Guest blogger: Joshua VanCleef

If we really desire change, then what we need is something far greater than a New Year resolution, we need a New Year Revolution.  We need to turn things back to the starting point and evaluate the very principles, ideals and promises on which we have built our lives. It is then that we can overthrow the illusions that we have all too easily accepted as truths, the empty promises, the very things that stacked the deck against us and make real change nearly impossible.

We need to return to our baptism, stand as beloved children of God and overthrow the illusions that now dictate our lives. We need to stand on the promises of Christ and stand up against the false promises which hold hostage our desire.

Unfortunately, myths have become our foundation.  We need only to look into the mirror to see the illusions operant in our lives: that worth is based out of utility, attractiveness, wealth,or perfection; that happiness can be found in the collecting of things or people; or that the love of God needs to be earned. We only need to look out the window to see that the very illusions operating in our hearts have become the accepted principles that run much of our world.

In an honest moment, I realize the power that these false promises have over my own life.  It takes but an instant for them to surface when faced with a decision, and I know how much they really do influence me, how much they do hold me captive. But I also realize that the call to freedom casts off the yoke of slavery.

I call for a revolution of my own heart today. I call for a revolution because these false promises have become dictators in my life; they work me to the bone and feed me only enough to work another day. I call for a revolution because as I stand in the promises of my baptism, I cannot help but see the daily slavery to which I commit. I call for a revolution because this year I want change! I want my next step to be in truth rather than illusion, to choose freedom rather than oppression, and partake in a banquet rather than scraps. I know the only way for change in my life is to overthrow the dictators of illusion and the tyrants of false promises. So, I call for a revolution.

A revolution of the heart would lead me to a revolution in the streets. I know that revolution wouldn’t be satisfied with immigration reform, its goal is much larger and more fundamental: to overthrow the illusion that my dignity is more important or my life is worth more than someone else’s. Revolution would debunk the lie that it is more important for me to have much than for all to have enough. There is no surprise that Guantanamo is still open!

Only a revolution has the power to overthrow the illusion that a good end can be achieved through evil means, or the justification of torture. Outside of a revolution of the heart, reform will only allow torture to take new forms. Reform and resolution can mandate equal public treatment of people, but only a revolution can unmask the lie that all are not equal before God. Only a revolution can overthrow the illusion that worth is based out of utility, or the all too popular lie of entitlement.

Brothers and sisters, if a revolution is what we desire and we realize the powers that have become the current of our lives, the illusions that serve as dictators and the false promises as tyrants, then we are the sick in need of healing. We are the broken needing to be made whole. And if we wish to stand in our baptismal promises, in the freedom of the beloved children of God, then it is our sickness and brokenness that we have to offer Jesus. And this is all He asks of us. For if we wish to cast off the lies of the oppressor and the promises of the tyrant, there is only one Healer, only one Revolutionary powerful enough: the Crucified One.

Now, my brothers and sisters, together with Jesus let us go back to the beginning and claim our freedom as children of God. And when the illusions of oppression try to scatter us with fire hoses, we will renew our baptism in their water. We are people who know water and it will neither stop us nor put out our fires. When the dictators of false promises try to antagonize us with venomous words, we will handle their words and not be harmed.

My brothers and sisters, when we the weak, the sick, the believers, confront the powers that surround us with walls and barbed wire, then united with Jesus we will look to the cross and speak to our oppressors. We say together, “where we are going YOU cannot go.” Let’s take courage in the promise of Christ, that in the end when the mist of mustard gas dissipates, as a cloud of witnesses we will emerge.


This week’s guest blogger, Joshua VanCleef, is a Franciscan Friar of St. John the Baptist province. Originally from Detroit, he now lives in Chicago and is finishing his studies at the Catholic Theological Union. He is a neighbor and friend of Sister Julia.

