by Richard Rohr OFM

Jesus’ story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) and his story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14) are both wonderful illustrations of how Jesus turns a spirituality of climbing, achieving, and perfection upside down. In both stories, the ones who have done it wrong and are humble about it (the younger son and the tax collector) are the ones who are forgiven, transformed, and rewarded. Those who are proud of how they have done everything right—but also feel superior to others, or feel they are now entitled—are not open to God’s blessing. This is Jesus’ Great Reversal theme. He turns religion on its head. We thought we came to God by doing it right, and lo and behold, surprise of surprises, we come to God by doing it wrong—and growing because of it! The only things strong enough to break open our heart are things like pain, mistakes, unjust suffering, tragedy, failure, and the general absurdity of life. I wish it were not so, but it clearly is.

Fortunately, life will lead us to the edge of our own resources through such events. We must be led to an experience or situation that we cannot fix or control or understand. That’s where faith begins. Up to that moment it has just been religion! Only on the other side do you know that everything has been preparation.

When Jesus called out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he himself had to face the darkness and absurdity of life (Matthew 27:46). On the cross, Jesus’ human mind had no reason to believe that God was his Father, that God loved him, or that this death had any transformative, redemptive meaning. At this moment Jesus fully and totally fell into the hands of the living God. And that is called resurrection. This is the mystery of faith.

Gateway to Silence:
The way down is the way up.