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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

685 One should never look a gift universe in the mouth!

Day 685 Sunday, January 30, 2022

The highest compliment we can give to God, our Creator, is to thoroughly enjoy the gift of life. One should never look a gift universe in the mouth! The best way to pay for a beautiful moment is to enjoy it. - Ronald Rolheiser

The incarnation began with Jesus and it has never stopped . . . God takes on flesh so that every home becomes a church, every child becomes the Christ-child, and all food and drink become a sacrament. God's many faces are now everywhere, in flesh, tempered and turned down, so that our human eyes can see him. - Ronald Rolheiser

Do you want to experience a mature, healthy, dynamic spirituality? Read Ronald Rolheiser, priest, theologian, teacher, author of 16 books and 2,000 columns, and a retreat leader and prolific speaker. Whether you are a devotee of Rolheiser or a Rolheiser neophyte, his Essential Spiritual Writings will convince you that his humane, accessible and hopeful spirituality make him an important contemporary writer.

Rolheiser comes from unlikely hardscrabble beginnings. growing up in the prairies of Saskatchewan in a family of 16 children. At age 17 he entered the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate community and went on to receive a doctorate in theology from the University of Louvain in Belgium. He served as a regional superior of his order and, most recently, as president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio. He has taught and lectured globally.

Rolheiser is clear that spirituality must be based on theology lest it become unhealthy, and he draws on the work of Augustine, Aquinas, John of the Cross, Karl Rahner and Henri Nouwen. However, his focus is on spirituality, what he calls "applied theology" and without it, theology is merely "intellectual aesthetics." He claims there are four essentials of Christian life: private prayer and morality, mellowness of heart, community as an element of worship and participation in the work of social justice.

"A healthy soul must do two things for us. First, it must put some fire in our veins, keep us energized, vibrant, living with zest and full of hope as we sense that life is, ultimately beautiful and worth living ... Second, a healthy soul has to keep us fixed together. It has to continually give us a sense of who we are, where we came from, where we are going, and what sense there is in all of this."

- Ronald Rolheiser

Although his essential writings include discussion of these topics, Rolheiser's central premise from which all else follows is of a "sacred fire" implanted by God in all of creation.

In humans this manifests as a desire for unity, wholeness and community. Our spirituality is how we live into this desire, this longing, how we overcome our separateness.

As our defining characteristic, this "sacred fire" is a mixed blessing leading to a creative, exuberant life or a sense of being thwarted. If our longing is for the trivial, the result will be continued loneliness, restlessness and rootedness. The human quest is to create a life and then to give that life away.

One of the dominant expressions of this sacred fire is human sexuality. In a religion that historically feared sexuality and worked to control it, Rolheiser offers a wholistic understanding of this most human desire, one that promotes neither frigidity nor irresponsibility but is both chaste and passionate.

Sexuality is a good, a manifestation of the sacred energy in all humans and a longing to overcome loneliness. It has many expressions — friendship, family, service, hospitality, nourishment and genitality — which are only some aspects of this powerful drive toward unity. Healthy sexuality of all kinds leads to joy and selflessness; unhealthy sexuality to unhappiness, selfishness, greater loneliness and separation.

You feel your own life - your heart, your mind, your body, your sexuality, the people and things you are connected to - and you spontaneously fill with the exclamation: "God, it feels great to be alive!" That's delight.

- Ronald Rolheiser

The major life issue is how we live out our desire and longing. How do we overcome our separation? This is our spirituality. In life, separation continues until we give our lives away. Augustine said it first; we remain restless until we rest in God. Rolheiser asks us to consider the notion of ongoing incarnation. As part of the Body of Christ, Christians carry the responsibility to be the physical reality of God in the world. Our ordinary lives offer the opportunity to live creatively and generatively — to give our lives away. We are nourished in this work by prayer that helps us reclaim an intimacy with God and fulfills our longing to overcome our separateness.

In works of charity and social justice we also overcome our loneliness. Rolheiser is insistent that personal charity is not sufficient; we must challenge the unjust structures and institutions in which we are embedded. As we age and can no longer be productive, we can live into acceptance, which prepares us to give even our deaths away, bringing peace to those who remain.

It is the life of Jesus, especially his death, that serves as a model for our living and dying. Jesus pleaded to be rescued by his father, but he experienced abandonment as he died an ignominious death. Yet he trusted and in that dark hour he took into himself the hatred and cruelty of those who crucified him and transformed this through forgiveness. This is redemptive Christianity. The mystery of the Incarnation urges us in life and in death to continue this transformation. In living out our sacred fire, our spirituality, we overcome our loneliness and separation and we help redeem the world.

We prepare to die by pushing ourselves to love less narrowly. In that sense, readying ourselves for death is really an ever-widening entry into life.

- Ronald Rolheiser

Ronald Rolheiser presents the Christian message in all its vibrancy, making him one of America's most important spiritual writers. His Essential Spiritual Writings prove why.

Reflection by Dana Green, dean emerita of Oxford College of Emory University.

Other quotes I love from Ronald Rolheiser:

"The word baptism means derailment. Christ baptizes Peter on the rock when he tells him: "Because you confessed your love for me, your life is no longer your own. Before you said this, you fastened your belt and you walked wherever you liked. Now, others will put a belt around you and take you where you would rather not go." To submit to love is to be baptized, that is, to let one's life be forever interrupted. To not let one's life be interrupted is to say no to love."

"To be connected with the church is to be associated with scoundrels, warmongers, fakes, child-molesters, murderers, adulterers, and hypocrites of every description. It also, at the same time, identifies you with saints and the finest persons of heroic soul within every time, country, race, and gender. To be a member of the church is to carry the mantle of both the worst sin and the finest heroism of soul . . . because the church always looks exactly as it looked at the original crucifixion, God hung among thieves."

Ronald Rolheiser

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