Archive for December 3rd, 2020

It is so encouraging and consoling to read the words of a man of peace, a world leader devoted to the way of love! This is especially so as we face the two-headed serpent of a spiking pandemic and grotesque tribalism. In his third, October 2020 encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti,” our Brother, Pope Francis, speaks to our desperate need for true community. He speaks, in effect, of a politics of empathy, compassion, conviction and solidarity.

In his third encyclical, Pope Francis refers to the “ culture of walls” and the importance of “ envisaging and engendering an open world.” The “other” is our sister and brother. We are neighbors. This represents the wisdom of St Francis whose example inspires us, in imitation of Christ, to cultivate a love-centered politics.

Some argue that talk of “politics” has no place in discussions among religious folk. I respectfully disagree. An engaged spirituality demands that our words and actions be informed by our interior lives. What we hold dear as principles, ideals, and guiding beliefs should be mirrored in our behavior if they are to be more than ideological window dressing.

I agree with Roman Catholic cultural commentator G K Chesterton who opined: “I never discuss anything except politics and religion. There is nothing else to discuss.” I am reminded of the counsel of a parish priest when I was a young man in the 70s: “ Keep the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.”

An embodied, experience-based theology informs character and character matters. It is the heart of personal leadership: the quest to become the best possible version of ourselves. Anything less raises the likelihood of our becoming entangled in illusion and delusion along the journey.

At its best, theology is endemically political. It speaks to the matter of how we understand our presence in the world: how we see ourselves in the context of community, how we see one another as we accompany each other on the road toward a “more perfect Union. ” The alternative is thin, overly intellectualized talk of religious ideals that are all too easily distracted by the rallying cries of the darker forces.

It is a cheap and shallow faith that eschews a compelling point of view on the issues of our times. The human heart is meant to be aroused by the call to see something deeper moving in the events that occur beyond appearances.

Theology offers a frame through which to view our experiences from a greater altitude. What follows upon seeing with fresh eyes is the impulse to share that experience with our sisters and brothers. If we are patient and attentive enough, we are fortunate to be invited into true Dialogue. This is so much more than mere discussion. We are encouraged to enunciate our own understanding coupled with an even more generous and genuine interest in all ( especially divergent) perspectives.

When we embrace real dialogue, listening takes primacy over speaking. The driving movement resides in the flow of the ever richer questions we ask made possible by our shared discoveries. The measure of the quality of this kind of spiritual conversation is the extent to which all key assumptions are fully examined.

Dialogue is founded on good faith, genuine hospitality, humility, honesty and candor. What do we do when our leaders act in bad faith and fail to uphold the dignity of ALL of our brothers and sisters? Bad faith action is a dialogue destroyer.

Integrity and a deepening commitment to truth compels us, especially in instances of such violent motivations, to rise and speak truth to power. When leaders lie to us or in any way misrepresent the truth, conspire to manipulate with ideology and fear- mongering rhetoric intended to sow seeds of division and hatred, we must forcefully denounce it. Falling short in the defense of dignity and integrity is spiritual malfeasance.

We are living in times that are stress-testing our stated beliefs and the depth of our interior practice. This is the foundational stuff that we teach our children. They are watching closely and they learn more by our examples than our words.

In this Season of the Light ( Diwali, Advent, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa) we are invited to look within to purify ourselves as the true temples of the Spirit. “For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21).

A blessed and illuminating season to you and yours.

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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