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The key to entering into the new social order described by Jesus is never our worthiness but always God’s graciousness. We are all saved by divine mercy and not by any performance whatsoever. Any attempt to measure or increase our worthiness will always fall short, or it will force us into the position of denial and pretense, which produces hypocrisy and violence—to ourselves and others.
Switching to an “economy of grace” from our usual “economy of merit” is very hard for humans, very hard indeed. We naturally base almost everything in human culture on achievement, performance, accomplishment, payment, exchange value, appearance, or worthiness of some sort—it can be called “meritocracy” (the rule of merit). Unless we experience a dramatic and personal breaking of the usual and agreed-upon rules of merit, it is almost impossible to disbelieve or operate outside of its rigid logic. This cannot happen theoretically, abstractly, or somehow “out there.” It must happen to me!
Our word for that dramatic breaking of the ironclad rule is grace. It is God’s magnificent jailbreak from our self-made prisons, the only way that God’s economy can triumph over our strongly internalized merit badge system. Grace is the secret undeserved key whereby God, the Divine Locksmith, for every life and for all of history, sets us free. (See Romans 11:6, Ephesians 2:7-10.)
Life, when lived fully, tends to tool and retool us until we eventually discover a mercy that fills all the gaps necessary for our very survival and sanity. Without grace, everything human declines and devolves into smallness, hurt, and blame.
“Richard Rohr at his best . . . as he challenges us to develop a vision
and discipline for what lies at the heart of all religion—compassion.
This is a small book packing a big wallop.” — Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I.
Drawing from Fr. Richard’s talks at the 2013 Festival of Faiths with
the Dalai Lama, Silent Compassion focuses on the divine silence that
offers peace, calls us to compassion, and brings wholeness of being.
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