What will you do?
This question is asked by Sister Joan Chittister in her recent book, The Time Is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage.
A Benedictine Sister of Erie, PA, Sister Joan is an international lecturer and award-winning author of 60 books. She has appeared with the Dali Lama, Meet the Press, Now with Bill Moyers, and Super Soul Sunday with Oprah Winfrey. For over 40 years, she has dedicated herself to advocating for universal recognition of the critical questions impacting the global community.
Right from the beginning, Sister Joan throws down the gauntlet to anyone who considers themselves spiritual. She contrasts personal spirituality with prophetic spirituality.
“This book is about prophetic spirituality. And what exactly is that? It is the spirituality of awareness, of choice, of risk, of transformation. It is about the embrace of life, the pursuit of wholeness, the acceptance of others, the call to co-creation.
In short, prophetic spirituality is about living out our faith on the streets of the world, rather than just talking about it. Faith is invalid unless you are living it. That is the basic message of the prophets and it is as true today as it was thousands of years ago.”
Based on the language Sister Joan uses, it could be suggested that her message is solely directed toward a Christian audience. Yet, it is equally relevant to all who consider themselves spiritual and have, at any time and in any way, professed a desire for a world that works for everyone.
Sister Joan doesn’t pull any punches. While she acknowledges the value of charity, noting that it requires an uncommon generosity, she takes issue with the spiritual path that has become reduced to personal salvation and personal practices, safe institutional ministries, followed by too many who consider themselves spiritual giving to the church while supporting organizations that oppress the poor and damage the Earth; too many ignoring the poor and disenfranchised on one hand while wearing prayer beads on the other; too many “who pretend to be religious but do nothing for those for whom the advocacy and voice of religious people are their only hope.”
She asks, “What is the spiritual life for?”
Why are we taking classes and workshops, attending services and retreats, engaging in daily spiritual practices? Is it simply for the sake of community, to hang out with like-minded people? To create a better life? To awaken? What exactly are we awakening to?
Dr. Ernest Holmes is clear that, through the application of the principles, we can create a better life. Are we seriously concerned only with a better life for ourselves? Food drives and the Giving Tree are valuable and important acts of charity, but is there a part of you crying out to do more?
To live prophetic spirituality—to be a prophet in today’s time—requires uncommon courage.
Sister Joan is very clear that this is a big ask of people.
“It is finding the courage to utter the first word of truth in public that takes all the strength we can muster. It is learning to say, quietly, unequivocally, “I think differently about that,” and then explain why. It is stepping up to the issue and claiming the right to think differently about it that turns heads and opens hearts. It is not an attack on anyone; it is simply a declaration that there is something missing in the God-life we claim to live. It is the call to consciousness and conscience.
“For those who believe that the spiritual life is a commitment to personal comfort, social security, and public respect, the task of the prophetic is too great, the life of the prophet is too dangerous, the call to prophetic spirituality too much to ask. Still, for those who realize that the spiritual life is about the following of Jesus the Prophet, nothing else is possible. There are those who, like Samuel Johnson, know that “great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.” After all, the voice and life of Jesus has been a contradiction to a politicized Christianity from the first. The only difference is that it is our turn now to carry the message.”
Within New Thought, we have a saying, “treat and move your feet.”
It’s a reminder that being and doing are two sides of the same coin. Yes, all form begins in the mind, and affirmative prayer is our primary practice for engaging with the creative process. it has never been a question of what God can do for us but what God can do through and as us.
“Prophetic communities do a great deal more than pray. They study; they teach; they organize others; they add something of the things of God to the situation. They don’t just complain about the poor; they do something to feed them. They don’t just lament the condition of working mothers; they do something to help them take care of their children. They don’t just wish for higher wages for the poor; they advocate for the underpaid. They lobby their legislators and leaders, their pastors and public agencies. They commit to doing something to change their world as well as to talk about it.
Then we ask ourselves what we really stand for—and what we’ve done to prove it. At that moment, we either become prophets—or simply churchgoers. And that is the ultimate question, the question we must all answer, “And you—what are you doing about it?”
Unless and until we accept the prophet’s call, we may be great caretakers, good scholars, sincere seekers, fine people, but we will never be fully “spiritual.” We will be liked, admired, respected, and—safe. But truly spiritual? Not completely.”
If I am to be honest with you, and why wouldn’t I be, Sister Joan’s message was an eye-opening wake-up call for me. Especially during the last year of being shut down and shut in, I have perhaps grown too safe, too complacent, too willing to send thoughts and prayers and then move on to the next thing.
For me, maybe that just isn’t good enough anymore. Perhaps more is being asked of me. And perhaps more is being asked of you.
If like me, there is a part of you that is feeling called to a more prophetic spirituality, I have good news!
We are hosting an online event with Sister Joan on Fri., April 16.
Click here for event details.