Sunday, October 8, 2023

From Richard Rohr- Energizing Hope



Energizing Hope


It is the task of the prophet to bring to expression the new realities against the more visible ones of the old order. Energizing is closely linked to hope. We are energized not by that which we already possess but by that which is promised and about to be given.  
—Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination 

In 1980, Richard Rohr gave a series of talks on the Hebrew prophets. Here he speaks of the hopeful imagination to which the prophets and God invite us:  

Prophets nurture and evoke a new way of thinking. They give us images and words which subvert our system and tell us that we haven’t seen the whole picture yet. Prophets are not just concerned about social change for the sake of social change. They are concerned above all with transformation and freedom of the heart, and then out of that free heart, the prophet says, “Listen.” The prophet creates a new, freeing consciousness which allows us to hear the divine word.  

In the midst of that freedom, the prophets plant a promise, an alternative and new vision. In the Hebrew imagination, this became the promised land. But the promise never really gets fulfilled. It both tantalizes and torments us with dissatisfaction—and nevertheless calls us forward! It isn’t that God or the prophets are playing games with us. It’s that we are energized by the hope of God’s promises. What gives us the energy and power to keep moving is the promise, the dream, the vision of what could be and what’s beyond the moment. The prophet knows that, and God knows that. In the exodus, God plants the promise in Moses’ heart, and then Moses gives it to the people. 

These promises are not lies. They’re true, but they’re not always what we expect or hope for, and so God calls us a little further. This is the way that divine love stretches our hearts. This is the real rebirth. This is the way we’re reborn again and again until we enter, through death, the promise of a deeper life.  

The established and dominant culture does not have authentic promises because it seeks to maintain itself. The system has materialistic and self-protecting promises for more money and a better life; it encourages us to consume more and more. It cannot offer a promise which fills and expands the heart beyond itself to the larger world.  

God’s promises energize and expand the heart, deepening our capacity for life and our quality of being in this world. They put the authority inside us. This, finally, is the only overcoming of death, the only answer to the absurdity that this time is going to end. That’s what the promises of God do—lead us to the experience of deeper life. The Gospel writers call it resurrection.  


Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Prophets(San Antonio, TX: Catholic Charismatic Bible Institute, 1980), audio recording. No longer available for purchase. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Alma Thomas, White Daisies Rhapsody (detail), 1973, acrylic on canvas, Smithsonian. Alma Thomas, Snoopy—Early Sun Display on Earth (detail), 1970, acrylic on canvas, Smithsonian. Alma Thomas, Snow Reflection on Pond (detail), 1973, acrylic on canvas, SmithsonianClick here to enlarge image

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Reading the Daily Meditations has broadened my spiritual practices beyond the dualistic thinking that I was stuck in before. This new both/and frame of mind fills me with a profound peace that has made my job as a public elementary school teacher just a little bit easier. The 2023 theme of the Prophetic Path in particular has offered me the courage to take the bold step of applying to get a Master of Divinity at Loyola University Chicago…. What touches my heart most of all, though, are the stories from other readers. I hope that everyone who has contributed their story feels the deep love and prayers from all of us strangers as we receive their experiences. When someone shares something that reflects my own experience, I feel the thread of unity between me, them, and our Living God.… As I share my own story, I am sending love to all of you reading my words today. —Loralie C.  
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