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The Prophetic Path - Summary
The Prophetic Path - Summary

Abounding in Kindness

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Theologian Elizabeth Johnson summarizes the prophetic path as following a merciful God who abounds in kindness:

Abounding in kindness, the holy mystery of God is love beyond imagining. Not enough people seem to know this, even those who practice the Christian religion. But the drumbeat of this good news resounds throughout the history of ancient Israel where, from the start of their liberation from slavery, people encountered “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). The drumbeat becomes unmistakably intense in Jesus Christ who preached and enacted divine compassion in startling ways, all the way to the cross and beyond. Its volume ramps up in the church wherever this word is heard and practiced amid the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of people of this age.

This is not a word that returns to its Maker empty. Working creatively for peace amid horrific violence; struggling for justice in the face of massive poverty and military oppression; advocating ecological wholeness for the earth’s life-giving systems and stressed-out species; educating the young and the old; healing the sick and comforting those in despair; creating beauty; taking joy in nourishing children; promoting freedom for captives: the list could go on because the needs are enormous. Even a simple cup of cold water given in Christ’s name symbolizes how the abounding kindness of God becomes effective in this world. [1]

For Johnson, God’s compassion and solidarity for those who are suffering requires us to show the same:

If the heart of divine mystery is turned in compassion toward the world, then devotion to this God draws persons into the shape of divine communion with all others: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). To deny one’s connection with the suffering needs of others is to detach oneself from divine communion.

The praxis of mercy is propelled by this dynamic. So too is committed work on behalf of peace, human rights, economic justice, and the transformation of social structures. For those who engage in this work out of deep contemplative experience, it is far from mere activism or simple good deeds. Rather, solidarity with those who suffer, being there with commitment to their flourishing, is the locus of encounter with the living God. Through what is basically a prophetic stance, one shares in the passion of God for the world.…

The preferential option for the poor must now include the vulnerable, voiceless, nonhuman species and the ravaged natural world itself, all of which are kin to humankind. Loving these neighbors as their very selves, committed religious persons develop moral principles, political structures, and lifestyles that promote other creatures’ thriving and halt their exploitation. For the prophetic passion flowing from contemplative insight, action on behalf of justice for the earth participates in the compassionate care of the Creator God who wills the glorious well-being of the whole interdependent community of life. [2]


[1] Elizabeth A. Johnson, introduction to Abounding in Kindness: Writings for the People of God (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2015), viii.

[2] Johnson, Abounding in Kindness, 47–48.

Image credit: Madison Frambes, Untitled 8 (detail), 2023, naturally dyed paper and ink, Mexico, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.

The prophetic path is a daily choice to walk along an ever-unfolding landscape.

Story from Our Community:  

Years ago, I lost a baby in a very late stage of pregnancy. For months, I felt out of kilter with what was going on around me. I remember saying to a friend that emotionally I felt like I had thin skin. In reflecting back on that time, I realize that the grief and hardship created a sacred space within me. It has become a reference point that still resonates with me today. I now see that time as hallowed period in my life. —Lynn M.

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