Only Love “In Here” Can Spot Love “Over There”
Fr John Allen Green OFM – John Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308) was a Franciscan philosopher and theologian who in many ways paralleled Bonaventure’s ideas. Duns Scotus helped develop the doctrine of the univocity of being. Previous philosophers said God was a Being, which is what most people still think today. Both the Dominican Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and Duns Scotus said Deus est ens, God is being itself.
The Dominicans said everything other than God participated in being only by analogy and by attempts to make connections, but it was not really the same being as God’s being. Yet Duns Scotus believed we can speak “with one voice” (univocity) of the being of waters, plants, animals, humans, angels, and God. We all participate in the same being. God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4), and thus reality is one, as well (Ephesians 4:3-5).
This gives us a foundation for understanding the sacredness of everything and our connection with everything. We are already connected to everything — inherently, objectively, metaphysically, ontologically, and theologically.
We don’t create the connection by going to church or reading the Bible, although we hopefully enliven the connection. In Francis’ worldview, we begin with “original blessing,” as Matthew Fox rightly said. Our DNA is already divine; that is why we naturally seek to know and love God. There has to be a little bit of something inside you for you to be attracted to it; like knows like. You are what you are looking for!
A heart transformed by this realisation of oneness knows that only love “in here” can spot and enjoy love “over there.” Thus true spiritual teachers see fear, constriction, and resentment as blindness that must be overcome. These emotions impede growth. Thus all mystics are positive people — or they are not mystics.
Their spiritual warfare is precisely the work of recognising and then handing over all of their inner negativity and fear to God.
The great paradox here is that such a victory is a gift from God, and yet somehow you must want it very much (Philippians 2:12b-13). God does not come unless invited.
The central practice in Franciscan mysticism, therefore, is that we must remain in love, which is why it is a commandment (John 15:4-5), in fact, the great commandment of Jesus. Only when we are eager to love can we see love and goodness in the world around us. We must ourselves remain in peace, and then we will see and find peace over there.
Only when we are eager to love can we see love and goodness in the world around us. We must ourselves remain in peace, and then we will see and find peace over there. Remain in beauty, and we will honour beauty everywhere. This concept of remaining or abiding (John 15:4-5) moves religion out of esoteric realms of doctrinal outer space where it has for too long been lost.
There is no secret moral behavior required for knowing or pleasing God, or what some call “salvation,” beyond becoming a loving person in mind, heart, body, and soul. Then each of us will see all that we need to see!
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Franciscan Mysticism: I AM That Which I Am Seeking, disc 1 (CAC: 2012), CD, MP3 download; and
Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 7-10.