Salvation as Enchanted Existence

(Based on the insights and writings of Matthew Fox, especially his book Original Blessing.)

“The thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10b

Christian tradition refers to two types of sin: sins of commission and sins of omission. Preachers most often focus on sins of commission. Such an emphasis reveals a truncated view of our potential as human beings created in the image of God. 

The sin of omission occurs when we neglect something or someone; when we overlook that which is necessary, critical, and essential; when we choose to be silent or passive when love and justice demand we speak or act. 

There are two areas I would like to consider regarding the nature and scope of the sin of omission manifested as neglect, presumption, and timidity. 

The first area is our neglect of the earth—our taking for granted this beautiful and exquisite creation—our disregard for its delicate balance and fragile harmony—our indifference to its suffering and irreparable loss—our inattention to its bleak future if current trends are not arrested and reversed.

We are so accustomed to seeing this creation as raw material to exploit and abuse that we can scarcely envision any other way of living on this planet. We continue to manipulate and control our world in ruthless ways rather than finding the means to live in balance with nature and treating God’s creation as our cherished companion in this great divine cosmic venture. We cannot get beyond a hierarchical approach to this world where we presume we are at the top and everything else is at our disposal. We have sinned gravely by putting the egological over the ecological. Is there any greater sin than neglecting the cosmos itself?

The second area of the sin of omission is related to the first. We are guilty of omitting, limiting, and neglecting pleasure in our lives. Now, you may think that pleasure is the one thing our self-centered society has not neglected, but I would challenge that popular notion. Are happiness, joy, ecstasy jubilation, celebration, and a wondrous sense of belonging and connecting our daily experiences in life? In a world of competition and getting ahead in life—of stepping on and over others—of climbing the ladder of success only to discover how lonely it is “at the top”—of paralysis brought about by the fear and dread of losing what we have, are we not guilty of omitting pleasure in our lives? Do we not sin be refusing to fall in love with life, to cherish what is before us, to savor the simple delights of this beautiful creation; to join the cosmic dance of receiving and sharing joy and blessings?

We live in a consumerist society which would like to put a price tag on everything. The goal of advertising is to make us miserable with who we are and what we have. Such an addictive approach to life allows for only three options: a restless quest for happiness; a boredom which says, “Is that all there is?” or despair when we cannot afford to play the rat-race game. For all our sophistication, pretense, and expenditure, too many of us rarely know how to savor life. We are so busy trying not to miss out on anything that we miss out on everything that truly matters. We are full without being satisfied. Pleasure stemming from the art of savoring with joy and celebration is too often a stranger to us in a society trying to market happiness. 

In such a competitive environment, we have difficulty trusting God, creation, life, others, or even our deepest selves to help us find our place in this beautiful world. And when we cannot trust, we surrender ourselves to fear. We are afraid to live fully, joyfully, and courageously. When life is viewed as a possession we must hoard and protect, our clutching hands cannot receive the free gifts of a good and generous God. Perhaps at the root of all this distrust is a fear of death. We are afraid of death because we do not trust that experience a part of our eternal pilgrimage. And so we live truncated lives—shells of who we could be if we offered ourselves in celebration of the goodness of God and the beauty of Her creation. 

If the sin of omission is neglecting God’s beautiful creation and refusing to savor life, what is salvation from such sin? Eloi Leclerc in his study of the life of St. Francis says that for this great saint, salvation meant “enchanted existence.” I really like that! Perhaps what is needed today for the salvation of our world is the experience of life as enchanted. Certainly that was the experience of St. Francis. Joy characterized his life more than any other quality. He was awake to the beauty and harmony of this world. He knew how to savor even the commonplace sparrow and the flight of swifts. The ephemeral beauty of wildflowers took his breath away. And in every human being he met, he saw the Living Christ. He called the earth his mother and the sun and moon, the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and even death itself his sisters and brothers. And he did so without ever buying into the greedy, acquisitive, clutching ways of this world. Do we know life as enchanted existence? Do we know how to savor this creation and every moment God gives us breath? Or do we foolishly believe that abundant life is only for the other world? 

woman surrounded by sunflowers
Photo by Andre Furtado on

And if we learned to savor life and to experience joy and to embrace pleasure, then would we not immerse ourselves into the healing of this planet? As we find our places in this beautiful and intricate creation, would we not become sensitive to the delicate balance required for the blossoming of this earth’s glorious potential? Would not cooperation and harmony, savoring and joyful reverence replace ruthless competition and frantic living? Could we not devote our time and energy to lifestyles of blessing, play, and healing?

As we allowed ourselves to savor life, could we not gain a fresh understanding of Jesus as our Savior? Did our Lord not say, “I have come that you may have life and have it in abundance”? Do we not see in him one who savored life; who found his place in God’s good creation; who reached out in compassion to all manners of people because he felt them connected to the heart of God; who trusted God in life and death and thus was free to live and die a Child of God?

And in his proclamation of the Kin-dom of God as well as his dealings with humanity, do we not see a radical reversal of the ways of this world? He turns our competitive and hierarchical approaches to life upside down. He redefines kingship by redistributing that royal identity to everyone—we are all children of God and therefore royal persons anointed with dignity and sharing in the care of this cosmos. In his beatitudes he insists that the blessings of God are for all, especially the lame and the sick, the poor and the widowed, the hungry and the humble. Royal priesthood is no longer restricted to certain blood lines or those with accumulated wealth and power. We are all kings and queens, sons and daughters of the Most High created for lives of joy, freedom, love, creativity, and caring connectedness. The God we are privileged to call Abba takes notice of even the fall of a single sparrow and adorns the wildflowers in colors which shame the proudest of kings. Such savoring by a loving God is to be imitated by us as we stop long enough to embrace life and our world in all its wonder, potential, and beauty. 

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