Ecology Reflections from Fr. John Surette, SJ

A reflection by Fr. John Surette, SJ

“The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all.”
– Karl Rahner, SJ

A traditional description of the mystic is one who through contemplation and prayer achieves unity with the Divine, a unity not available to most of us. I choose to say that the mystic is a person whose mind and heart are open to the mysteries of God’s Universe.

Jesuit scientist and mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin has written “I am a child of Earth before being a child of God.” Cultural historian and mystic Thomas Berry, my mentor of many years, has taught that “We bear the Universe in our being as the Universe bears us in its being. The two have a total presence to each other.”

As integral members of the Universe, we find ourselves existing within a great emergence, a 13.8 billion year evolutionary story. This Great Story is unfinished and there is much more to come as the Universe continues to unfold into its future. Our personal stories are also unfinished, and there is much more to come as our lives unfold into their futures. So, as we allow this Great Story to wash up on the shores of our consciousness and intertwine with our own stories, we nurture our cosmological sensitivity. As we succeed in doing this, we grow in becoming mystics.

The Divine is at work in every aspect of the great emergence, acting within the depths of the Universe itself. We humans are growing in our awareness of the entire phenomenal order being infused with and vitalized by this Spirit. This is indeed good news. No longer need we separate the sacred from the secular and the supernatural from the natural. Our religious imaginations can now, along with Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, envision a Universe “charged with the grandeur of God.” As we move into this new awareness, we are discovering how blessed we are to be living our lives in such an enchanted place as Earth. As we experience this enchantment we are becoming mystics.

Some of the difficulty we have in nurturing a spirituality in which the Divine presence and activity is at work in the Universe is because our image or God is often that of a reality that as “above” and “outside” the Universe. The truth is that God is an “insider” God. There never has been and there will never be a time when the Divine is not embedded in and intimately involved within the Universe, including our planet Earth. Divinity resides in and around us. And so we need to consciously embed ourselves in the dynamics of the great emergence. As we grow in our ability to find the Divine in all things, we grow in becoming mystics.

The evolving Universe can be counted on. If it has existed 13.8 billion years thus far, why not another 13.8 or more? This great emergence can be trusted because it invites us to search deeper and deeper for truth and beckons us with the promise that such searching is worthwhile and will reveal new and ongoing meaning for our lives. Out of chaos can come new life. The dynamic of death into life, of breakdown into breakthrough, permeates the Universe and therefore is at work in our on individual lives. So, as we learn to trust the death of galaxies, stars, and planets, as well as all the dyings in our personal lives, we grow into becoming mystics.

The mystic is a person whose mind and soul are open to the mysteries of God’s Universe…may it be so for you and for me!

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