Radical Obedience

“If my compassion is true, if it be a deep compassion of the heart and not a legal affair, or a mercy learned from a book and practiced on others like a pious exercise, then my compassion for others is God’s mercy for me.”
-Thomas Merton
No Man Is An Island

Mercy is the holiness of God made manifest, it is God’s love in action. Mercy and God are inseparable, one and the same. Mercy is an act of creation, springing forth from unconditional love. God is the energy and passion that drives me to help the poor. But I do so very little in comparison to the people I have filmed, amazing people such as Dr. Tony in Peru and Fr. Tom in Haiti.

When I look at the lives of the truly holy people I’ve filmed I see how radical obedience to Christ is not simply a matter of avoiding sin, though that is important, it also requires us to be identified with the poor. Jesus entered humanity in a state of weakness and powerlessness. Jesus gave himself to the weak, the despised, and the forsaken. And in turn he became despised and rejected. Christ’s life was marked by sorrow and pain. He did not hang out with the poor for a few hours a week and then return to a comfortable home to relax with a glass of wine. He became one with the poor, fully sharing in their misery. He did not become a leader of the poor; he became a servant of the poor. When the poor wanted to coronate him, he fled. Jesus loved the lost and the lowly and he loved being in their company in order to serve them more fully. And he did so because it was the will of God.

I’m not implying that is the will of God for everyone to devote themselves fully to the poor. I’m just trying to understand the very narrow path these servants of the poor are walking, and how that path seems to lead to a quicker and deeper encounter with God. I do, however, think their physical journey with the poor has symbolic lessons for the rest of us. We need to encounter our own true poverty and acknowledge our own weaknesses and powerlessness, and be more open to those moments when we can extend mercy in the daily events of our lives.

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1 Response to “Radical Obedience”


  1. 1 krebsjoan May 4, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    And when “the poor” are your own family, things hit home all the more. You can’t avoid accompanying them on their pathway (chosen or not). Heart, head, body – they all get involved. Thank you for reminding us and for (elsewhere) sharing of your own immersion. We are the better for it.


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