrated we humans are with all creation and how best to work toward creation’s divinely desired evolutionary fulfillment.
Third, for Teilhard, this new evolutionary scientific information (less than a century old) allows us to look at all of creation in its multi-billion-year history and give a richer and more concrete meaning to what God is trying to do in the world. Saint Paul described God’s “hidden purpose” (Ephesians 3:9-10) as “building the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:1-6, 13). Jesus expressed it in his prayer “That all may be one as you, Father, are in me and I am in you” (John 17:21). The church’s tradition tries to express this oneness that God is trying to accomplish as “building the Mystical Body of Christ.” Teilhard’s vision of what God is trying to do is what I like to call the “Christ Project.”
God’s Christ Project encompasses the entire evolving universe, and its aim is to bring creation (along with all of us) back to God, fully conscious of our divine origin and divine destiny. . . .
For Teilhard, although each individual soul is intimately known and unconditionally loved by God, in the end the one Person that God wants to “save” and bring to perfection is the cosmic-sized Christ, in whom lives the entire universe that God lovingly created and set into an evolutionary process almost fourteen billion years ago (Ephesians 1:9-10).