Today the Gospel points me to Jesus as greater than David (Mark 12:37), to Christians as more than conquerors (Romans 8:37), and to Thomas Merton at the corner of Fourth and Walnut in Louisville, Kentucky.
One afternoon in 1958, while running errands for his monastery, Thomas Merton realized he had fallen in love with the human race. In Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, he recalls standing on a street corner, and he writes:
“I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness… This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud.”
Merton the monk realizes that he is first of all Merton the human being, “a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate.” In that light, “the sorrow and stupidities of the human condition” do not overwhelm him. Instead, he lives for the day when we will all see each other as the persons we are in God’s eyes, people beloved and shining like the sun. (Matthew 13:43)
I felt almost overwhelmed when, returning from an Ash Wednesday service, I read about a mass shooting at a school in Florida. To whom can I turn but to the King whom David calls Lord? Jesus incarnates God’s covenant of mercy with every living creature. (Genesis 8-9) Jesus rules from a heart willing to die in the place of rebels. (2nd Samuel 18-19) Jesus does not break the bruised reed or quench the smoldering wick “till he brings justice to victory.” (Matthew 12:20)
If Jesus eradicated evil in a single act of power, we would all perish. Because Jesus overcomes evil with good, we can all have hope. And we can join in Jesus’ mission of nurturing goodness until the final harvest of justice and peace.