Monday, March 31, 2008

more on "chesed"

More on "chesed" from the Merton Institute. A reflection that pretty much takes away any hope of "earning" heaven. Saints and sinners, we're all in the same boat. Ours is a merciful God.

Who, then, is my neighbor? To whom am I bound? Whom must I love?

These are not intelligent questions, and they do not have clear answers. On the contrary any attempt to answer them involves us in endless subtleties, and vagueness, and ultimate confusion. Love knows no classifications. The measure of love that Christ has set for us is beyond measure: we must "be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect." But what is meant by "perfection" of the heavenly Father? It is impartiality, not in the sense of justice that measures out equally to all, knowing their merits, but in the sense of chesed that knows no classification of good and evil, just or unjust. "For He sends His rain upon the just and the unjust."

We are bound to God in chesed. the power of His mercy has taken hold of us and will not let go of us: therefore we have become foolish. We can no longer love wisely. And because we have emptied ourselves in this folly which He has sent upon us, we can be moved by His unpredictable wisdom, so that we love whom we love and we help whom we help, not according to plans of our own but according to the measure laid down for us in His hidden will, which knows no measure. In this folly, which is the work of His Spirit, we must love especially those who are helpless and who can do nothing for themselves. We must also receive love from them, realizing our own helplessness, and our own inability to fend for ourselves. Chesed had made us as though we were outcasts and sinners. Chesed has numbered us among the aliens and strangers: chesed has not only robbed us of our reason but declassified us along with everyone else, in the sight of God. Thus we have no home, no family, no niche in society, and no recognizable function. Nor do we even appear to be especially charitable, and we cannot pride ourselves on virtue. Chesed had apparently robbed us of all that, for he who lives by the mercy of God alone shall have nothing else to live by, only that mercy. Plenitudo legis est charitas. Mercy fulfills the whole law.

Thomas Merton. Seasons of Celebration. (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1950): 180-181.

6 comments:

  1. "The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people."
    :) Mr. Chesterton

    ReplyDelete
  2. yup! Thanks for that Chesterton comment, Marc.

    ReplyDelete
  3. As a connoisseur of paradox, I find so much that speaks to me in this passage. It is really deep and something I will want to stay with for a long time. yes, yes, YES! Thanks for passing it along.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It kind of reminds me of the Anthony de Mello quote that you have on your site, Barbara. Something about that "need to Change" (or "be good" or something) that we get stuck in.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yes, it does. I have been living with that "seedling" since I posted it. "You do not have to change for God to love you."
    It says essentially the same thing that Merton wrote:
    "Chesed has numbered us among the aliens and strangers: chesed has not only robbed us of our reason but declassified us along with everyone else, in the sight of God. Thus we have no home, no family, no niche in society, and no recognizable function. Nor do we even appear to be especially charitable, and we cannot pride ourselves on virtue. Chesed had apparently robbed us of all that, for he who lives by the mercy of God alone shall have nothing else to live by, only that mercy."
    Or the comment on another blog we read about being a misfit. There are times I think I am mad as well.

    ReplyDelete
  6. aren't we all :-) (misfits and mad!)

    ReplyDelete

Joshua Casteel: How I became a conscientious objector

Joshua Casteel is a remarkable person: writer, playwright, public speaker, an Army veteran and former West Point cadet who became a foe of...