Franciscan Spirit Blog

Advent with Richard Rohr: Monday of the First Week

Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed.
—Matthew 8:8

The American Declaration of Independence says we have an “unalienable right” to the pursuit of happiness. God created us to be happy and joyful “in this world and the next,” and Jesus says the same several times in John 14-17. The only difference between the two is that any happiness that is demanded from life never becomes happiness because it is too narcissistically and self-consciously pursued.

The “joy that the world cannot give” (John 14:27) always comes as a gift to those who wait for it, expect it and make room for it inside themselves. The first is self-assertion, the second is self-surrender. The first is taking; the second is receiving. Those are two entirely different human dynamics. You do not catch a butterfly by chasing it: You sit still and it alights on your shoulder. Then it chooses you. That is true happiness.

When we set out to seek our private happiness, we often create an idol that is sure to topple. Any attempts to protect any full and private happiness in the midst of so much public suffering have to be based on illusion about the nature of the world we live in. We can only do that if we block ourselves from a certain degree of reality and refuse solidarity with “the other side” of everything, even the other side of ourselves. Both sides of life are good and necessary teachers; in fact, failure and mistake teach us much more than our successes.

Failure and success were often called “the two hands of God” or the “paschal mystery.” It takes struggles with both our darkness and our light to form us into full children of God, but of course, we especially resist “the left hand of God” which is usually some form of suffering (read loss of control). As in our Gospel today, it was the same suffering of the centurion’s servant that brought the centurion out of his comfortable house and that invited Jesus into that house!

Suffering and solidarity with the suffering of others has an immense capacity to “make room” inside of us. It is probably our primary spiritual teacher.


What attachments in your life can you let go of to make more room for God?

Advent with Richard Rohr

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