Buried in Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict are two “tools for good works” that seem almost like afterthoughts. The first is the second half of verse 26: “Never. . .turn away when someone needs your love.” The second is the last tool: “And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy.” These two verses are related. We can’t have one without the other. Unless we trust that God’s unquenchable mercy pours over every person, it’s impossible to find the generosity to reach out in love to our often unlovable selves and the often unlovable selves with whom we share this world. On the flip side, unless we turn toward people who need our love, no matter how mean and cruel their actions are, we can’t claim to trust that God’s unfailing mercy reaches out even to those we’ve exiled to that barren country beyond mercy and forgiveness. These two admonitions lead us to the heart of Christianity and all the world’s great religions.
By Mara Faulkner, OSB