by Tammy Townsend Denny, TI Executive Director
As I mentioned in an earlier reflection, I have committed to reading Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation this Lent. Each day over my morning cup of coffee, I read one chapter from the book, sometimes splitting longer chapters into two readings. Merton in small sips is much easier to digest!
In the chapter “A Body of Broken Bones,” Merton offers a definition of natural law that really spoke to me recently. He writes:
“…natural law is simply that we should recognize in every other human being the same nature, the same needs, the same rights, the same destiny as in ourselves.”
He goes on to explain that “the plainest summary of all the natural law is: to treat other [humans] as if they were [humans]. Not to act as if I alone were a [human], and every other human were an animal or a piece of furniture.”
He says that we “must learn to share with others their joys, their sufferings, their ideas, their needs, their desires” and that we must do this even when someone is not of “the same class, the same profession, the same race, the same nation.” Most importantly, Merton says we must share this love “even to groups that are regarded as hostile.”
Merton’s words remind me a lot of Theresians International’s commitment to being a Partnership of Equals. Written by Theresian Anne Murphy, who passed away in February, this statement says:
“We are a Partnership of Equals: no one stands in front, no one stands behind, no one stands above, no one stands below. We are a Partnership of Equals.”
It is easy to be in partnership with those who look like us, act like us, and believe like us. But what about those we regard as hostile? Do we treat those who are not like us as animals or a piece of furniture, ignoring their needs and wants? Or are we truly committed to being a Partnership of Equals?
As you contemplate these questions, I invite you to watch this short (2:21 minute) video “Eating Twinkies With God.” (For those not familiar with Twinkies: Twinkies are a small sponge cake with a creamy filling that are produced and sold by a major food manufacturer in the United States.)
I challenge you this Lent to see God in the smiles – and even the frowns -- of every person you encounter, especially those who are not like you! And maybe put a few Twinkies in your purse for sharing.