Thomas Merton: Judgment is really a patient, organic, long-suffering understanding of the man’s whole life, of everything in it, all in contact. November 17, 1961, Journal IV, 179.
Kelli: Merton’s view of judgment is very different from our mainline, traditional view of what our soul’s ultimate end must be like. We usually think of our immediate after-death experience as standing at the foot of God’s throne, having to listen to a long and painful list of all the bad things we’ve ever done as if we were naughty children caught with our hands in the cookie jar.
What if the element of divine judgment that we are missing is that it is mediated through relationship? A long and deep relationship with Holy Love (God expressed in the Trinity) doesn’t mean we incur God’s wrath as a supernatural trip to a frightening principal’s office. Our lives are meant to be lives as a lifetime of discipline and discipleship, gentle nudges and closed gates that block our way into forbidden fields. In some ways, the nature of divine judgment depends on us. Our intentionality in the practice of prayer as a two-sided conversation is the place where our relationship with Holy Love happens. Those who choose to have little or no connection to Holy Love by their own choice will experience judgment according to their own fear-based assumptions. Those who learn to ‘love God and enjoy Him forever’, as the Westminster Catechism says, will have nothing to fear. Life after life after death is simply the continuation of a well-established and highly valued relationship between our souls and Holy Love.
When we assume that we fundamentally and completely know anyone and anything other than ourselves we are doomed to rely on labels and scare-mongering as paths to understanding. When we live lives based in eager anticipation of the unfolding of relationships, then even the tragedies of our existence are somehow bearable.
The question boils down to trust. Who is at the center of our lives? Are we frantically trying to look out for and preserve ourselves? Or have we intentionally put our relationship with Holy Love at the center of our lives, trusting our future and our hope to be in Someone who loves us even more than we love ourselves?
Thanks be to God for all He has done, for all He is doing and all He is just about to do.