Connecting the Dots
By Richard Rohr, O.F.M.

In this, my final article in the series on the great themes of Scripture, I would like to offer just a few concluding reflections on the genius of the biblical revelation we have explored over the past year.

Though the point is obvious, this nevertheless seems a good time to emphasize that the Bible is more than a series of unrelated inspired stories or a collection of stories that offer some helpful lessons to live by. Biblical revelation invites us into an utterly new experience, and the wonderful thing is that human consciousness is ready for it—perhaps more than ever.

I am reminded of the old "connect the dots" activities found in the coloring books many of us enjoyed in our youth. When we had finished drawing in the lines and making all the connections, we suddenly saw something we had not seen before. So it is with the Bible: Its themes have coherence about them, and they offer something good and something new. That is what the word of God is meant to be.

In many ways this gift is more important than ever. We live at a time in history when many voices are telling us that nothing has meaning, there are no big patterns. We cannot thrive in such a universe. As we well know, the soul needs meaning just as the body needs food. The soul has to have meaning to flourish and live with safety. What true biblical revelation gives us is coherence in the face of seeming incoherence.

As children, most of us learned early the biblical story about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The garden is the symbol of unitive consciousness where we cannot be separate from God. Whatever our journeys outward from there, they eventually lead us back to the center to find who we really are, to find ourselves in God.

God at the Center

We come to see that this is the end point of the Bible, where at last in this marvelous doctrine that we call the Trinity we have this mystery of mutual indwelling: God in us and we in God; God in human history and human history finding itself in God. There is no separation anymore.

St. Paul addresses this idea of mutual indwelling in Colossians 3:4: "When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory." In his letter to the Galatians (2:20), Paul writes: "...I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God...." In John's Gospel (15:1) Christ is the vine, and we are the branches.

What God is doing throughout the Bible is creating people who are capable of encounter, of being present. The whole movement of the Bible leads us toward ever greater incarnation, ever deeper indwelling. The last book of the Bible ends in the Holy City with the river of life flowing through it (Revelation 21). Here we have a final image of mutual indwelling: We live in God and God lives in us. And we dare to believe it, dare to believe that it could be true.

Ultimate Question

It seems best to conclude by recalling an early scene from John's Gospel (1:38-39) that sums up much of the Good News. Jesus encounters two of his disciples walking along the lake and asks them what they want. I believe that is what God is saying to you and me: What do we really want? They replied with another question, asking Jesus where he lived.

This is the ultimate spiritual question: Where do you live? Who are you? The answer, of course, is that we are sons of God and daughters of the Lord. Jesus invited his disciples to follow him, and they stayed with him for the rest of that day.

This is Jesus' invitation and his gift. This is what the Bible is finally calling us to.

RICHARD ROHR, a Franciscan priest from Our Lady of Guadalupe Province in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. His newest book is Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an Age of Anxiety (St. Anthony Messenger Press).

Listen to a RealAudio excerpt from Father Richard Rohr

(Taken from New Great Themes of Scripture, a 10-part audiocassette series available from St. Anthony Messenger Press, A7090, $49.95.)

Questions for Reflection:

  • Have you ever experienced the mystery of mutual indwelling: God in us and we in God? Explain.
  • If Jesus asked you the question he asked the two disciples, "What do you want?" (John 1:38) how would you answer?

Responses to this month's Questions for Reflection


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God With Us
By Judith Dunlap

Members of every generation talk about how much the world has changed since they were children. In this age of constant alteration and altercation, those words have never been truer.

Parents today are responsible for preparing children for a future none of us can imagine. Yet somehow in the few precious years from infancy to adulthood, we must equip our youngsters with the tools to not only survive but also to regenerate the world they inherit.

Certainly one of the key factors in facing that uncertainty is a strong faith. So much is possible—and bearable—if we believe in a loving God who is not only with us, but in us. How can we help our children internalize this truth?

In last month's column we talked about a tradition of prayer called Lectio Divina, a four-step process involving reading, meditating, contemplating and praying. By substituting a story from our own lives for the reading, we can use this same time-honored process to help youngsters appreciate God's presence in their lives.

Have your youngster retell a personal experience (a recent problem or success). Ask him or her to think about the experience from a different perspective (someone else's viewpoint or by putting Jesus in the picture). Take time to be quiet, to just sit together in silence. Finally, bring the experience to prayer, and talk about what positive action might be taken.

By introducing youngsters to this simple process we teach them to live a reflective life conscious of God's presence. We remind them that our loving God is not only with them but also in them. These are important truths in an uncertain world—important for grown-ups, too.


For Family Response: Ask each family member: What was the best thing that happened to you this week? What was the most difficult? Say a prayer together.

Responses to this month's FAMILY CORNER.


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Hearts in Atlantis
By Frank Frost

There's something soothing and healing about viewing Hearts in Atlantis in the aftermath of the evil that Americans encountered September 11, 2001. In this Stephen King story set in the 1950s, Bobby Garfield (Anton Yelchin) must say goodbye to his youthful innocence to begin a journey into a world where he now recognizes that evil exists.

