Jeremiah and Dorothy Day

He made sure that justice and help were given to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know me?” asks the LORD. -Jeremiah

For me, this utterance by the weeping prophet puts cement into the notion of knowing God. It puts concrete into the notion of spirituality.

Bob Fitch’s photo of Day’s arrest (1973)

How can we measure our spiritual life? Inner peace, serenity, a meditative approach to life, a familiarity with faith traditions, good things, right things all. But without the leavening agent of an outward gaze–to our neighbour, to the obvious or hidden “poor and needy”–our spirituality, our knowing God is moribund.

I came across this thought by the late and wonderful (Benedictine Oblate) Dorothy Day:

The works of mercy are the opposite of the works of war, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, nursing the sick, visiting the prisoner. But we are destroying crops, setting fire to entire villages and to the people in them. We are not performing the works of mercy but the works of war.

Besides being so very contemporary, Dorothy’s spirituality is integrated, her knowing God, well engrafted.

Her and Jeremiah are saying: Use the gift you have, that is, your steam, your powers of administration, your words, your art, your poetry, your intellect, your hands, your money, your connections, to offer help to the “poor and needy.” The spirituality of the world will be blessed and eased. The zeitgeist will be changed.

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  1. “But we are destroying crops, setting fire to entire villages and to the people in them. We are not performing the works of mercy but the works of war.”…And isn’t that exactly what we’re doing in Afghanistan, by destroying opium crops and turning farmers into Taliban overnight?

    I so agree with your comments about using our unique energies and understandings to help the needy, and have to add to that an idea ofAnne Lamot’s, something about hunger and need referring also to those who may have no physical hunger or material need, but are bankrupt in the less tangible ways, in their spirits or characters (where I think it’s much harder to be willing to invest sometimes, because that includes those who’ve been unkind, those who are too aggressive and take from us what we hadn’t chosen to give.) But isn’t all this—being spiritual, making room in your mind for the marginalized, treating others as you’d like to be treated if the circumstances were switched—utterly exhausting?

  2. Thanks Connie,

    -Exhausting? It can be, often is, but doesn’t always have to be, and can sometimes be energizing.

    -The “poor and needy” are not always obvious.

    -Regarding Afghanistan, Dorothy is in the house.

  3. I love this post

    Its about
    the Muscular Christianity of a frail lady

    It is
    Real Love with Skin on

    It is about
    Doing the works of God

    Consider it training in the important things

    As Paul said
    an athlete exhaust himself over and over again to reach the prize

    maybe we can try a little harder to be giving, forgiving, humble and loving even to those who despitefully use us.

    Perhaps that is how

    Thy Kingdom Comes
    Thy Will be Done
    On Earth
    As it is in Heaven

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