July 1, 2007


Jesus … rebuked them. – Luke 9: 55

We all like to be complimented by our teachers, but the fact is our greatest learning occurs when we are critiqued. For example:

During his training with Roberto Assagioli, a major figure in phychosynthesis, Piero Ferrucci was walking with him in a small garden in Florence . He had written some ideas for Assagioli to comment on. These ideas included a reference to “following our feelings.” Very gently but firmly Assagioli said as if it were perfectly obvious, “but you must not follow your feelings. Your feelings must follow you.” Ferrucci relates how he received this correction:

“I was taken aback by his remark. After all, I thought, weren’t we all supposed to be listening more to our feelings, which are so often brutally repressed or maltreated in our over-achieving society, thus accounting for so much of the psychological malaise we see around us? Surely we had to give in to the natural demands of our emotional life. That was my credo. And here was this old man telling me my feelings had to follow me! How authoritarian, how unfamiliar that sounded! At the time, the statement – perhaps because of the disarming way it had been uttered – awoke my curiosity. I soon realized the importance of the problem. Should we acknowledge our feelings as the primary factor in deciding what to do in our various life situations? And if not, which part of us should determine our course of action?”

This story gives us a clue to why rebuke from a more enlightened consciousness is so important. The rebuke often targets things we take for granted, ways of thinking & acting that we assume are correct. Our ideas have merit & we will not be summarily dismissed. But this defensive posture is undercut by a “disarming authoritarianism” that is more authoritative than authoritarian. Assagioli uses his authority as the master, but in such a way that it awakens curiosity & not combativeness. This style has the desired effect.

James & John follow the feeling of anger into wanting to call down fire from heaven. The eager would-be disciple in today’s Gospel is following his own emotional exuberance. The one who delays his response in the name of duty & the one who promises to follow Jesus under the condition of receiving permission from his family are following familial & cultural expectations that have been imposed upon them. But there is a higher self, & Jesus’ rebuke is essentially a reminder that everything else needs to be directed by that higher self.

How do we receive these rebukes? Do we find defensiveness rising in us when some of our prized ways of thinking & acting are confronted? We are not to waste time on revenge no matter how justified we may think it is; seek other opportunities. Do not daydream about glory; face the harshness of the path of love in an unloving world. Do not become committed to a way of life that kills the spirit & cloak it in noble-sounding language; follow what gives you life. Do not always look outside yourself & seek permission from others; find your higher self & commit yourself to unfolding it.

It’s good drama to imagine Jesus’ rebukes as separating the sheep from the goats; but what if His authoritative voice was disarming, speaking the truth in love? His words would not necessarily leave people angry & confused, but instead they would open a door into a room of light; & Jesus & His hearers both became curious about entering it. We have a choice to become defensive or be stimulated into realizing that following Jesus involves the difficulty of never belonging to what appears the natural way, the way of creating a home on the earth as it is. AMEN!