Until and unless Christ is someone happening between people, the Gospel remains largely an abstraction. Until he is passed on personally through faithfulness and forgiveness, through bonds of union, I doubt whether he is passed on at all.
But a look at our tradition will show that faith is really the opposite of certitude. Rather, it is being willing to move into darkness, into not being sure. It means taking risks, allowing ourselves to be taken advantage of, having the grace to move through chancy, uncertain waters, letting go of control and trusting that God will always be there. It means living with the mystery of things, not knowing for sure what’s going to happen or that it’ll turn out okay.
[St.] Francis was enough of a realist to know that this view from the bottom would never become fashionable. Yet his commitment to littleness led him to name his brothers “minors” so that they would never fall back again in to the worldview of the “majors” (the great, the nobility). He knew that there was power in being a somebody, but that there was truth in being a nobody. He always opted for the truth, and from the example of Jesus crucified knew that the Lord would create power out of that.
Francis’ reading of the gospel is of utmost relevance today. His focus and emphasis is the same as ]esus’. His life was an enacted parable, an audio-visual aid to gospel freedom. It gives us the perspective by which to see as Jesus did: the view from the bottom. He insists by every facet of his life that we can only see rightly from a dis-established position. He wanted to be poor first of all simply because Jesus was poor. But he also knew that the biblical promises were made to the poor, that the gospel could be preached only to the poor because they alone had the freedom to hear it without distorting it for their own purposes. He wanted to have nothing to protect except the love which made all else useless. “Love is not loved! Love is not loved!” he used to sigh.
The real way to be biblical and to respect biblical authority is to do what biblical people did, and in the way that they did it. It is not to quote biblical sources or uncover the deep and secret meanings of biblical texts. The authority of words, even inspired words, must somehow be based in the de facto authority of accomplished deeds, redeemed peoples, and living bodies. In other words, it has to have worked somewhere, sometime, with someone, or it is an idealized abstraction. I find that a great many people who put themselves under the cope of religion are, in fact, people who enjoy ideology and abstraction as an escape from real commitment and real conversion.
I’m lucky as a Franciscan to do my Lent in a hermitage every other year. During that time, I am cut off from the news, and I’m struck on my return how I haven’t missed anything, how nothing at all was necessary to know.
By definition, authentic God experience is always “too much”! It consoles our True Self only after it has devastated our false self. We must begin to be honest about this instead of dishing out fast-food religion.
~Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life