Gregory of Nyssa: Acquire loving kindness

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Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7

“Consider the case of the person who has stocked away his financial resources in enormous safes protected by steel, bolts and locks, who thinks the growth of his personal worth preferable to putting into practice the commands of the Lord. Consider the future times when he is dragged down to the fire of darkness accompanied by the reproach of those who experienced his harshness in this life, who call out to him. “Remember that in your lifetime you got the good things” (Luke 16:25).

You locked away compassion with your riches. You neglected compassion for the sake of land. You did not acquire the loving kindness needed for life here. You do not have what you did not acquire; you do not find what you did not safeguard. You do not gather what you did not spread about; you do not reap where you did not plant. Your harvest matches up to your planting. You have planted bitterness, so reap its clusters of fruit.

You valued mercilessness, so enjoy what you loved. You viewed others without kindness, so now you will not be looked on with compassion. You ignored the suffering of others; you will likewise be ignored, You snubbed compassion; compassion will snub you. You avoided the poor — He who became poor for you will also avoid you.

Considering all these things, where will be the gold? Where will be your impressive stuff? Where will be the security systems that were added to protect your belongings against theft? Where will be the list of your various bank accounts? What is the benefit of all this in light of weeping and gnashing of teeth? Who will lighten the darkness, douse the flame and keep at bay the undying worm?

Brothers and sisters, in the light of what has been said, let us pay attention to the voice of the Lord, who teaches us, in this brief passage, so many things about what’s really important. Let us become compassionate so that through compassion we may be blessed in Christ Jesus our Lord, tow home be the glory and power forever and ever. Amen.”

Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-395) in an excerpt of Sermon 5 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” in Gregory of Nyssa: Sermons on the Beatitudes, a paraphrase by Michael Glerup (Classics in Spiritual Formation) 82-83.

Gregory of Nyssa was the younger brother of Basil of Caesarea. He is the second of three Cappadocian Fathers. He was not as gifted as his brother administratively. His strengths were in the study of biblical theology and the proclamation of truth. Today we have a powerful sample from him paraphrased in modern terms.

His sermon expounds on today’s Scripture, which is short but contains a very big truth. The blessing of mercy only comes those who show mercy.

On a walk in the park with my wife this past week, I was reasoning that it seems to me that American Christians seem to value preserving comfort over obeying Christ. They will align themselves with Jesus only after they have secured their future with money and showered themselves with things. I can see this because it was our way of thinking for years.

Gregory reveals the danger of such thinking. When we don’t live this way, we don’t acquire loving kindness. He also explains what happens as a result. We might accumulate lots of things, but we miss out on the one thing we need, compassion, from the one person who offers it, Jesus, who became poor for us. What about you?

Are you a slave to comfort or Christ? In this short life, lest you join the rich man in eternal regret, pay attention to the voice of the Lord. Do precisely what He says.