I have been thirsty. I didn’t realize how much until recently.
Two weeks ago I attended the rich and powerful Universal Christ Conference. Based on Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr’s new book, which has already made it to the New York Times Bestseller list, the three days challenged and inspired me.
But life being the way it is, after I got home, I quickly moved from one thing to another and had little time to reflect on or sit with all that I’d experienced. I’ve barely read much of the book.
Yet, words, insights, phrases, and affirmations have stayed with me. Especially the affirmations.
For three days, Rohr, joined by Rev. Jacqui Lewis, John Dominic Crossan, and artist Janet McKenzie, invited us into deeper awareness of the truth of these beautiful lines:
“God loves things by becoming them.”
“Everything visible, without exception, is the outpouring of God.”
“God’s life and our life are not separate; they are one life.”
Although I’ve known this deep within me, recognizing this boundaryless love and living from this place of oneness is more like an evolving transformation. Surely the fullness of knowing this requires nothing less than an experiential understanding, a “knowing” that is a lifelong lesson.
Considering my personal time constraints over the weekend, I couldn’t venture too deeply into these truths.
But there was someone who instantly took me deeper that weekend and served as my spiritual mentor. Jacqui Lewis.
It was Jacqui who deeply affirmed and inspired me. It was she who apparently turned into my “messenger,” even bringing me the gift of tears, as I interiorly experienced the answer to her question:
“Where is the crucified body of Christ today?”
And it was she who helped me to recognize my spiritual thirst – a thirst I hadn’t claimed.
A thirst to be brave enough to speak truth to power.
A thirst for tenderly loving all the wounded places where I find the crucified body of Christ.
Including myself. For I know that when I love, comfort, and revere the crucified Christ in me, then I am able to do so for others.
But when Jacqui first posed that question for our consideration, instantly what came to me was the people who come to us at the border. I clearly saw it.
There! There is the crucified body of Christ to me. In these suffering migrant families.
The tears came as I felt such a strong pull on my heart. Not unlike what I had first experienced five years ago that catapulted me to El Paso. I felt this so powerfully, it reaffirmed why I do what I do.
That was such a gift!
Because sometimes, I admit, I forget. It’s understandable, considering I’ve been accompanying migrant families, off and on, for 4 ½ years now.
And Jacqui, with her impassioned plea, kept challenging me, to affirm my light, not censor it.
“What if the most fundamental aspect of our identity is that we are each anointed and appointed by The Holy One, by Spirit—to preach good news to the poor, liberty to the captive, and sight to the blind? What if we take seriously being the body of the Christ—that we are the hands, feet, and heartbeat of the Living God? What if we are Word made flesh, Love made flesh, Light made flesh?”
What would that kind of anointing ask of me, specifically?
While I was attending this conference, images of news back in El Paso appeared on my phone. Images of parents and children penned behind fencing under the Paso del Norte Bridge where Border Patrol claimed they were justified in keeping them. For days, the people slept on the cold, gravely ground. With little food, little to cover them in the 30-degree nighttime temps. A few port-a-johns were lined up on the dirt. The people were subjected to name calling and verbal abuse. There were allegations that Border agents were waking the people during the night and forcing them to stand every few hours.
And there was my answer.
This anointing demands I bravely respond to such injustices. That I not be silent in the face of maltreatment of others. And while speaking truth to power, I also recognize this “outpouring” of love in everyone. Not easy.
I imagine what this would be like. If we all recognized the Christ within.
It would be a place of abundance, where no one thirsts, no one is hungry. The place in Isaiah, chapter 55, that Jacqui read to us on our first day of the conference. A promised place of abundance for everyone.
“All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!”
I thirst for this living water.
I’m going to need it if I am to fulfill the job description we were given at this conference: to resurrect the crucified body of Christ everywhere we encounter it.
“You take pleasure in the faces of those
Who know they thirst.
You cherish those
Who grip you for survival.” (Rilke)