Elizabeth Johnson, Abounding in Kindness. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2015. 240 pp. $24
By Maria Rego-Herrera
In Abounding in Kindness, Elizabeth Johnson writes on a variety of topics addressed to a general audience, “the people of God.” These thought-provoking essays on the Christian faith are an invitation to engage in theological reflection. The format, however, accommodates a single reader or a reader in a group. The common thread is “the compassion of God engaged with the struggles and suffering of the world.” (p. vii)
Johnson’s commitment to a life of faith, while not diminishing the value of Christian tradition, is captured by her motto “passing on the faith.” Her essays call attention to the voice of women to seek truth and justice for all. Examining and reflecting on familiar biblical texts and prayers, Johnson features feminine images and names for God. Her intent is never to exclude the masculine images and names for God, but rather, to expand to include the feminine aspect of God. Her strong words inspire and empower us to consider a more inclusive insight to the Scriptures: The word of God for the people of God.
According to Johnson, in the chapter titled “Sacred Ground at the Bedside,” the ministry of word and deed is both a profession and a vocation. This marvelous reflection captures the heart of compassion of the caregivers who tend to the dying patient with dignity. The caregiver experience reflects the powerful compassion and love of God who is already present in their encounter. Patients and their caregivers together are on holy ground: “In doing so, they embody in a beautiful and real sense the mystery of divine compassion.”(p. 154)
Johnson takes a strong stance for ecological responsibility and justice. She addresses current issues of our time: a just earth, reverence and respect for the human dignity of all persons, the struggles of the poor, and violence against women. The reader is invited to experience transformation, coupled with responsibility and a call to action not only for human beings, but for all of creation. “Our attention widens beyond humanity … to the whole community of life.” (p. 115) When we are transformed by our life experiences, we are no longer the same. There is a need for a deeper awareness and “ecological conversion” so that this earth can continue to exist for generations to come and be loved and enjoyed by all.
I found Abounding in Kindness to be an inspiration for my own personal life journey and as a chaplain, a professional caregiver. I recommend this book to all who wish to stretch their theological views and to read through the lens of a feminist perspective.
Maria Rego-Herrera, BCC, is a chaplain at Mercy Medical Center in Chicago, IL.