Contemplative Christianity

The Contemplative Companion for Monday, March 6, 2017

It's where the Word comes to life in us. And where we come to life in the Word.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  – Matthew 25.31 – 34

The lectionary readings for today call our attention to right action, using a word that is loaded in our culture: holiness.

In particular, the complete Gospel reading from Matthew chapter 25 has been used to frighten people into doing right action. At first glance, it seems to focus on  the division and separation between the good and the bad. But there is a deeper approach to this scripture that perhaps can lead us in a very fruitful direction.

First, notice that the ordinary assumption to the passage is the “son of man” will “come in his glory” to this planet sometime in the future. While future is an aspect to this text, it limits the application to time and a place.

Second, this raises the question: where is the return to occur? What is the location? How we answer these questions can shift our experience of the text.

For example, what if we shift the location away from the notion of the future on planet earth, and more toward the location of our inward consciousness? Our mind, heart and body? What if the Son of Man coming in glory is actually a state of consciousness? A way of being?  An inward presence that arrives when we are ready for it?

Third, if this shift in location occurs from external to internal, it opens the passage up. In this case, the state of consciousness, the Presence of Christ in us then rules our inward life bringing about a widening harmony of our multiplicity and inward fragmentation, which is represented by the “all the nations assembled.” The nations aren’t just out there – they are in each of us – as psycho-spiritual aspects of our personality and multiplicity of being.

Fourth and finally, with this inward interpretation, the sheep and goats become not others, but aspects of our self. That which is real and that which is becoming real. That which is true and that which is false. Our Essence (sheep) our personality (goats).

In sum, the contemplative dimension of reading the Gospel turns us into the location of what the scripture is envisioning. This is a useful addition to the standard approaches to scripture interpretation which often limit the interpretation to the historical-critical-literal level. I only request that we don’t leave out the spiritual-contemplative-experiential level. It’s where the Word comes to life in us. And where we come to life in the Word.

Beyond that invitation, perhaps a central take-away from this interpretation of Matthew 25 is the important role each of us play as the means by which peace, wholeness, and harmony comes through into the world. In other words, we are invited to consent more completely to the Presence of Christ in our life, so that it’s no longer just a separate Presence arriving in us, but literally consumes us. To the extent that we cannot and do not wish to say where we end and Christ begins. Christ has been formed in us to such an extent that there is no going back to a life of dualistic thinking or acting. Rather, we begin to increasingly live from a centered wholeness that in essence is another way of saying that we have inherited the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world.

 

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