"Goodness was stamped in gold letters on every creature."

posted Oct 15, 2014, 10:05 AM by Vidal Martinez
A quote by St. Therese Couderc in the daily devotional,Give Us This Day, has occupied my mind lately. As this foundress of the Religious of the Cenacle lay on her deathbed, she "received a vision in which the word Goodness was stamped in gold letters on every creature.

My first response to this was a positive one in which I readily acknowledged the many that I know who appear to have Goodness emblazoned on their soul. But then I went beyond the borders of this affirming experience to the wider world and the daily news. I wondered how this spiritual vision could be true for those who behead another person. How could Goodness possibly be stamped on someone who does such a cruel and evil deed?

Gradually, I conceded that God sees as I do not see, that somewhere in every human, no matter the worst of crime or greatest loss of virtue, there remains the shining light of Goodness. This light gets smothered over with false beliefs and harsh life experiences that armor the mind and concretize the heart. Only the Holy One knows what leads a person who beheads another to become saturated with heartlessness and vengeance. Only the Eternally Loving One looks deep enough to see through the thick swath of evil deeds to the Goodness etched permanently on every soul.

When I bring St. Therese Couderc's vision closer to my life, I see that even in my own immediate world I am not always ready to recognize the inherent Goodness in everyone. I hesitate to find those golden letters in the politician whose partisan rant leads me to the television mute button, the egotistical seminar facilitator, the church leader who preaches one thing and does another, and those whose behavior violates or negates people's well being. Yet, there, too, Goodness resides.

I can easily appreciate Goodness in those whose views and way of life conform to my own. And I readily find it in people who do good for others. But even with those closest to me, I sometimes forget the beauty of that inner core of never-fading Light, particularly when something they say or do, (or do not say or do), rankles my mind and shakes peace out of my heart. When significant difference of opinion, unfair judgments or shattered expectations cloud my vision, I step away from that beautiful reality of golden radiance imprinted on another's deepest being. Only with prayer, love, and restored faith do I return to the Goodness that illuminates the soul. Only by returning to the teachings and ministry of Jesus do I find the courage to approach each one with belief in their abiding and enduring center of Gold.

This month I hope to see, as Thomas Merton did in his vision on the street corner of Louisville, "the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in the eyes of the Divine." I will try to be more mindful of this by meeting each human being with respect for his or her life, and with gratitude for our kinship on this planet. The Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, taught this very thing when he urged his students and readers to approach everyone as a "thou." He trusted that Goodness resides in all. I want to do the same.

Abundant peace,
Joyce Rupp, Sister Servants of Mary