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The Via Transformativa

Last week I left you with a question: As a co-creator with God what will you create?

The culmination of the four spiritual paths of creation spirituality as laid out by Matthew Fox is in the Via Transformativa. The way of transformation suggests that if we have experienced God in the joys and blessings of life, and if we have known the presence of God in the darker times, and worked to incorporate our shadow side (the darker parts of ourselves and our stories that we don’t like so much), and if we’ve united those two in the creative ways, especially in the creation of self, then the actions of creating will be a renewing force for creation. What we do – for the spiritual path is not passive, but active – will be for the healing and wholeness of ourselves, our families and our world.

The commandment of the Via Transformativa is “Be You Compassionate at Your Creator in Heaven is Compassionate.” And, yes, this is directly out of scripture: Luke 6:36. Compassion is the transformative action of the cosmos. Having compassion for ourselves is how we heal going through grief and pain. Having compassion for others is how we help heal others.

Fox states, “The key to understanding compassion is to enter into a consciousness of interdependence which is a consciousness of equality of being.” In other words, we are all one, we are all connected AND we are all equal.

In my humble opinion, this was a dominant message of Jesus: to live compassionately and equally with all persons.  Treating others one way in public and then slamming them behind closed doors doesn’t work.  This means no racial and ethnic slurs, no demeaning of economic status, job, religion, or political stance.  A while ago someone shared a story with me about their mother-in-law who claimed not to be prejudiced, but refused to go to the mall here in Racine because of all the blacks and Spanish and Arabs there. 

To quote the old cliché, “if you’re going to talk the talk, you better walk the walk.”

I get that this isn’t easy. Our gut reaction seems to be to just go with our annoyance or frustration. I’ve probably done the eye roll in line at the grocery store when someone in front of me starts writing out their check when all the groceries are finally tallied up. But I haven’t walked a mile in their shoes, I haven’t listened to their stories

Fox also reminds us that compassion and justice go hand in hand. Justice is about much more than jails and trials and retribution and penance and punishment.  Justice is a way of being and it is tied intimately with treating others with fairness and compassion.

Micah 6:6-8 says:     

“What shall I bring when I come before YHWH, and bow down before God on high?” you ask.
“Am I to come before God with burnt offerings?
With year-old calves?
Will YHWH be placated by thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil?
Should I offer my firstborn for my wrongdoings – the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 

Listen here, mortal:
God has already made abundantly clear
what “good” is, and what YHWH needs from you:
simply do justice,
love kindness,
and humbly walk with your God.

Micah was not talking about achieving justice, but doing justice.  It is about allowing and wanting people to seek wholeness and healing in their lives. It is about having a prophetic voice and interfering with injustice and unnecessary suffering.  Justice is about divine balance, it is about (I'll say it again) recognizing our connectedness to all creation and working toward equality with all people.

Perhaps you’re asking what difference does it make to “be compassionate” and to “do justice” when you’re just one person, what can you do?  Well, we begin by changing ourselves, and then perhaps that will help change the attitudes of those around us, especially our children.

We begin by having compassion for ourselves. We need to learn to give ourselves a break. We all have things we regret in life, trusted people we shouldn’t have trusted, took risks that went badly, made poor decisions. And if anyone else had told us that they’d done those things and were feeling horrible about them, we’d comfort them, let them know they weren’t alone, we’d show them compassion and encourage them to let go, or let be, and learn from it and move forward. We can’t edit the past. So, why is it so hard for us to show compassion to our teenage self, or our young adult self, or even our older self, maybe our yesterday self?

I’ve tried to learn, as I’ve gotten older, to give my younger self a break. Some days I’m better at it than others. But, if I don’t stop looking back and condemning myself, or beating myself up, how can I grow, how can I heal and find wholeness? Self-compassion leads to transformation. And, as I feel how important that compassion is toward myself, I can now extend that compassion more readily toward someone else.

In the spiritual path of the Via Transformativa, compassion must also seek justice to help heal the world. Sometimes it’s just not enough to simply say "I’m so sorry,'" we need to stand consistently on the side of love and compassion, not fear and judgment. We need to stand with the poor and the marginalized and the outcast and the underdog.

Parker Palmer, in his book, The Active Life, talks about two people who have lived lives of justice and compassion without gain and he couldn’t understand why until he talked to them. 

Parker had one friend who had worked for many years at the Catholic Worker, a ministry to the poor in New York City.  Daily she tried to respond to waves of human misery that were as ceaseless as surf in that community.  He asked her how she could keep doing a work that never showed any results, a work in which the problems keep getting worse instead of better.  Her answer was, “The thing you don’t understand, Parker, is that just because something is impossible doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.”

Another friend had devoted most of his adult life to resisting the madness of war through actions of justice and peace.  He has done everything from painfully unearthing the seeds of violence in his personal life to living in poverty so as to stay below the taxation level.  He owns nothing in his own name because, if he did, the government could collect it as back-taxes.  The money he “should” have given the government over the years, and more, he has donated to peace and justice projects.  Does he have any results?  Has he been effective?  Hardly.  At least not by normal standards.  His years of commitment to peacemaking have been years of steady increase in wars and rumors of wars.  So how does he stay healthy and sane?  His answer was “I have never asked myself if I was being effective, but only if I was being faithful.” 

Do you see how it is all tied together? Do you see how the spiritual path encompasses these four paths we’ve been talking about - the Via Positiva, the Via Negativa, the Via Creativa and the Via Transformative?

We choose how we will live. And if we live life to its fullest by being aware, by working on ourselves and our own darkness and shadows, by creating a world of beauty and healing within ourselves and outside of ourselves, and finally by living a life of compassion and justice, we will begin to transform the world.

Love & Light!