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Exploring the shadowlands

by davesandel on October 28th, 2021

Thursday, October 28, 2021               (today’s lectionary)

Feast of Saints Simon and Jude

Exploring the shadowlands

Jesus went up the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.

This prayer Jesus practiced every day surely helped him see all sides of people, all sides of the day’s issues, all sides of himself. We don’t see like he does because we don’t pray like he does.

Richard Rohr writes:

Western civilization has failed to learn how to carry the shadow side of all things. Our success-driven culture scorns all failure, powerlessness, and any form of poverty. Yet Jesus begins his Sermon on the Mount by praising “the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3)! Just that should tell us how thoroughly we have missed the point of the Gospel. Instead, we developed a system involving winners and losers, which is not Jesus, who identified with the losers without hating the winners. What a recipe for transformation of culture! We avoid the very things that Jesus praises, and we try to project a strong, secure, successful image to ourselves and to others.

I want to identify with losing (what Fr. Richard calls “bias from the bottom”) but refrain from rejecting the winning (self-righteousness).  This is much more difficult for 71-year-old me than it would be for a 2 year old like Jasper, or even a 5 year old (on November 11) like Miles. They just don’t think that way yet, and perhaps they will be free from those ancient judgments for a little while longer, if given permission by us, the folks who know so much more than they do. I see in myself so little of Paul’s optimistic vision of the new Christian that sometimes I think he must be thinking, as did Jesus, of the little children:

You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.

Lots of big praise for a couple of pre-schoolers, I guess. But though Paul makes us fellow citizens, and the apostles and prophets building blocks, the designer and contractor for this timeless construction is GOD. The kids seem to be better at living this out.

Christ Jesus is the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord.

Rohr, a Franciscan priest, continues, evoking imagery made famous by Carl Jung:

Because we (meaning the Church) did not teach our people how to carry the paschal mystery (the universal entanglement of life and death) that Jesus embodied, it is now coming back to haunt us. Many of us have little ability to carry our own shadow side, much less the shadow side of our church, group, nation, or period of history. But shadowlands are good and necessary teachers. They are not to be avoided, denied, fled from, or explained away. They are not even to be forgiven too quickly. First, like Ezekiel the prophet, we must eat the scroll that is “lamentation, wailing, and moaning” (2:10) in our belly.

Anne Rice said (and you may recognize this quote): “It’s very difficult to realize that we are going to die, while day to day we have to think and move as though we are immortal.” But … no, we don’t have to think and move that way. We can embrace with both arms, and our mind and heart, “the universal entanglement of life and death that Jesus embodied.” I need neither hasten toward death nor panic as I feel it’s coming. Finding the balance day by day is what Jesus did when he prayed his pre-dawn prayers.

In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

That human earthly cathedral Paul describes is not about life or death on earth, instead it stands in all its splendor in the forever. In that forever I exist only in community with others, all the others, in the eternal congregation of all God’s children. Red and yellow, black and white.


I want to live there. I’ll pay the rent. I’ll find the down payment. I can’t wait to see us all there, partying. Fr. Rohr quotes Native American scholar George Tinker:

Indians are actually audacious enough to think that their stories and their ways reverencing creation will some day win over our White settler relatives and transform them. Optimism and enduring patience seem to run in the blood of Native American peoples.

May justice, followed by genuine peace, flow out of our concern for another and all creation.

(Ephesians 2, Psalm 19, Luke 6)

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