A Single, Seamless Garment

Contemporary society, with its ever-accelerating pace of life, is becoming increasingly fragmented and superficial. We’re in such a hurry we don’t take time for simple acts of kindness. For the most part, sadly, people worship on the altar of self-interest. Today, more than one billion people are undernourished, and one child dies every six seconds because of malnutrition. In light of such an overwhelming (and under-reported) disaster, compassion compels us to put the common good ahead of greed and profits.

Old Testament scholar Walter Bruggermann said, “It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing alternative futures to the single one ordained by the king.” The king today, that is, the rich, is the soulless corporation that fuels insatiable desire for endless consumption without any concern for the common good. Sadly, daily life in our time is ruled by competition instead of co-operation and by conflicting interests instead of collaboration. In order for the poor to elevate themselves they need a basic level of security that safeguards and satisfies their essential survival needs. The structures of grave poverty and oppression are so deeply engrained that it will take more than random acts of kindness to uproot them. Unless there is a global movement toward working in solidarity for the common good of all we are doomed. But that kind of shift in understanding and consciousness is extremely difficult in our current environment because politics has become so riddled with rancor and divisiveness that a union of hearts working together for the good of all is virtually impossible. Moreover, thoughtless religious fundamentalism is fueling hatred and violence and reducing the wisdom of loving your neighbor to just the person living next door to you, as long as that person doesn’t subscribe to a faith you consider evil. Our definition of neighbor has been far too narrowly defined. Our neighbor includes everyone, and loving our neighbor excludes no one.

Extending compassion to all people, even our enemies, is the very heart of the Christian faith. It is, I believe, the path to holiness. Jesus makes it abundantly clear that compassion is to be our central spiritual practice. And through compassion, we are better able to control greed and work together for the equitable distribution of the resources of God’s creation so that one day soon there will be no hunger on planet Earth, and that everyone will be able to fulfill the basic human desire to live fruitfully. The lives of the saints clearly show that compassion is the fruit of holiness. For St. Francis of Assisi, whose life never fails to inspire me, mysticism and mercy became a single, seamless garment that comforted and protected him on his unique journey to God.

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1 Response to “A Single, Seamless Garment”


  1. 1 Jerry February 10, 2014 at 10:08 am

    I see such a global movement taking birth. It’s not a big, bureaucratic, publicly visible movement. Rather it seems to me to be a quiet movement of the heart which invites people to help as and where they can. As people do that, a “single, seamless garment” will be woven by God from their efforts.


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