Franciscan Spirit Blog

Advent with Richard Rohr: Monday of the Third Week

So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” —Matthew 21:27

Can we care intensely and passionately and not care at all in the same moment? If we are seeking God’s will and not our own, it comes somewhat easily. We do the best we can, but we are detached from any need for personal success or response.

We can then care and not care in the same moment. That is true spiritual freedom. Can we even understand such a concept anymore? Does it sound like double-talk? All great spiritual doctrines invariably have the character of paradox to them. For example, we believe that Jesus is human and divine at the same time.

Mary is virgin and mother at the same time. The Eucharist is bread and Jesus at the same time. God is both three and one at the same time. These are all logical contradictions, so the rational mind has to go elsewhere to comprehend.

Things can be true on one level, and on another not true at all. Wisdom is to know how to hear and see on different levels at the same time, as Jesus so cleverly does in today’s Gospel. He is a classic non-dual thinker who knows how to deal creatively with mystery, paradox and negative people too. We cannot love, forgive or be patient if we are totally dualistic.

Jesus refuses to lend himself to hostile, dualistic thinkers who present him with a false dichotomy. As he often does in such cases, Jesus keeps quiet, changes the subject, tells a story, reframes the whole question or just refuses to engage with obvious ill will. He knows that a person becomes a mirror image of anything if he opposes it in kind. So here Jesus just refuses to answer. Amazing that we made Jesus into the consummate answer giver because that is not what he usually does. He more often leads us right onto the horns of our own human-made dilemmas, where we are forced to meet God and be honest with ourselves. He creates problems for us more than resolves them, problems that very often cannot be resolved by all-or-nothing thinking but only by love and forgiveness.


What are the seemingly irresolvable paradoxes in your life? How do you deal with them emotionally? Intellectually? Spiritually?

Advent with Richard Rohr

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