The Universal Christ & COVID-19: A Book Review by Marsha Namdar

April 18, 2020

Photo: (S.lee)  Note! Marsha is a dear friend of mine. She wrote this beautiful reflection based on the book of Fr. Richard Rohr, a well-known Franciscan priest. Normally I post my own reflections or interviews here at samlee.org but for this one I make an exception. It is well written and beautifully expressed. Marsha is from the Philippines and she lives together with her husband and daughter in the Netherlands. 

 

“A contemplative and incarnational worldview on the COVID-19 pandemic based on the book: “The Universal Christ – How a forgotten reality can change everything we see, hope for and believe” by Fr. Richard Rohr”

 

Written by Marsha Dado-Namdar 

 

Amidst the global uncertainty, fear and great suffering around us brought about the novel corona virus, we see a parallel demonstration of great love all over the world. This, not only with our fellow human being but also towards the material and tangible world. There is a loving presence that can be felt and a deep sense of awareness to do good.


We hear and celebrate the front liners which accounts the unwavering determination of the human spirit to preserve and save life. We are after all created in goodness. The goodness inherent in human beings is grounded in the source of goodness itself who is God. It is truly difficult to fight an invisible enemy nevertheless, this pandemic has brought humanity together in effort to contain, delay or mitigate the underlying global impact. Adversity has brought out the best in people.

Engendered by social distancing and lockdown, mother nature takes its well-deserved and long-overdue rest to commence the restorative process of healing itself. Now more than ever, for our appreciation and well-being, we see the horizon lit up in its original hues and splendour unmasked by dirt and pollution. Nature is given a window to conserve, regenerate and potentially reverse the trends. This too, is goodness at work. Our deep interconnectedness towards all creation cannot be denied and dismissed by any propaganda, political agenda neither can it be collapsed by any artificial supremacy. We are a global community and we are all affected. 
Suffice it to say that the corona virus crisis is a big learning moment. The pandemic precipitates the inherent human dignity and the law of nature which are for far too long taken for granted. Henceforth, it is incumbent upon the human occupants of this world to rethink, respect and recognize its own reckless regard of nature and begin to treat it with proper care.

 

This pandemic plays a role in our history by tapping our consciousness that amidst the darkness, we are invited to see the light and where it comes from. All things become visible. Simply put, we recognize the divine relationship we have, i.e. we belong to each other. Humanity and all of creation are designed to co-habit bound together in and by love. This what Fr. Richard Rohr described in his book, "Universal Christ--How a forgotten reality can change everything we see, hope for and believe" - Humanity's essential part in the universal ecosystem which pulls us together and gravitates us in Love- one that is giving and receiving. This ecosystem has always been there but for one reason or another, was forgotten through the passing of time. This teaches us that the we are in this crisis together, God is with us, in us and around us.


""... we belong to each other...Humanity and all of creation are designed to co-habit bound together in and by love.


Social distancing and travel ban have separated and limited our ability to connect and yet, the motivation for doing so is Love. Because of love we want to protect our family, friends and the immunocompromised and that is why we stay home. This love reflects godliness.  In the Christian tradition, the love demonstrated on Jesus's cross and culminated in the resurrection of Christ knows no group affiliation. Having this mindset, it is easy to understand that the Christ in us allows us to transcend goodness to others and to all tangible things without labels, no religious alliances, gender biases, even its not your family, friends, or church group. Loving and caring just take precedence over knowing. Love is love regardless. The coronavirus brings out the human dignity that which was given to us even before we were born. 


We don’t have to have a religion or be member of a religious group in order to practise love toward people, nature and things. It is experiential, personal and universal. As Fr. Richard Rohr puts it, "The divine imprint is carried in all things and in everything, even, at the cellular level." Otherness is reframed and takes a deeper and positive meaning allowing us to put on the "original good nature" rather than the "sinful nature" to incarnate and come fully alive, rather than objectifying and judging. With one novel virus, the world is forced to stop to find and search for that lost reality, its identity. Henceforth, our consciousness expands. We relax in the idea that we belong, that we can protect others from this viral infection by protecting ourselves and the environment. Although we are not used to being imposed upon to stay home, physically distancing ourselves, and all the rest of it, we soften up and gradually, compassion is being restored. This is contemplation--- an "inner knowing” applied in "the doing" and "the being" in Love. Love is both the vehicle you use and the road you tread on to arrive at a destination. The driving force and the end goal is always love. It makes sense how the corona virus can be a symbol of the cross which Jesus transformed and overcome through His Great suffering and become the gateway to experience His Great love. I believe that the corona virus points all human and all created beings to the loving presence of the incarnate and resurrected Christ. 

