Thomas Merton: Seeds of Contemplation

He Who Is Not with Me

Is against Me A MAN who has been killed by one enemy is just as dead as one who has been killed by a whole army. If you are friends with one habit of mortal sin you live in death, even though you may seem to have all the other virtues.

SOME people think it is enough to have one virtue, like kindness or broadmindedness or charity, and let everything else go. But if you are unselfish in one way and selfish in twenty-five other ways your virtue will not do you much good. In fact, it will probably turn out to be nothing more than a twenty-sixth variety of the same selfishness, disguised as virtue.

Therefore do not think that because you seem to have some good quality, all the evil in you can be excused or forgotten on that account alone.

Do not think that you can show your love for Christ by hating those who seem to be His enemies on earth. Suppose they really do hate Him: nevertheless He loves them, and you cannot be united with Him unless you love them too.

If you hate the enemies of the Church instead of loving them, you too will run the risk of becoming an enemy of the Church, and of Christ; for He said: “Love your enemies,” and He also said: “He that is not with me is against me.” Therefore if you do not side with Christ by loving those that He loves, you are against Him.

But Christ loves all men. Christ died for all men. And Christ said there was no greater love than that a man should lay down his life for his friend.

Do not be too quick to assume that your enemy is an enemy of God just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy precisely because he can find nothing in you that gives glory to God. Perhaps he fears you because he can find nothing in you of God’s love and God’s kindness and God’s patience and mercy and understanding of the weaknesses of men.

Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God, for it is perhaps your own coldness and avarice, your mediocrity and materialism, your sensuality and selfishness that have killed his faith.

A MAN cannot be a perfect Christian—that is, a saint—unless he is also a communist. This means that he must either absolutely give up all right to possess anything at all, or else only use what he himself needs, of the goods that belong to him, and administer the rest for other men and for the poor: and in his determination of what he needs he must be governed to a great extent by the gravity of the needs of others.

But you will say it is practically impossible for a rich man to put into practice this clear teaching of Scripture and Catholic tradition. You are right. And there is nothing new in that. Christ told everybody the same thing long ago when He said it was easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than it was for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

If Christians had lived up to the Church’s teaching about property and poverty there would never have been any occasion for the spurious communism of the Marxists and all the rest—whose communism starts out by denying other men the right to own property.

There is only one true doctrine about property rights, and that is taught by Catholic tradition. Those rights exist and cannot be denied, but they imply an obligation which, if it were put into practice without hypocrisy, self-deception and subterfuge, would mean that most Christians would be living with something like the communism of the first Apostles: “For neither was there any one needy among them. For as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the price of the things they sold, and laid it down before the feet of the Apostles. And distribution was made to every one according as he had need.”

No one denied those men the right to own land, or to keep what they owned, or to sell it and give away their money. Yet that right implied an obligation to satisfy the needs of others as well as their own, and brought with it the privilege of doing so in a manner that was beyond the strict letter of any law and which could go as far as a charity that was heroic.

If you have money, consider that perhaps the only reason God allowed it to fall into your hands was in order that you might find joy and perfection by giving it all away.

IT is easy enough to tell the poor to accept their poverty as God’s will when you yourself have warm clothes and plenty of food and medical care and a roof over your head and no worry about the rent. But if you want them to believe you—try to share some of their poverty and see if you can accept it as God’s will yourself!

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