  1. josh,
    we are certainly influenced by similar ideas. i definitely see traces of r. rohr in your words and even the tolle teachings (which speak to me so much). i like what you have to say and you say it cogently! my only question is what is it that we (humans) are trying to create with such a revolution (if it were to occur)? are we trying to get somewhere as a species or civilization? perhaps a utopia or kingdom of heaven, however, are those not also illusions? this is not entirely rhetorical but comes from my own inquiries about what we, animal-humans, can actually achieve in our short time here on earth and even the earth’s short time in the universe. everything will eventually cease to be, and if i may, even our ideas about transcending death (heaven, etc.) and becoming immortal are illusory. so even if such an insurrection of the heart leads to something, why bother anyway? or do we bother so that we may ease the pain/suffering until death comes?
    all the best,

  2. Thanks for the comments TC!
    I don’t speak from expertise on this one, but I will try to respond with some thoughts from experience.
    I would have to say that the primary aim of a revolution should not be for a utopian society, as in the Kingdom “out there”.
    It seems that the key to the illusions that we all have in our own hearts revolve around the fact that they make false promises. If we acknowledge that we desire healing, happiness, and wholeness, then the way has to be through the wound. We have to go through our wounds to the other side. Yet, the lie of so many promises, or what I called “illusions” is that they almost always either convince us that we are in control, put together, or powerful, so that we never acknowledge our own need for healing or they send us running in the other direction. The paschal mystery tells us that The Way is through the wound, that healing and wholeness is on the other side. This is our major journey of being freed from our own captivity and healed; this is our exodus to the Promised Land. The illusions make promises of Easter Sunday without Good Friday and that never works. We are never healed, whole, or happy until we go back into the wound, to the very source of pain, and transformed by Jesus and led to the other side. Then your scars become your wisdom. My life tells me that there is no other way. There are so many illusions connected to power, control, self image, etc… that keep us running from the very wounds that need healing, the very cross and door to wholeness. They make us experts at running away and we know that the wounds always catch up to us.
    Just as goodness is self diffusive, healing also sends out healing. The one being healed then becomes the wounded healer. As the kingdom is brought to our hearts, it diffuses into the world. You cannot give what you don’t have and it seems that you cannot help but give what you do. As Richard Rohr says, “you either transform your wounds or you transmit them”. The revolution of the heart (in here) cannot help but revolutionize the world (out there).

    1. Josh,
      Thanks for your reply!
      Well I think you’re on to something (or those who influence us are on to something) in that one can never find inner equanimity and presence unless he or she journey’s inward, to the darkness where pain resides and vigilantly watch/observe that pain until you cease to identify with the wound which creates it.

      so we humans have two choices: one can run away from the pain and it, inevitably, will catch up with you, tormenting and spitting you out again and again (this is life). Or you can transform your wounds and become liberated from the pain that they generate. this i believe is what you mean when you call for a “revolution of the heart.”

      regardless of whichever path you take, each ends with death. perhaps one person lives in the dungeons of their own pain, while the other was freed by something transcendent.

      Now this is the heart of my question to which i’m trying to find an answer. why should one strive to transform their wounds rather than transmit their wounds? You said that “the revolution of the heart (in here) cannot help but revolutionize the world (out there),” and so what happens once the world is revolutionized “out there?”

      and so I go back to my ending question….why bother? or do we bother so that we may ease the pain/suffering until death comes?

      perhaps you’ve lost you patience with my nihilistic perception of life but I am deeply curious as to why we humans strive so much to overcome our flesh and become enlightened or whatever term you want to use?

      Josh what is the benefit to following Rohr or Tolle’s teachings or creating a space for a true insurrection of the heart? that is, besides easing or eradicating the pain/wounds or is that the only benefit?

      Take Care

  3. Dear Friends,
    I am challenged by your profound- and true- reflections. Thank you, thank you.
    And, I can’t resist chiming in a bit.

    TC, I don’t think that the point is knowing, but the constant questions themselves can liberate us. You know I am not a scholar about all this like you are, so I hope you can help me know: does Jesus say that the Kingdom of God is within in every gospel? I have been contemplating this message lately as I increase my own awareness that I need to tend the poverty within my own soul WHILE I encounter external poverty.

    I don’t think we’re supposed to know where we’re going because we’re not in control, and this is all God’s stuff. When we’re disciples we have to constantly let go from designing or experiencing the outcomes. The Gospel calls us to action and contemplation, and Jesus offers us all sorts of parables describing the Kingdom of God, but all of them cause us to ask more questions. Jesus doesn’t offer a clear cut definition of the destination. I keep thinking about Gospel living like being a violin in an orchestra: I have to be an empty instrument so someone else can play me and make music that transforms, without really having a clue about what I even am.

    May God help us! Peace, Julia