Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Creation and God's Mercy

This is a bit of a philosophical experiment. I marvel at this mysterious thing that we call "existing." It all points to God, of course, but I wonder if it points in any particular way to His mercy. I think it does.

God's mercy is the manifestation of His love for us when we are in need--in that which we cannot do for ourselves. We think of mercy primarily in terms of God's deliverance of us from our sins. But the fact is that even the most fundamental thing that I "do"--which is to exist--is not something that I accomplish "by myself," by my own power. I find myself existing before I even begin to think of doing anything. My being here right now is an event and I am not making it happen. But I am so grateful for it. I exist. I think even this simple fact is matter of mercy.

God's mercy is the source of my hope for eternal life, and I know that I depend completely on Him for my salvation. But without God's creative love, there would be no "I" at all. I am, by definition, poverty and neediness. So is every created thing. Really, the mercy of God is at the heart of everything; it is the foundation of all reality.

We can see the mercy of God everywhere around us, because everything we are and everything we have is, first of all, His gift. The astounding gift of created being manifests the attributes of God: His omnipotence, His love, His justice, His wisdom. It also manifests His mercy. For there is nothing more “needy,” more “indigent” than the utter poverty of “nothingness,” which is what we would all be (or, rather “not-be”) without the constant, particular, attentive care of God. Here of course we are talking about “nothingness” in a certain ontological context. In the abstract sense, in the terms of metaphysics, “nothing” is simply nothing, and therefore it is neither poor nor rich, neither “lost” nor needy. What we are referring to here is the “nothingness,” the “not-existing” of persons and things that are part of God’s created plan, as well as what is “left” of persons and things when we put in brackets God’s transcendent yet at the same time “super-immanent” causal and sustaining love.

So, in a sense, one could say that “mercy” is the foundation of the whole created universe. Nothing would exist without mercy. Nothing would exist if God did not in, in the superabundance of His Goodness, freely will to create beings, loving them into existence and activity. For a creature there is no “outside of God” or “independence from God.” Indeed it is worth noting that even the rejection of God cannot be accomplished without using the very human freedom that God has given us and that continues to be utterly dependent on Him for its sustenance and exercise. In and from ourselves we are “nothing.” God, however, is continually establishing, sustaining, and empowering us by His creative love. He is “loving” us right now in a manner which sustains us in our own being, and He holds our capacities, our talents, and our freedom; it is He who enables the human person to do great things, penetrating in an ineffable way the very root of our freedom, so that we can act in a way that is truly “our own,”–a way in which we really accomplish and personally possess “the Good”–while at the same time recognizing that everything we do springs forth from the Divine Mercy, from God whom St. Augustine said is “nearer to me than I am to myself.” Our “achievements” are initiated by God, sustained by Him, and brought to completion in Him. Without Him we can do “nothing.”

But it is not a show. We are not puppets. God really creates. I am totally dependent upon Him, and yet--precisely because of His transcendent creative power--I really belong to myself, He makes me in such a way that I really have my own being.

Ineffable gift. Is this not mercy, that in Him we live and move and have our being?