Father Anthony de Mello (September 1931–June 1987) was an Indian Jesuit priest and psychotherapist. He was a great spiritual teacher, writer, and public speaker, who wrote several books on spirituality and who held many spiritual retreats and conferences.
Like Jesus, he was an advocate of storytelling that drew from the various mystical traditions of both East and West.
I have taken the following meditation from his book, Wellsprings, entitled “The Darkness.” This is a great reflection on what is going on in our nation and world today!
“I think of myself as quite a decent person, good-hearted and respected, with minor sins and failings but it dawns on me that the greatest sinners are the ones who sin in ignorance.
“I see how well-intentioned damage ‘love’ inflicts on helpless children. I see the marks of cruelty in fervently religious people. I see fair-minded Pharisees assess the evidence against Jesus and consider it their duty to do away with him. It frightens me that I may be suffering from the sickness of the chief priests and the Pharisees.
“They were so certain of themselves, so convinced that they were right, so closed to other viewpoints and to change. I think of people whom I know to be like that. Then I think of me.
“The Pharisees were given to judging. People to them were either good or bad. There was never any good in someone who their prejudice said was bad.
“I think of other people who might be like that. I think of me. I make a list of ‘bad’ people I know and wonder if at heart they might not be far better than I am.
“The Pharisees were men of the establishment. They feared to rock the boat. I think of me.
“The Pharisees loved power. They would force you to be good for your own sake. They could not leave you free. Again, I think of me.
“Finally, the Pharisee conformed. He might see the accused before him as not being guilty but he lacked the holy daring to stand up to his peers and speak his mind. I think, regretfully, of my fear to give offense, to disagree, my need to please.
“I am no great improvement on the men who killed the Savior. All I can say is, ‘Lord, I am a sinner. Be merciful to me.’
“I hear him answer gently, ‘You are precious to my heart, my child.’ Whatever could he mean by that? I use his eyes to find out what he sees in me that, even while he knows my sinfulness, he says, ‘You are precious to my heart.’
“With those same eyes I look at ‘sinners’ – the Hitlers and the Stalins of our times. I look at people I dislike and reject. Maybe I need those eyes of his to bring me to compassion and save me from the Pharisee in me.”
God’s love is everywhere, in all things, and that includes all of us!
In 1971, artist and columnist Walt Kelly has Pogo saying in his comic strip, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
This is also true in the spiritual life. We are our worse enemy.
Jesus told a story to those who were satisfied with themselves over their moral performance and looked down on others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying like this, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, crooks, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’
“The tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other.”
Though sinful, we are called to be the person God wants us to be!