I recently read an article by James Martin, a Jesuit priest, about the benefits of being both spiritual and religious. In it, Martin is honest about the many sins of religion. He also asks us to consider the benefits. Particularly in contrast to spirituality, he sights community and the wisdom of religious tradition. To this end, he shares a great story...

"One of my favourite images of God is the ‘God of Surprises,’ which I first encountered in the novitiate. My own idea of God at the time was limited to God the Far Away, so it was liberating to hear about a God who surprises, who waits for us with wonderful things. It’s a playful, even fun, image of God. But I would have never come up with it on my own.

It came to me from David, my spiritual director, who had read it in a book of that same title, by an English Jesuit named Gerard W. Hughes, who borrowed it from an essay by the German Jesuit Karl Rahner."

I love this story. This kind of exchange of ideas, opening of perspectives, is one of the main reasons I'm passionate about faith communities too.

However, I couldn't help but notice Martin's teachers in this story were all white, male Jesuits. Of course, their perspectives are of value, but I find myself wondering... What other beautiful images may have come Martin's way in the novitiate had his teachers been from other religious traditions too? What wisdom may have arisen from being part of a community that did not mostly look like him? 

I love religion. I think it can be a beautiful, spirit-filled experience. I also think it can close us off... to other people and perspectives, yes; but, also, other ways of imagining religion, other ways of imagining communities of faith. If we truly believe in the God of Surprises, then shouldn't we be open to all possible imaginings? As Martin expressed, new images can be liberating. Perhaps new models of religion and spirituality can be too? LISTEN, LEARN, LOVE...

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