Monday, October 14, 2013

The...Chesed...Mercy...Of...Merton

"Mercy within Mercy within Mercy" these are the words of Pope Francis telling  me he is familiar with the work, and words of Thomas Merton. As you may well know I just love the wisdom of Thomas Merton. It was a number of years ago I  was real lucky to read his book, "Love and Living." It was a real grace-full experience, actually it could be called an encounter, because of the continued change that has been part of my life since. There is a wonder-full chapter in that book entitled, "Climate of Mercy." The reading of, and then further reflection of what that chapter had to offer effected me. It resulted in me being opened up, unfortunately very slowly, to a new understanding of the mercy of our Gracious Prodigal Father. As a matter of fact, I made it a point to make that available to many, many others over the years.

It was in there I read the words of an English Mystic describing the mercy - full God as, The One who "Abides patiently, He forgives easily, He understands mercifully, He forgets utterly." That was a new, exciting, freeing, enlightening, and enlivening understanding of God, and the way He sees me. I was formed in the very opposite understanding so this is what I was seeking and searching for, for so long. (I really believe now, that saying, "When the student is ready, the master appears.")I also read the following later in that same chapter; "The mercy of God shows the sinner to himself, no longer as essentially opposed to truth but as reconcilable with it." I later learned that reconciliation is a process, and a slow process at that. It happens, through the mystery of grace, as one falls more and more deeper into the bath, filled to the brim, with the soothing, healing, comforting oil of the mercy of God. We will do anything to avoid this "fall." We will go to terrible extremes, and cause tremendous havoc before we ultimately fall into the compassionate, loving, reconciling embrace of our Prodigal Father. Merton goes on to write: "Mercy heals in every way. It heals bodies, spirits, society, and history. It is the only force that can truly heal and save...Mercy heals the root of life by curing our existence of self-devouring despair which projects its own evil upon the other as a demand and accusation. We are enabled by God's gift to become merciful, we are given the power to understand mercifully, to accept and

to pardon the evil in others, not as a fruit of some Godlike magnanimity rooted in our own justice, but first of all as the fruit of self-knowledge which is liberated from the need to project its own evil upon the other" "To receive mercy and to give it is, then, to participate in the of the new creation and of redemption."

Last week that word "hesed" appeared in a quote as the Hebrew for the Greek "eleos" which is mercy in English. Merton spells it as "chesed." He describes chesed in the following quote from, "Seasons of Celebration:"  The chesed of God is a gratuitous mercy that considers no fitness, no worthiness and no return. It is the way the Lord looks upon the guilty and with His look makes them at once innocent. This look seems to some to be anger because they fly from it. But if they face it, they see that it is love and that they are innocent.(Their flight and their confusion of their own fear make them guilty in their own eyes.) The chesed of God is truth. It is infallible strength. It is the love the seeks and chooses His chosen, and binds them to Himself.  It is the love by which He is married to mankind, so that, if humanity is faithless to Him, it must still always have fidelity to which to return to: that is His own fidelity. He has become inseparable from man in the chesed which we call "Incarnation," and "Cross," and "Resurrection." He has also given chesed in the Person of His Spirit. The Paraclete is the full, inexpressible mystery of chesed. So that in the depths of our own being there is an inexhaustible spring of mercy and love. Our own being has become love. Our own self has become God's love for us, and it is full of Christ, of chesed. But we must face and accept ourselves and others as chesed."I guess that is why said "Be who you already are."

As we look further into the understanding of mercy we can see where our Pope Francis is coming from. It is up to each one of us, as the church of the poor for the poor, to get into touch with that chesed within. There will be a great connection with the journey into our own poverty, and the healing, soothing, and comforting we will experience. Because "the people are the church," so then wherever we are, there is the church. Is not this is a huge dignity and responsibility? We have to face this question, what is the quality of mercy that we are offering to those who are so desperately seeking, and searching for. This seeking and searching is so often in the unconscious and needs to be loved into to consciousness. We also have to face the fact that that the quality we bestow on ourselves will  be that which we can sincerely offer to another. As we make Merton's understanding of mercy, chesed a deepening reality there will be people paced in our lives for a reason. The reason for their presence is that we impart to them the gifts of empathy, understanding, and compassion that are now ours. Gifts that have appeared not through any success of ours but because of our many failures, and failings. I sometimes see God's mercy as a great giant hot tub into which I can lower that part or parts that need to experience soothing, comfort and healing. This hot tub is always open for you and for me.