Thomas Merton, theologian, mystic, and writer, penned this prayer in his Asian Journal, written during a conference on East-West monastic dialogue (and some ECMN Convention attendees may recognize a rendition of these words from a piece composed by musician Fran McKendree). I believe Merton’s words are as relevant today as ever. I am particularly convicted by this challenging prose, “Help us to realize that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection.” If we begin or live in a place where rejection of the other is center-most, there will be absolutely no possibility for reconciliation.
If, on the other hand, we do as Merton suggests, “Oh God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely, we accept You, and we thank You, and we adore You, and we love You with our whole being, because our being is in Your being, our spirit is rooted in Your spirit,” we live in a space that is open and seeking reconciliation.
Merton is not naive. The fact is, rejecting another is much easier than loving them. Real love takes real effort, real perseverance, real commitment. Shutting someone out or outright rejecting them is not real work. Getting in the trenches, rolling up your sleeves and opening yourself up to a person’s world view or actions, that are at best annoying and at worse repulsive, is real work. It is, in fact, Gospel work. The kind of work that those who have chosen to follow Jesus are called to. It is the essential work of living fully into being the Beloved Community.