Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Thomas Merton: the teacher I never met

In December 10, 1968 the world lost Thomas Merton. I never met him, but in a way he has been in my life for many years. He has influenced my theology and the way that I look at the world.

In his honor I share the following from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton. While this was published back in 1968, it is amazing to me how much of it is still relevant.

A basic temptation: the flatly unchristian refusal to love those whom we consider, for some reason or other, unworthy of love. And, on top of that, to consider others unworthy of love for even very trivial reasons. Not that we hate them of course: but we just refuse to accept them in our hearts, to treat them without inner reservations. In a word, we reject those who do not please us. We are of course "charitable toward them". An interesting use of the word "charity" to cover and to justify a certain coldness, suspicion, and even disdain. But this is punished by another inexorable refusal: we are bound by the logic of this defensive rejection to reject any form of happiness that even implies acceptance of those we have have decided to reject. This certainly complicates life, and if one is sufficiently intolerant, it ends by making all happiness impossible.

This means that we have to get along without constantly applying the yardstick of "worthiness" (who is worthy to be loved, and who is not). And it almost means, by implication, that we cease to ask even indirect questions about who is "justified," who is worthy of acceptance, who can be tolerated by the believer! What a preposterous idea that would be! And yet the world is full of "believers" who find themselves entirely surrounded by people they can hardly be expected to "tolerate," such as Jews, Negroes, unbelievers, heretics, Communists, pagans, fanatics, and so on.

God is asking of me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of all my brothers, and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all in God's likeness. And to laugh, after all, at all preposterous ideas of "worthiness".

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