"Forever more there will be only love, and mercy within mercy within mercy."
The term, “Crossing the Rubicon” is a metaphor for a point in time when a decision is made from which there is no turning back. If we are old enough, then we have likely reached that critical juncture at some time or another in our lives.
The decision to get married is not, in my opinion a Rubicon decision. Certainly, getting married is a significant event in one’s life, but people get divorced and the consequences aren’t so dire if there are no children involved in the relationship. On the other hand, the decision of whether to have children is a threshold crossing choice; one from which there is no way back. Once you become a parent, you will always be a parent regardless of how active or inactive you are in the lives of your children. In the same vein, the decision to terminate a pregnancy is absolutely a Rubicon decision for obvious reasons. If one is gay, the decision to publicly acknowledge your sexual orientation to others is another “no turning back” type of decision.
In my way of thinking, honesty and trustworthiness is a choice that has significant and permanent consequences if crossed. I see trust in the same way as being pregnant: there is no in-between. Just as a woman is or isn’t pregnant, a person is or isn’t trustworthy. I try to be open minded and open hearted about these things, but if someone lies to me, or tries to cheat me or I see them taking advantage of others, I can never fully trust that person again. They have crossed the Rubicon of trust. Now, I won’t shun them or speak ill of them. I will just try to never put myself in a position where my wellbeing relies on having to trust what they do or say. And if they are a leader of some type, I certainly won’t follow them.
As I was thinking about all the nuances of this idea, a phrase popped into my head and it is this: God will never cross the Rubicon against you. God will never reach a point of no return where he turns his back and forever walks away. This thought is driven home by one of my favorite images of God from the Catholic monk and prolific author, Thomas Merton in this passage from his book, The Sign of Jonas:
“What was vile has become precious. What is now precious was never vile. I have always known the vile as precious: for what is vile I know not at all. What was cruel has become merciful. What is now merciful was never cruel. I have always overshadowed Jonas with my mercy, and cruelty I know not at all. Have you had sight of Me, Jonas, My child? Mercy within mercy within mercy. I have forgiven the universe without end, because I have never known sin….”
One must sit with this image for a while. Whenever I read this Merton passage, I am awestruck by its implications, conveying such a tender and yet powerful image of God. “I have forgiven the universe without end because I have never known sin.” God forgives us even when we are vile, even when we are cruel, even when we are unmerciful. Whatever the sin, God sees us as precious.
In some ways, I guess you could say that God does cross the Rubicon for us. He crosses the Rubicon of forgiveness. He forgives us and there is no turning back. Forever more there will be only love, and mercy within mercy within mercy.
Michael Soika has been a community activist for more than 30 years working on issues of social and economic justice. His work for justice is anchored by his spiritual formation first as a Catholic and now as a Quaker.