An era of the “3 C’s” of Coronavirus, Climate change, and Colonialism and Racism that form the “Crack in the liberty bell” is a time for an awakening to a deeper spirituality—not one that retreats into contemplation but that recognizes contemplation as integral to all dimensions of the journey that culminates in actions that create new structures of justice and compassion.
Structures in education, politics, economics, religion that truly honor and protect the goodness all around and within us.
This is one reason for turning in a time of crisis to our wise ancestors who offer medicine for our current spiritual crisis. We have been discussing two such ancestors, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Thomas Aquinas.
The more I study what Aquinas is about, the more I see goodness as central to his entire worldview. He says “God is sheer goodness” and all beings participate in the divine goodness.
Meister Eckhart echoes this when he teaches that “Whenever we talk about God the Creator we are talking about goodness.”
And Julian of Norwich, who as we have seen, lived through the horrible pandemic of the Black Death that came in waves throughout her lifetime, nevertheless, rooted her spirituality in goodness. She insisted that “God is the goodness in all things.”
There are many lessons here for us as we live through another pandemic. They are all the more needed because we are also, alas!, still living inside a bubble called patriarchy, infused with pessimism and valuing domination more than co-operation and “winning” more than living and self-hatred and war more than love and compassion.
In short, necrophilia over biophilia.
Let us counter that caustic patriarchal worldview by with more of Aquinas’ teachings on goodness:
Every being as being is good. For all things, to be and to be good are the same. Good and being are interchangeable.
Existence itself, therefore, has the essential note of goodness.
All nature is good.
All things are good because they flow from the fount of goodness. We can praise God through all things!
There is nothing that does not share in goodness and beauty. Each thing is good and beautiful by its proper form. Everything images the divine goodness in its way.
Goodness of itself is generous. God is supremely good and therefore supremely generous.
The Holy Spirit is the love whereby God loves creatures and imparts to them the divine goodness.
By dwelling on creatures, the mind is inflamed to love the divine goodness. We love God and know God in the mirror of God’s creatures.
We find it said of each creature, “God saw the light that it was good” (Gen 1:4); and in like manner of each one of the others. But of all together it is said, “God saw all things then that God had made, and they were very good” (Gen 1:31).
From this understanding of goodness, I believe, the concept of the common good takes on even more depth, richness and urgency.
Is “Black Lives Matter” another way of talking about goodness? How Black Lives are Good? How the existence of each Black person and the Black community is good?
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. 95-98, 123-125.
Banner Image: A mother orca and her calf, near the Tacoma Queris Narrows Bridge, Washington State. Photo by Mike Charest on Flickr.
Queries for Contemplation
Take just one of these statements from Aquinas on goodness and be with it, let it wash over you and speak to your heart.
Is racism an inability–or refusal–to see the goodness in others?
Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality
Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him. He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French). He gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way.
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake
The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times
A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book! Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit