Merton’s Chapter 10, “A Body of Broken Bones,” in New Seeds of Contemplation is very poignant. Here are a few excerpts:
As long as we are not purified by the love of God and transformed into Him in the union of pure sanctity, we will remain apart from one another, opposed to one another, and union among us will be a precarious and painful thing, full of labor and sorrow and without lasting cohesion.
All over the face of the earth the avarice and lust of men breed unceasing divisions among them, and the wounds that tear men from union with one another widen and open out into huge wars. Murder, massacres, revolution, hatred, the slaughter and torture of the bodies and souls of men, the destruction of cities by fire, the starvation of millions, the annihilation of populations and finally the cosmic inhumanity of atomic war: Christ is massacred in His members, torn limb from limb; God is murdered in men.
As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is the resetting of a Body of broken bones. Even saints cannot live with saints on this earth without some anguish, without some pain at the differences that come between them. There are two things which men can do about the pain of disunion with other men. They can love or they can hate.
The root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved. The faith that one is loved by God. That faith that one is loved by God although unworthy—or, rather, irrespective of one’s worth! In the true Christian vision of God’s love, the idea of worthiness loses its significance. Revelation of the mercy of God* makes the whole problem of worthiness something almost laughable: the discovery that worthiness is of no special consequence (since no one could ever, by himself, be strictly worthy to be loved with such a love) is a true liberation of the spirit . And until this discovery is made, until this liberation has been brought about by the divine mercy, man is imprisoned in hate.
IF you want to know what is meant by “God’s will” in man’s life, this is one way to get a good idea of it. “God’s will” is certainly found in anything that is required of us in order that we may be united with one another in love.
For Christianity is not merely a doctrine or a system of beliefs, it is Christ living in us and uniting men to one another in His own Life and unity. “I in them, and Thou, Father , in Me, that they may be made perfect in One…. And the glory which Thou hast given me I have given them, that they may be One as we also are One.” In hoc cognoscent omnes quia mei estis discipuli, si dilectionem habueritis ad invicem. “In this shall all men know that you are my disciples— if you have love one for another.”
- In the bible, hesed refers to the loving action of God in us as God brings us to new life. Hesed has been translated as mercy, loving kindness and steady love. I like to think of hesed as a verb—God heseds us into life. I believe Merton’s concept of mercy, about which he often writes, captures the full meaning of God’s action in us.