I wrote last week about the talk I gave at St. Thomas Apostle on the relationship between wisdom and mercy, part of the parish’s four-part series on the Year of Mercy. In my earlier post, I talked of wisdom as seeing as God sees, one element of which is seeing everyone as the beloved of God.
My friend Bill Nolan, pastoral associate at St. Thomas Apostle, reflected on that part of my talk in his weekly parish column. He wrote
This is hardly a foreign concept in our faith tradition. In the beginning, God made humankind in the divine image, the writer of Genesis tells us. We are the very image of God, in our humanity. Thus, to see the other as also being the image of God ought to be the most authentically human experience in the world.
So…it ought to be an equally authentically human experience to say and believe the following:
Bernie Sanders, you are the beloved of God… Hillary Clinton, you are the beloved of God… Donald Trump, you are the beloved of God…
Neighbor who fails to clean up what his dog left in my yard, you are the beloved of God… Driver who believes the stop sign at the corner is merely a suggestion, you are the beloved of God… Shopper who takes the last item off the shelf that was my sole purpose for going to the grocery store, you are the beloved of God…
Archbishop Weakland, you are the beloved of God… Cardinal Law, you are the beloved of God… Archbishop Nienstedt, you are the beloved of God…
I have to be honest. I’m not sure I can say and believe all those statements. Does this mean I am lacking in the wisdom that leads to mercy? Well…in a word…yes.
But it doesn’t mean I quit trying. It doesn’t mean I give up on trying to separate what a person does from who a person is. The wisdom that leads to mercy does not condone sin; it acknowledges the sinner as beloved of God. The wisdom that leads to mercy does not mean that I should ignore the evil that is done in the world; it calls me to see every human person as capable of redemption, precisely because they are the beloved of God. The wisdom that leads to mercy does not ask me to turn a blind eye; it calls me to turn the other cheek.
Can I say and believe all those statements as well? I don’t know. But I can keep trying.
As Bill says, and as we discussed in the dialogue that followed my talk, this is not easy. It is a process. And our failure to always see as God sees “doesn’t mean I quit trying.”