I believe I have laid out enough lemmas to proceed to my own solution to the issues surrounding the word “deserve”:
- The word “deserve” is simply not an appropriate one for me, with my history of trauma and self-hatred on the one hand, and my need to have a literal and integrated understanding of concepts on the other, to use in regards to my relationship with Being Itself at all.
- God is Necessary and I am contingent. There is nothing a contingent being could ever do that could place a moral obligation upon the Necessary.
- God has chosen to love me and offer me grace. In fact, that was always the intention. Human beings run off of grace. I don’t “deserve” it, but God wants to give it to me and knows that it is a good thing to give it to me. Nothing else is needed.
- Being aware that I am therefore taken care of (and I can note in passing that the very common contemporary phrase “you are enough” seems to be the equivalent to this concept, although “enough” probably deserves its own future CNAG entry), I can finally take the focus off my own wretchedness, guilt, neediness, and shame, and do something to love other people.
As a Catholic, of course, I believe this Jesus of Nazareth is, was, and always will be central to this relationship between myself and God whereby I receive the grace necessary to live in an actual human manner. This grace is offered to everyone, whether or not they ever heard of Jesus Christ or even whether they lived before his time; because the Son of God is eternal, any action of his affects the entire history of the universe.
The New Testament alludes to this in several places. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (para. 605) points some of these out:
“At the end of the parable of the lost sheep Jesus recalled that God’s love excludes no one: ‘So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.’ He affirms that he came ‘to give his life as a ransom for many’; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us.”
But if your lens shrinks those down too far, you can miss this truth amid the many other references to the possibility of rejecting grace and carrying on into damnation. Interestingly, the CCC pulls some distillations of this teaching from two first millennium “semi-ecumenical” councils, the Council of Orange (529) and the Council of Quiercy (853). The English CCC quotes the latter as follows:
“‘There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.’“
He did not suffer because he wanted you to feel guilty about it. He suffered for you because he knew it would save you and give you the strength to do good for others.
CNAG is the Catholic-New Age Glossary… not backed by Webster’s or any other authority. These meditations are here on That’s So Second Millennium because they are an attempt to find maximum harmony between different strands of psychology and spirituality as they are being explored and lived out in Western culture today. It flows from a respect for people’s reasons for doing what they do and thinking what they think.