…. the march of goodness…

Not only do these minds of ours expand life in ideal directions and go beyond what is, but at their best these ideals of ours correlate and correspond with some sort of objective reality. They advance truth. They set forward the march of goodness. Through cooperation with God, they build a new stage of the Kingdom of God in the world. We are in that respect not dreamers; we are builders. We exercise a dominion over events. We carry the ball on toward the goal. Something not ourselves co-works with us, as the currents of the ocean co-work with the mariner who is traveling in their direction. Something more than our finite will pushes behind our effort. Something large and luminous backs our deeds. When we are on right lines of advance doors open before us. We find ourselves in cooperative union with a larger Mind and a wiser Will…..

Rufus Jones (1863-1948) wrote these words over 70 years ago, well before the Second Vatican Council with comparable imagery exhorted “men of good will” to open themselves to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in order to advance the welfare of humanity. An internationally recognized writer on spiritual matters, Professor Jones (Haverford College) was a leading member of the  Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), a pacifist and social activist, and a philosopher of great renown. His name and writings were familiar to my siblings and me because our father had the privilege of being one of Professor Jones’ students.

One of the “fruits” of Professor Jones’ religious conviction was his co-founding in 1917 of the American Society of Friends, (www.afsc.org)  an organization committed to peace, social justice and humanitarian service and based on the belief in the worth of every person and the conviction that love can overcome violence and injustice.

Another 20th century philosopher who fortunately is still with us is Father George F. McLean, OMI, professor emeritus of philosophy and religion at the Catholic University of America. Father McLean exhibits the same conviction that Rufus Jones had that the powerful indwelling of the Holy Spirit  guides men and women willing to discern truth to a deeper and more universally shared understanding. The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy (www.crvp.org) which was established by Father McLean three decades ago comprehends that cultural traditions are the place where the Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts of people and so draws upon these traditions to relate them to contemporary problems.

The Research Council is now working with academies and universities in China to promote knowlege of the Gospel message. It understands, as did Matteo Ricci – the 16th century Jesuit who labored so promisingly in the Chinese vineyard – that the content of the Gospel needs to be expressed in a way that corresponds to the culture of the people and hence their ability to appreciate and live it. Ricci’s efforts at evangelizing were frustrated because the Vatican authorities, having been led to believe that his accommodations for the local culture had gone too far, outlawed his approach. Consequently, the faith did not flourish as it might otherwise have done. Today, happily, there is a consensus as to the correctness of Ricci’s missionary vision.

The profound awareness that Matteo Ricci, Rufus Jones and George McLean have of – as the Quakers say – “that of God” in every human being is possessed by many. It is the nourishment that sustains those who, responding to the promptings of the Spirit, ‘carry the ball forward’ to advance the Kingdom.

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1 Comment

  1. Having been reminded of the long-term effects of devastating violence with the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the terrorists attacks of 9/11/01, we need to be reminded of our capacity to overcome evil with good. Dana Robinson eloquently identifies the work of three individuals who recognized the power of understanding, respectful communication, and faithful living of the Gospel values in achieving peace. Let us learn from past successes and failures as we respond “to the promptings of the Spirit.”

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