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Reflections on Spirituality - Part 4

In the previous rumination, we began to chew over perception, our way of seeing and evaluating. We quoted Robert Barron and his opening statement from his excellent book "And Now I See" (Crossroad Publishing Co, 1998): "Christianity is, above all, a way of seeing. Everything else in Christian life flows around the transformation of vision". Perhaps we can go even further by saying that the path to a transformed "seeing" is the path of Wisdom which in itself always contains peace, healing, and justice. Not something to be possessed or contained, but rather something shared.

Illustrative of this is a story told by Richard Rohr, a deeply forward thinking commentator on the spiritual journey. It is his belief that a second half of life spirituality is much more about letting go than attaining. It is a time where our seeing, our perception of life begins to change our way of behaving and believing. Our priorities change. He talks about a grandmother, who has walked this wisdom path, who attends a large family gathering. Although she is the matriarch of the family she has come to terms with her false self and its agent ego. She does not hog the centre stage. Rather she is like a rock in a flowing brook -her contribution is to add, amidst the noise of the gathering, a peaceful gurgling of water cascading over the stone. Staying with a water analogy, her wisdom and spirituality ripples outward, is shared, tasted and heard by some, unseen by others.

Is our Granny a Christian? Or Sufi, Hindu, Buddhists, Taoist, a New Ager? I wonder if this is important. In one sense this is an irrelevant question for there is a commonality running through all religions. A deep inter-connectedness, a oneness, a Divine Source. There may be different ways of seeing, perception differences, but is there a common underlying glorious outplaying of God. Truth seeking has no boundaries.

Christians have a wonderful "advantage" in that Jesus became a tangible, touchable, recordable person for all the world to see. He left us his life so that those with eyes may see. The great tragedy is how we have perceived Jesus, especially now. Perhaps this is why Barron speaks of a "transformation of vision". (As I make these comments, please forgive because I, too, am coming from a certain way of thinking, of seeing. These short articles are ruminations, a sort of chewing over issues of spirituality. In no way are they the final word - it is an ongoing conversation. It is journey, not certitude nor is it exclusive but, hopefully, written in inclusive language. In a deep sense I write for myself as you will see!)

Back, then, to a transformed way of seeing. Barron sub-titles his book " A Theory Of Transformation". In other words he believes that something needs to be transformed. And he believes this to be so because he sees just that in the life and words of Jesus. His perception of Jesus is that he came to transform our way of thinking. In the opening address made by Jesus of Nazareth as quoted in Mark, he invited people to "repent and believe the good news". The English word "repent" has developed a moralistic flavour "suggesting a change in behaviour or action" which has gained much way over the last two thousand years. The perception, the point of view, the grasping of reality in context of the unfolding years lent credence to this "way of seeing" perhaps through no fault of their own. For Barron and others, the marriage of theology and spirituality, study and the preparedness to seek truth outside the box, has resulted in a different understanding of the word repent.

The Greek word for repent is "metanoieta" which is based on two words: meta (beyond) and nous (mind or spirit). Consider, then, the import of this when trying to understand Jesus and what he came to do. Jesus is inviting, nay urging, his audience, and us, to a change that is far more fundamental to the level of our being. He goes beyond behaviour and action urging us to "change our way of knowing, of perceiving, of grasping reality, of perspective, of our way of seeing".

The spiritual journey challenges our certitude, pre-suppositions and our prejudices. It asks of us to go into the spaciousness of all Creation.



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