A Body of Broken Bones, prt. 1
All over the face of the earth the avarice and lust of men and women breed unceasing divisions among them, and the wounds that tear them 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 and women, 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 and women. The history of the world, with the material destruction of cities and nations and people,. expresses the interior division that tyrannizes the souls of all men and women, and even of the saints. Even the innocent, even those in whom Christ lives by love, even those who want with their whole heart to love one another, remain divided and separate… 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 and women can do about the pain of disunion with other men and women. They can love or they can hate. Hatred recoils from the sacrifice and the sorrow that are the price of this resetting of bones. It refuses the pain of reunion. There is in every weak, lost and isolated member of the human race an agony of hatred born of their own helplessness, their own isolation. Hatred is the sign and the expression of loneliness, of unworthiness, or insufficiency. And in so far as each of us is lonely, is unworthy, each one hates him/herself. Some of us are aware of this self-hatred, and because of it we reproach ourselves and punish ourselves needlessly. [But] punishment cannot cure the feeling that we are unworthy. There is nothing we can do about it as long as we feel that we are isolated, insufficient, helpless, alone. Others, who are less conscious of their own self-hatred, realize it in a different form by projecting it onto others. There is a proud and self-confident hate, strong and cruel, which enjoys the pleasure of hating, for it is directed outward to the unworthiness of the another. But this strong and happy hate does not realize that like all hate, it destroys and consumes the [one] that hates, and not the object that is hated. Hate in any form is self-destructive, and even when it triumphs physically it triumphs in its own spiritual ruin. Strong hate, the hate that takes joy in hating, is strong because it does not believe itself to be unworthy and alone. It feels the support of a justifying God, of an idol of war, an avenging and destroying spirit. From such blood-drinking gods the human race was once liberated, with great toil and terrible sorrow, by the death of a God Who delivered Himself to the Cross and suffered the pathological cruelty of His own creatures out of pity for them. In conquering death He opened their eyes to the reality of a love which asks no questions about worthiness, a love which overcomes hatred and destroys death. But men and women have now come to reject this divine revelation of pardon, and they are consequently returning to the old war gods, the gods that insatiably drink the blood and eat the flesh of men and women. It is easier to serve the hate gods because they thrive on the worship of collective fanaticism. To serve the hate gods, one has only to be blinded by collective passion. To serve the God of Love, one must be free, one must face the terrible responsibility to love in spite of all unworthiness, whether in oneself or in one’s neighbor.
From Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation, ch. 4 (pp. 71-74)