Daily Meditations

Who do you say that I am?

Jesus practically begs for a profession of faith from his disciples, even after they’ve witnessed His miracles and heard His profound teaching. Jesus put this question to them: “Who do you say that I am?” Don’t give me your theologies. Who is the Jesus you know? That’s the only Jesus that can really touch you and liberate you. Finally, Peter responds: “You are the Christ!” (Mark 8:29). “And Jesus gave him strict orders not to tell anyone” (8:30). Why? Because each one of us has to walk the same journey of death and doubt for ourselves—and come out the other side “enlarged by love.” No one can do this homework for you.

The murdered body of Jesus is forever an image of what the world does to love—it fears it and kills it, far too often. And yet God will have the last word: This Jesus that you’ve killed and hated, I raise Him up and hold Him now before all the nations. Until the end of time, He is the sign of how love will win, for love is always stronger than death.

Jesus’ love of the unbelieving disciples in Mark’s Gospel even through the final verses is an eternal promise of His love of all unbelieving disciples, like you and me.

~Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Four Gospels (CD)


The Gospel of Mark (and all of the other gospels) leads up to Jesus finally standing alone, without anyone really comprehending what He’s talking about when He teaches on the “Reign of God.” Jesus realizes that He has to do it in His flesh. He’s got to stop talking about it. He’s got to let it happen. Maybe you’ve had the experience that it’s not until someone dies that we ask the ultimate questions, and that’s what we mean when we say Jesus had to die for us. It’s not that He had to literally pay God some price (unfortunately, many Christians understand it that way, as if the Father is standing up there in heaven with a big bill, saying, “Until I get some blood, I’m not going to change my mind about the human race.”). That puts us in a terrible position in relation to God, and it can’t be true. As if God could not forgive without payment. It pulled God into our way of loving and forgiving which is always mercenary and tit for tat.

Quite simply, until someone dies, we don’t ask the big questions. We don’t understand in a new way. We don’t break through. The only price that Jesus was paying was to the human soul, so that we could break through to what is real and lasting.

~Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Four Gospels (CD)


My dear friend, Dr. Gerald May, made a distinction years ago that I have found myself using frequently. He says spirituality is not to encourage willfulness, but in fact willingness. Spirituality creates willing people who let go of their need to be first, to be right, to be saved, to be superior, and to define themselves as better than other people. That game is over and gone and if you haven’t come to the willing level—“not my will but thy will be done”—then I think the Bible will almost always be misused.

I would like to say that the goal in general is to be serious about the word of God, serious about the scriptures. We have often substituted being literal with being serious and they are not the same! (Read that a second time, please.) I would like to make the point that in fact literalism is to not take the text seriously at all! Pure literalism in fact avoids the real impact, the real message. Literalism is the lowest and least level of meaning in a spiritual text.

Both Origen and Augustine in the third and fourth centuries said there were at least four levels of interpretation to every scripture text. Recent fundamentalism, which says that literalism is in fact the truest meaning of the text, is totally inaccurate—and very late in coming. Literalism is the lowest level of meaning and if you just stop there you will never come to any real Encounter. You have engaged your own critical and self-protective mind, instead of bringing your mind into union with your heart. It will not get you very far. It will make you willful but not willing, and that makes all the difference.

~Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Teaching on Wondrous Encounters (CD)