Imagery related to sight prevails in the movie, and when we periodically see Bobby treasuring a cut glass object that refracts light, it evokes the words of St. Paul: "We see now through a glass darkly, but then we shall see face to face."

On Bobby Garfield's 11th birthday, his mother's only gift to him is a library card—an "adult" library card, she points out. Bobby will grow up this year in more ways than his mother expects, but right now he wants nothing more than a new bicycle. Bobby's mother (Hope Davis) is a dedicated single parent Bobby defends from criticism despite his disappointment in her. Later he will see her as someone who cares only about herself.

Into their lives comes an upstairs boarder, Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins), a guarded man evasive about his past, who possesses a strange wisdom. Bobby befriends him despite his mother's disapproval.

Brautigan will become a father figure, a guardian angel and Bobby's guide to a more mature understanding of human nature. Brautigan enlists Bobby to keep watch for "low men" who are closing in on him—shadowy figures whose faces are never seen. Bobby finds this paranoia amusing and assures Brautigan, "Don't worry. I won't let the bogeymen get you." But with a touch of ambiguity we are not quite sure whether these figures really want Brautigan, or whether it is Bobby—and his two inseparable friends, Carol and Sully—they threaten.

In any case Brautigan rescues the youths from a neighborhood bully, freeing them to enjoy an idyllic friendship, bathed in the golden light of summer.

This innocent happiness cannot last. Bobby will lose both Carol and Brautigan. Bobby will be taken on a visit to a dark netherworld of seedy nightlife where he learns that not everything is as it seems. And his mother will experience her own loss of na—vet—.

As the low men close in to haul Brautigan away, their evil threat is mirrored in physical assaults (minimally depicted) upon both Carol and Bobby's mother.

By the end of summer, the eyes of all the characters have been opened. They look to a future no longer bathed in the glow of na—vet—, but reinforced by the knowledge that we must look out for one another.

Hearts in Atlantis is not a profound film, but it can help us reflect on how we can move to a future from a past that has shown us the face of evil.

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By Judy Ball

Blessed Juan Diego (1474-1548)

The story of Juan Diego can be summed up in one sentence: He was the simple Indian peasant to whom the Blessed Mother revealed herself as Our Lady of Guadalupe on Tepeyac Hill outside Mexico City in December 1531. But summing up the meaning of his life cannot be handled so neatly.

Mary's appearance came a dozen years after Fernando Cortez conquered the Aztecs. Only a minority of the indigenous peoples embraced the foreign religion preached by the very people who had subjugated them.

Juan Diego was one of those few. It is while he is on his way to Mass one early Saturday morning that he hears beautiful music and the voice of a woman calling to him. At the top of the hill he sees the woman, who tells him that she is the Virgin Mary. She instructs him to go tell the bishop of her wishes that a temple be built in her honor at the bottom of the hill.

Struggles follow: The bishop is reluctant to believe the words of a poor man who is only himself learning the faith; who is not from the dominant culture; who is overwhelmed by the importance of his task; who questions his own credentials.

With Mary's help, Juan Diego is able to convince the bishop and, in time, a temple is built in her honor. Today, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe continues to draw millions of pilgrims each year.

Juan Diego stands as a bridge between the worlds of the powerful and the powerless. He was asked to participate in the divine plan, and he said yes. During a visit to Mexico, Pope John Paul II beatified Juan Diego in 1990. His feast day is December 9.

Alex Garcia-Rivera

Some Church officials and scholars have questioned whether or not Juan Diego ever existed. Despite the hopes of many, his move toward canonization proceeds slowly and, indeed, may never come to pass.

Alex Garcia-Rivera is not among the naysayers. "I have no historical proof of family ancestors prior to my great-grandfather," but that doesn't mean they never lived, he says. Besides, the 50-year-old theologian prefers to focus on the powerful message that Juan Diego has delivered for the past several hundred years: that our God is full of surprises.

"Sometimes God is found—and most comfortable with—those who are just beginning to know him," says the native of Havana, Cuba. When Mary appeared to Juan Diego as Our Lady of Guadalupe, she "didn't go through a theologian but a man who was only learning about the faith."

The irony is not lost on Dr. Garcia-Rivera, who holds a doctorate in theology and has coauthored a book on Juan Diego (Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego: Heeding the Call). "I am quite aware of the importance of staying in touch with the so-called 'simple folk,'" the professor of systematic theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California, told Every Day Catholic. When he and his family attend St. Leander Parish, he says, it is not only a rich spiritual experience for him but also a professional one: "That's where I get a lot of my theology."

Raised a Catholic, "angry at religion" as a young man, a Lutheran minister for a time, Dr. Garcia-Rivera realized by his mid-20s that God was calling him back. Back to the Church that celebrates the humble man Mary chose to honor and empower.

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