It is amazing to me how often Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations speak directly to the sermon that I am preparing for the upcoming weekend. We come to our final week in the Advent Conspiracy series. We’ve been exploring how to conspire against the rampant consumerism that overshadows this season. So far we’ve looked at the themes: Worship Fully, Spend Less, and Give More. This week we end with Love All.
Read 1 John 3:16-18 slowly and closely.
Richard Rohr’s meditation is titled “Loving Fully” and he, yet again, describes how St. Francis of Assisi embodied the love of Jesus in the world. He quotes Pope Francis who says,
[Saint Francis’] response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus [as in “What’s in it for me?”], for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists. . . . If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.
Keep these words in mind and then go back to 1 John 3:17, “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” That is a rhetorical question that John answers in 1 John 3:15. He says, “All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.” Harsh!
Now, let me wander a little bit into the deep weeds of theory for a moment. I wrote a chapter in my dissertation that never made it into the final cut. You can read it here. The whole point of that chapter was to contrast the modern idea of self with the pre/non modern idea, and how this has led to much of the violence and exploitation of the modern era.
These images attempt to illustrate the difference. Notice how the modern, what Charles Taylor calls the buffered self, is completely separate from the other and surrounded by a rigid boundary. The buffered self sees itself as the only subject while all others are merely objects to be observed and manipulated. The pre/non modern self is, as Taylor calls it, the porous self. The porous self is both the subject and the object and is interconnected and interdependent with everything in its environment.
Rohr puts it this way,
Jesus told us, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). He called us to a presence that is a broader and deeper kind of knowing than just cognitive thinking. Thinking knows things by objectifying them, capturing them as an object of knowledge. But presence knows things by refusing to objectify them; instead it shares in their very subjectivity. Presence allows full give and take, what Martin Buber (1878-1965) called the “I/Thou” relationship with things as opposed to the mere “I/it” relationship. Buber summed it up in his often-quoted phrase: “All real living is meeting.”
It is my prayer this week that we can realize that loving all things is not just one option to make for a merrier Christmas. It is actually essential to our survival and it is the very heart of God.