As Fr. Rohr points out: "We therefore see a wonderful unfolding of giving and receiving, mirroring, letting go of the pretences, accepting beauty and inclusion regardless of any ethnicity, economy, group affiliation or religion, gender orientation, so on and so forth. We transcend from "I" to "We".
There is not a Native, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic, or Christian way of loving. There is not a Methodist, Lutheran, or Orthodox way of running a soup kitchen. There is not a gay or straight way of being faithful, nor a Black or Caucasian way of hoping. We all know positive flow when we see it, and we all know resistance and coldness when we feel it. All the rest are mere labels." 

This is the contemplative, non-dualistic mind. When we become more loving, compassionate, accepting, forgiving and inclusive, regardless. That which I believe is the secret to living a joyous and meaningful life and the essence of the pure restorative framework of Christ.  And yet, only time can tell when we can fully assimilate and honour humanity's part in this universal ecosystem. In as much as the covid-19 virus points us to reality of the amazing grace of God, the virus also shows bitterly the greed, the cruelty towards animals, the disregard of the environment, and the lack of goodness and dignity front and centre in our decision-making. The ever-increasing and vicious consumer-profit- driven societies and economies brought imbalance and inequality in the way of life, etc. The corona virus was not brought by God as a punishment, but it’s the people who brought the punishment upon itself. And here we are, millions are being infected, deaths cascading by the hundreds and thousands each day, economies are shrinking, and recession is spreading as rapid as the virus itself. This reality of God, the inherent goodness in the hearts of men, have been forgotten-- the Christ in us was lost in our small self, the dualistic and egocentric mind. 

Furthermore, the present world system and powers that be, seem to neglect the marginalized sectors of the society. They are invisible. Whatever happened to the homeless, landless, the stateless, the poor and the oppressed, let alone the rapid degradation of the environment and extinction of many different species, the list can go on and on. And in the midst of this corona virus pandemic, where are they in the triage? My best guess is that they are lost and disentangled and pushed aside. Not a priority, not a problem to be solved in this reality but a mere nightmare that the powerful few consciously refuse to wake up from.

The poor are part of this life, part of humanity, God's family. They, too, are loved and for whom grace and mercy are available. How else do we practice neighbourly love? How else do we protect nature and the environment if the only thing being protected are the interests of the capitalists and the conglomerates. This contagion is an invitation to the world to become poor, humble, naked and empty and to involve God on how we do life. In essence, the pandemic is a journey of knowing, being and doing. It cannot be emphasized more that this is a big learning moment. God takes us in many different journeys in life. We arrive at a destination and yet the journey continues. We are constantly invited in an on-going transformative process of growth and development. We therefore evolve in order to participate in this flow of giving and receiving- whether in great love and or great suffering or both. 

 

Through my personal experience and contemplation, I discovered that I can never escape pain, sadness, disappointment and fear without my ego-shell being smashed by God's love. I have to let go, to die before I die. The true self which is hidden in Christ in God paves me the way to live a life of love, grace, forgiveness, acceptance - a liberating life. More so, the presence of Christ in everything is a reality that I can rest upon. I am convinced that one should not live and dwell in loneliness again. Therefore, great love and great suffering can become gateways to transformation. I am one with humankind and the ever-expanding universe. Everything and everyone belongs. What a wonderful and hopeful paradigm to live by! 

As we face a global crisis of unprecedented proportion, we might ask ourselves, what can we do now when we are in lockdown? Well, there's much! The Lord's love is a never-ending experience of radical grace. It never stops giving. We can go deep within ourselves until we are so finite in His infinite presence and rest there. We can educate ourselves and participate in creating awareness in protecting our environment. We continue to follow the messages of each governments and follow the rules. We could offer healing words in open dialogues that embody otherness. We can mirror kindness and therefore, abandon the ego, hate and control. Acknowledging that we make mistakes all of the time and we need God's grace to help us through.  By these contemplative practices we can come close to healing ourselves and others, not only from the corona virus, but more so, from the plague that infect our connection with God, humanity and creation.

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© 2010-2019 by Samuel C. Lee

 

Samuel Lee (Ph.D.) is university lecturer, at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam - Faculty of Religion and Theology (FRT-VU), and director for Center for Theology of Migration, the educational program of Samen Kerk in Nederland at the FRT-VU. 

He is the founder of Foundation Academy of Amsterdam, offering higher education in liberal arts and humanities for migrants, refugees and persecuted minorities.

 

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