By Peter Techmanski
Last summer I began a journey of transformation. I learned a new defined-language surrounding the whole idea of transformation and resurrection – through four special presentations we produced as “An Evening with Fr. Richard Rohr.”
The first presentation introduced Franciscan Mysticism (Fr. Rohr is a Franciscan brother who lives in New Mexico) in the simple way St. Francis experienced it nearly 800 years ago: “Mysticism is when God’s presence becomes experiential for you—not intellectual, but experiential.” Nearly all attendees walked out of Bethell Hall with a renewed sense that they too could be “mystics,” experiencing God and not just thinking of God. So we live our lives and that’s where we meet God.
In September, Fr. Rohr explained this approach to actual day-to-day living: “We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” Surely, the experiential path of transformation was all of ours to have! He summarized that evening by reminding us that “This is just what it means to be a good human being.” So we live our lives and transform our thoughts.
Before Thanksgiving, we again assembled for a special evening, and Fr. Rohr had this telling message for us as he moved us into a new language of transformation and resurrection: “To start with a ‘YES’ is a daily surrender—a daily abandonment. Because the ego prefers to start with “No.” It defines itself by what it’s not. The soul defines itself BY WHAT IT IS – which is, that in fact, you and I are much more alike than we are different. And that’s a conversion.” So we live our lives and transform our thoughts, daily.
What was so special about that November evening was that we re-learned about the anchor we have in Jesus. Not only is transformation and resurrection our difficult and lifelong human challenge, but it is in the divinity of Jesus Christ where the “yes” and “no” meet to give us hope. The challenge of our being human can be seen as opportunity and possibility as lived by Jesus. Fr. Rohr had this to remind us: “Jesus is the great reconciler of paradox. He is the icon of paradox. He is the image of paradox—human and divine, spiritual and yet material. I always say, ‘In a male body but with a very feminine soul.”
We met for a fourth and final time after Epiphany in the Historic Church to spend another evening with Richard Rohr (via his video telecast). And that evening he circled back to something he said earlier—about us all being a lot more alike than we are different. He gave us an image that night, of a diamond buried deep inside each of us. That diamond was immortal, in fact. It is our soul, our True Self. He told us: “This True Self – you don’t work up to it, you don’t create it, you don’t manufacture it, you don’t have a better one than anyone else – it’s all the same! You are all created in the Image and Likeness of God. As God’s Image you are objective; you have an equal identity to all others.”
Transformation happened that cold dark night last January. My visiting uncle sat alone in the back row of the darkened church, and he too watched and listened. He told me later that night that he felt something shift in that “room.” Almost a sigh of release, or happiness, or something ascending – I’d say it was our Christian Joy, our Christian Hope, our loving wastefully just showing up and doing what it does best.
We concluded that evening with words from a friend of St. David’s Church, Charles LaFond. They were our marching orders that night – as daily-living, transformed, resurrected, all-connected, love-centered human beings: “Treat each other as if the person to whom you are speaking is going through their own private hell and is on the verge of a private death and despair; for indeed, they may be going through just that. If you are so radically gentle, your power and effectiveness will be matched by your goodness, which is the only thing for which you will be remembered.”
Just like Jesus was remembered, all about transformation — living every day into resurrection. Amen to that.