The term homo religiosus refers to our existential drive toward transcendence, freedom, and meaning-making, no matter the differences of religious or a/religious backgrounds or convictions. (Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion)
Every person has a religion, whether or not that person believes in God, for religion involves a commitment of the whole person to live according to the plan of, and seek union with, what one takes to be ultimate reality. For those who believe there is a God, it can be a God who is love, or retribution, or only a natural force that is intelligent in some way. For others, it is the power of reason, or the power of power, or economics, or the nowhere of apathy, entertainment, and escapism. The bottom line is: everyone has a religion, even if it is no religion at all.
It is important to remember that we all live by this principle, and what you love you will become.
(The word human comes from the Latin word humus, meaning soil.)
Once you till a plot of soil and place your hands in it, planting seeds and hoping for growth that can only happen by another hand, you have become intimately committed to that place, and if you harm it or leave it, an important part of you will die. From the soil we come, by the soil we live, and to the soil we will return. We are human; of the humus.
Modern man has perfected the absurd illusion of destroying the soil, perverting what comes from it, and pretending he can exist apart from it. The results speak for themselves.
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)
The disciples, burdened by grief and disappointment, had difficulty recognizing the presence of God in their midst. They needed to first see God in the familiar (a communal meal) before they could see God in a new way. It was in the communal meal, the blessing and breaking of bread, that they were able to recognize God with them, despite their grief and disappointment.
Life is filled with opportunities to share in communal meals with friends, with family, with the less fortunate, or with a community of faith, which includes all of these and more. Fast-food-style meals on the run will never achieve this.
The power of personal presence, the sharing of a time and space with others over the blessing and breaking of bread in gratitude, can open our eyes and our hearts to see that God is in our midst even in our troubles.
The disciples went down to the sea at sunset, got in a boat and launched into the water. They went far from the shore. First, darkness came, then came a storm. They were afraid of the storm and of God’s presence approaching them in the storm. They were more afraid of God.
I ask myself: Am I more afraid of life’s storms or the One who commands them? The answer comes: Only the personal presence of God makes the unknown bearable; be not afraid.
In the course of time, hope is eroded by terrible and heartbreaking compromises with lesser gods. The hammer of commerce and the anvil of need forge good intentions into false excuses for bad behaviors. In the temple of king money, majority consensus urges the best among us to do the worst among us to the least among us. The difference between making a living and making a killing becomes unclear.
A friend recently asked, “Why do broken people feel compelled to tell their stories?”
Well, since you asked (and even if you didn’t), here’s mine. First, some historical context. In the beginning, God brought order and beauty (and life!) out of the primordial chaos. Could anyone have predicted that? No. But God had plans. (“My plans are not your plans.”) Out of slavery, God brought liberation and a people curiously his own. An unexpected, but longed for, outcome. Then, out of the suffering and death and persecution of a very special Person, God worked the Resurrection. (Who really expected the Resurrection?) In the context of these stories, one can begin to hope that out of the chaos of the human condition and the oppression and ravages of addiction and disease, or whatever afflicts us, God might raise us to new life, too. It happens.
Nearly 28 years ago, I was hopelessly lost in the maze of alcoholism and as good as dead. It appeared there was no way out but the grave. And yet, I sit here today telling you the story of my new life as a sober and happy father, husband, physician, and believer. A believer, not because I heard about God, but because I met the One who intervenes, the One who calls into life what did not exist and gives life to what was dead. (Who expects recovery?) Ironically, my wounds were where the light got in and began the process of new life. Those wounds will always remain, but so will the new life. That’s how it works.
Now, I know a few things, but only a few essentials. One is this: Each of us is God’s own beloved and, when we are lost, God seeks us and finds us and brings us to new life,…if we allow it. But this gift only goes into effect and becomes a gift when it is shared freely with others. Telling your story is part of the process where being broken becomes a blessing and we are healed. Wow.
That is why broken people tell their stories.
That first morning, when the stone was rolled back and the empty tomb was revealed, I sat and pondered what we all had seen and known. It made perfect sense now in ways it never could before. It was all so clear and simple, as obvious as the burial cloths left there on the cold stone: a new creation had begun while the old one continued unaware. Seeing for the first time, I also rose from the dead that day.