Monday, April 14, 2008

awakening according to merton: chesed ("not necessarily like the movies")

The Merton Institute continues to expound on "chesed" in its weekly reflection. I find it essential in understanding Merton, as well as what is really at the bottom of the Gospel.

The mystery of the Good Samaritan is this, then: the mystery of chesed, power and mercy. In the end, it is Christ Himself who lies wounded by the roadside. It is Christ Who comes by in the person of the Samaritan. And Christ is the bond, the compassion and understanding between them. This is how the Church is made of living stones, compacted together in mercy. Where there is on the one hand a helpless one, beaten and half dead, and on the other an outcast with no moral standing and the one leans down in pity to help the other, then there takes place a divine epiphany and awakening. There is "man," there reality is made human, and in answer to this movement of compassion, a Presence is made on the earth, and the bright cloud of the majesty of God overshadows their poverty and their love. There may be no consolation in it. There may be nothing humanly charming about it. It is not necessarily like the movies. Perhaps the encounter is outwardly sordid and unattractive. But the Presence of God is brought about on earth there, and Christ is there, and God is in communion with man.

Thomas Merton. Seasons of Celebration. (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1950): 181-182.

Thought for the Day

Chesed, mercy and power, manifests itself visibly in the chasid, or the saint. Indeed the saint is one whose whole life is immersed in the chesed of God. The saint is the instrument of the divine mercy. Through the chasid the love of God reaches into the world in a visible mystery, a mystery of poverty and love, meekness and power.


  1. "In the end, it is Christ Himself who lies wounded by the roadside. It is Christ Who comes by in the person of the Samaritan. And Christ is the bond, the compassion and understanding between them."

    Beth, this interpretation of the story of the Good Samaritan, where Christ is All, where He is Everything, reminded me so much of what we just heard this past Sunday, that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, but He is also the Gate, as well as the Gatekeeper.

    Thank you for these wonderful posts, so beautifully teaching about Divine Mercy.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Gabrielle.

    This passage is especially mysterious for me, too. It seems to be pointing to that which happens BETWEEN us when we act with mercy that is the very Presence of Christ in our world.

    Once when I was in Haiti a dying man looked at me with such compassion that I felt as if I were the one who was helpless and broken and he was the Good Samaritan who reached for me to help and heal me. This passage reminds me of that too.

  3. I think you have got to the heart of it, Beth; we know that Jesus said elsewhere that whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters we have done for Him, so when we show mercy to another, we are showing mercy to Christ within the other. And the mercy we give does not come from ourselves, but through the grace we have received to be used as an instrument to show Christ's mercy, so it comes from Christ within us (and of course vice versa, when we are on the receiving end of mercy from another). The actual mercy (what happens between us, as you say) is also Christ, for He does not just give mercy, He is Mercy. If we could fully realize this, how differently would we live; surely much would change in the world.

  4. You've said this very well, Gabrielle. THank you.


2nd Sunday of Advent 2023

Photo by John P. Walsh F rom Alfred Delp S.J.,   Prison Writings , Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2004: “So this Sunday we must again fol...