Recently, I was fortunate to attend a conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The title of the conference was “The Universal Christ” from the book of the same name written by Father Richard Rohr who founded the Center for Action and Contemplation.
Although I have read many of Fr. Richard’s books, I was a bit apprehensive about attending, not knowing what to expect. I am not a Catholic, nor have I ever been. Admittedly, I was a bit worried about spending three lengthy days listening to talks given by one Catholic priest, a “former” Catholic priest, and an activist minister who pastors a United Church of Christ congregation. However, I was very, very pleasantly surprised.
Christ Is Not Jesus’ Last Name
Fr. Richard spoke eloquently on a new subject for him: Jesus (whose last name he emphasized is not Christ.) Numerous teachers of mine, past and present, say the same thing, whether they come from a Unity point of view, or another faith tradition. Jesus the Christ may be viewed “as a portrait of God’s constant, unfolding work in the world.” It was affirming to hear Fr. Richard say that “Jesus’ life was meant to declare that humanity has never been separate from God, except by its own negative choice.”
He went on to say that faith might be less about proving that Jesus is God, and more about learning to recognize the Creator’s presence all around us, and in everyone we meet. Fr. Richard has a group of detractors who do not believe his views have a place in organized religion, but from my perspective he brings a message of hope to the World.
Seeing The Christ In A Dog’s Love
In opening the conference, Fr. Richard laughingly mentioned his dedication page in The Universal Christ. He dedicates the book with love to his beloved dog, Venus, who had passed away during the writing of the book. He said, without any apology, lightweight theology, or fear of heresy, that he saw the Christ in his companion of 15 years. He continued, “How could one believe that devotion and unconditional love from a living being could be anything but an example of Source.”
Frankly, although I have heard similar words in other settings and teachings, on this occasion, I was profoundly affected. Affected by the simplicity and the authentic joy with which Fr. Richard’s ideas were shared. Sometimes, I believe we work overly hard at principles and concepts of faith and living a contemplative life. The humble fact of loving all of mankind as well as all living creatures is a basic premise. This is simple, but not easy.
A Love Centered In The Universal Christ
The heartfelt message of a life lived in love and reflection was delivered so profoundly it caused my eyes and heart to be opened wider than ever before. From time to time, I have thought that Unity teachings had already cornered the market on the idea that God/Christ lived in all things. It is encouraging to learn that the world is full of individuals with hearts and minds opened wide to the idea of a Universal Christ that is centered in love. Even more so that this Christ-centered love is available to all people, all living creatures, and all things created for us.
I may have been apprehensive going in, but after experiencing Fr. Rohr’s inspiring teachings, I see now there was never a need for it. If you are interested in looking deeper into Father Rohr’s work, UCOH’s own Don Traylor is currently facilitating a group study of his book, Breathing Under Water. Check the UCOH calendar for meeting time.