Justice & Compassion as Visions of God that Melt Hearts

When Aquinas says that “the vision of God is arrived at through justice” means that the Via Transformativa and the work of justice open up a vision of the Divine.  After all, “God is justice” and “God is compassion” for Aquinas. 

A protestor stands for “Liberty and Justice for All!” Photo by LOGAN WEAVER | @LGNWVR on Unsplash

The struggle for Justice becomes an occasion wherein Divinity reveals itself to us.

Each of the four paths bring us to the vision and experience of the Divine—the Via Positiva, Via Negativa and Via Creativa do this and the Via Transformativa too. 

The Via Positiva and Via Transformativa marry–the justice-maker is not only in love with the Earth but learns to love fighting on behalf of the Earth.  “Take pleasure in doing just deeds,” Aquinas urges us.

While Aquinas is happy to talk about contemplation and to practice it, for him contemplation is not the culmination of the spiritual journey. Contemplation and action, compassion, are to go together.  Indeed, this one topic was the single most important conflict between the monastic tradition that had dominated religious history for 800 years and the new upstart “mendicant orders” of Francis and Dominic. 

Aquinas talks about the conflict this way:

For 14 years, David Breaux sat at a bench in Davis, CA, studying and sharing about compassion. This spring, Breaux’s life ended violently less than 50 yards from that bench. CBS Mornings interviews community members on Breaux’s legacy.

Share the light! It is a greater thing to give light than simply to have light, and in the same way it is a greater thing to pass on to others what you have contemplated than just to contemplate.

Aquinas celebrates our powers for compassion:

In itself compassion takes precedence over the other virtues, for it belongs to compassion to be bountiful to others, and, what is more, to succor others in their wants.

Compassion is our imitation of God: “Compassion is accounted as being proper to God” and renders divinity “manifest.”  Compassion bears witness to the Divine: “Of all the virtues that relate to our neighbor, compassion is the greatest” and it “likens us to God as regards similarity of works.”  For “the sum total of the Christian religion consists of compassion as regards external works.” 

Mini-documentary honoring the Black Panther women who ran clinics, fed the hungry and stood alongside their male counterparts during the fight for civil rights. ABC10

Aquinas calls compassion “the fire the Lord came to send on the earth.”  (Luke 12) Why is that?  “Because compassion proceeds from love of God and neighbor which is a consuming fire.” 

He invokes the prophet Isaiah, “’his tongue is like fire.’  Charity is called a fire primarily because it illuminates…. secondly because it warms.”  

The Holy Spirit melts the heart through the fire of love because “the first effect of love is melting.” 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 109-116.

And Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. 287, 395f., 401, 419, 423.

And Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner image: Last touch: hand held in hospice. Image by truthseeker08 from Pixabay

Queries for Contemplation

What does it mean to you to hear that “the first effect of love is melting?”  Is that your experience too?  Does working for justice open up visions of God for you?

Recommended Reading

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

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

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

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5 thoughts on “Justice & Compassion as Visions of God that Melt Hearts”

  1. Avatar

    ‘Via Jesus Ya-Be-A’ is the path we take is it not?

    Can God ever be defined and compartmentalized in simplistic terms? We see the true vision of God through who Jesus, as Christ consciousness, soul consciousness, chooses to reveal the nature of the Creator to. We imitate Jesus in the experiential, multifaceted ‘Ways of the Mystery’ which are beyond human understanding alone. If we as carpenters were to fix everything that needs fixing with a hammer because it is our preferred tool, then we would break more things that we fix. Likewise, the work of God has many facets and has many tools to use. We cannot define God in terms of justice and compassion alone. How can we bring forth any gifts without ourselves living in a state of being that is receptive to them and to love, joy, peace, stillness, endurance and an enhanced consciousness?

    Whatever ‘our work’ in God is, it is always a ‘living work’, a loving work that brings forth that which is needed in its time. We as a ‘living presence’ will bring forth all that God has to offer and that is necessary. — BB.

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    My experience of the “first effects of love melting”, began to unfold when I truly opened my heart, mind and soul, to receiving and accepting the unconditional love, compassion and mercy of God and the just is of this. This is God initiated, and is personally experienced by choosing to respond to this grace offered all. Melting is about learning to surrender in trust to being and living in the New Covenant of relationship with God and the spiritual reality of this; which Jeshua awakened within the consciousness of humanity.

    The effects of this relationship with, melts the moulding, sculpting and amouring of what we call the false self; that identity of self that was formed by our earthly image makers; that being our parents, siblings, teachers, religion, culture and society. As this melting unfolds, the true image of our Given Self, our Soul sense of Self, or what we call our Higher Sacred Divine Self and the nature of this, begins to emerge from within.

    Through continuously converging with this transformative relationship with… we discover, awaken to, cultivate, claim, and nurture the inherent goodness, the beauty of our unique authentic giveaway of our true Given Self; which manifests in infinite and diverse ways; the love, compassion and mercy of that which we have received, accepted and responded to, in relationship with God, Self, others and the all and the everything of creation. Truly we are BEING loved TO love.

  3. Avatar

    I have faith in the Mystery and PRESENCE of the Spirit of DIVINE LOVE within, through, among Us in the Sacred Process of the Eternal Present Moment of our daily lives with one another, with beautiful Sacred Mother Nature/Earth, and with the Sacred physical and non-physical multi-dimensions of All Beings and Creation within Our co-Creator~Source’s evolving Loving Diverse ONENESS in the COSMOS….
    This is the Vision of COSMIC CONSCIOUSNESS We are All striving for on the evolving spiritual journeys of Our TRUE HEART SELVES/SOULS, consciously realizing We are All part of GOD….

  4. Avatar

    We are each other’s tormentors
    But we are also each other’s angels.
    This sounds trite, but it’s actually a lived, sacred Truth dramatically demonstrated to me, several times, when horrid situations gripped me in an awful mess, only to have a kind stranger reach out to me to help and go out of their way doing so. Each time, I feel as if God is taking a highlighter pen, circling the whole situation’s unfolding mess- to despair- to unanticipated, amazing kindness/help sequence, and telling me “LOOK! THIS is where angels hide…in “mundane” kindness. THIS is what we’re supposed to learn about– love through good acts, big and small.” We are deeply, truly meant to be wide-open alert for the call to help, when angels nudge us out of our myopic bubble of parallel solitudes and point out someone in need. WE are to be angels’ willing hands. This is our sacred lesson.

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