As I watch the sun rise on this Sunday morning in the desert skies, I think abut how significant "Sunday" has always been in my life. From the time I was a child, Sunday was always a day for going to "church," - religion has always been a focus of my life. And yet, this morning, as I reflect on those many Sundays I have spent over the span of my life, I am also struck by how significantly my views have changed over the years when it comes to how I embrace "religion" and "spirituality," especially now in these later years of my life.
As a young man my understanding of "church" was very myopic. Growing up as a Roman Catholic, I was taught that we were the only ones that "had it right." In fact we were told that it was a sin to even walk into a Protestant church (synagogues or mosques were so far away from my religion back in those days that they weren't even mentioned). The Sunday mornings of my youth were times spent with the chosen few in a very restricted space.
But then as time went on, the space started to expand. As I grew older and looked around I began to realize that other Christians of all sorts and kinds were also standing next to me - all of us under the same tent.
Then, gradually the space got even bigger, the circle wider, and the tent grew even larger as I came to understand that I was standing alongside Jews and Muslims, and even Buddhists were there with me- in fact many times it was the Buddhists who were showing me the way.
Now as I sit here on this Sunday morning in the midst of a vast, wild, untamed desert wilderness, the tent is so big and so expansive that I can't even see where it begins or where it ends. A myriad of people all over the world are standing here together with me on this Sunday morning - people everywhere seeking after truth and beauty, searching for transcendence and meaning in their lives in whatever forms it may take. So many different paths with so many different people who are all able to support and learn from one anther along the way - all under the one big open-sided tent that has no doors or bars, gates or restrictions,
Priest and author Richard Rohr writes about what he calls "the second half of life" - the time when the lessons of youth are transformed into a greater wisdom later in life. Recently I came across something Fr. Richard said about spirituality in this "second half of life" that rings so true to me and to my own experiences:
The classic spiritual journey always begins elitist and ends egalitarian, Always!
We see it in Judaism starting with the Jews' early elite chosenness and ending in prophets without borders, in the heady new sect of Christianity that soon becomes universal. We see it in Sufi Islam and Hindu Krishna consciousness which sees God's joy everywhere. We see it in mystics like William Blake or Lady Julian, who start with a grain of sand or a hazelnut and soon find themselves swimming in infinity. We see it in the Native American sweat lodge, where the participant ends by touching his sweaty body to the earth, saying, 'All my relations!'
It's Sunday morning in the desert. I sit here under a big wide-open tent. I am swimming in infinity as my feet touch the earth beneath me and I embrace it with a tender kiss: "All my relations!"