Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Prologue continued Jan. 4 - May 5 - Sept. 4

Yesterday's reading ended with something I forgot to mention. I am astounded that I did because they are the very crux of the matter, the heart of faith, the entire reason for the Christian life and the Rule.

God calls. Human beings are called. The stuff of life is our response.

Is there anything more important to any one of us than God's call to us to be in a loving relationship with Him? If so, what is it? Why is it more important to you than God? Benedict, of course, presupposes that our response to God is to accept his invitation, that we have found nothing sweeter, better in life than God. Seems to me we could all stand to examine ourselves to see if this is also true of us.

Prologue continued

Jan. 4 - May 5 - Sept. 4

Having our loins girded, therefore,
with faith and the performance of good works (Eph. 6:14),
let us walk in His paths
by the guidance of the Gospel,
that we may deserve to see Him
who has called us to His kingdom (1 Thess. 2:12).

For if we wish to dwell in the tent of that kingdom,
we must run to it by good deeds
or we shall never reach it.

But let us ask the Lord, with the Prophet,
"Lord, who shall dwell in Your tent,
or who shall rest upon Your holy mountain" (Ps. 14[15]:1)?

After this question, brothers and sisters,
let us listen to the Lord
as He answers and shows us the way to that tent, saying,
"The one Who walks without stain and practices justice;
who speaks truth from his heart;
who has not used his tongue for deceit;
who has done no evil to his neighbor;
who has given no place to slander against his neighbor."

This is the one who,
under any temptation from the malicious devil,
has brought him to naught (Ps. 14[15]:4)
by casting him and his temptation from the sight of his heart;
and who has laid hold of his thoughts
while they were still young
and dashed them against Christ (Ps. 13[14]6[137]:9).

It is they who,
fearing the Lord (Ps. 14[15]:4),
do not pride themselves on their good observance;
convinced that the good which is in them
cannot come from themselves and must be from the Lord,
glorify the Lord's work in them (Ps. 14[15]:4),
using the words of the Prophet,
"Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
but to Your name give the glory" (Ps. 113[115:1]:9).
Thus also the Apostle Paul
attributed nothing of the success of his preaching to himself,
but said,
"By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).
And again he says,
"He who glories, let him glory in the Lord" (2 Cor. 10:17).

Some thoughts:

I am struck here by the fact that for Benedict, there is no separation between faith and good works. He seems them as united, indivisible. Benedict is always concerned with the practical issues of how to live out God's call, how each of us must enflesh His invitation, give it incarnation within us.

This incarnation of God's call to us must be both faith and works. One alone is not enough for God because God calls to our entire being: body and mind, soul and spirit, as indivisible in this life as are faith and good works.

I realize that in a way, this is the same stuff we all hear sermon after sermon. But is it not true that it takes very few words to state the essence of the Gospel and that it takes a lifetime to learn how to live it out? Unlike other books which we read because we don't know what they say, the Bible is a book we read because we do know what it says.

We can't take it all in in only one read. We don't read the Bible to be informed about it's content, we read the Bible to let it have its way with us, to form us, to remake us, to reshape within us the image and likeness of God which sin has distorted.

The Rule of St. Benedict is for beginners. It's a school where we are taught the hows of living for and with God. Let us not concentrate on what we cannot do, let's concentrate on each day's reading and work only to absorb that, one baby step at a time as Benedict would have us.

Benedict next turns to Ps 15:1 for the important question: who is called and how do we get there? I believe Benedict is telling us that Ps 15:2&3 tells us things we need to learn on the journey to the tent of the Lord.

This section reminds me of 2 books by Sister Margaret Funk, a Benedictine nun. The books are called _Tools Matter_ and _Thoughts Matter_. In them she writes of the way the habits (Tools Matter) and the voices in our heads (Thoughts Matter) are important. These books complement the Rule and I recommend them. Her website is:

Benedict knew something that modern Christians may need to rediscover. We need give in to all the voices inside us pulling this way and that. Not all of these are in our best interests, after all. We live in a world of too many options. We live in a world which sees itself as so pressed for time, that we admire those who multi-task. "Way too busy"is seen as a good thing.

Benedict would tell us that is not the way to the tents of the Lord. Benedict would have us listen, learn and choose. To say 'no' and concentrate on what God would have us do. The Holy Spirit will tell is were but to listen to Her.

One thing we could learn from the RB, is that all of those voices which want us to divide ourselves up can be seen as temptations, a very unfashionable world. But let's face it. Anything can be a temptation, even good things, if they are not what God would have us do. We must learn to select from all the good things we might do and find the far fewer things that are the ones God has set aside for each of us individually.

I am reminded of the image of a train on its tracks... runs smoothly. What happens to a train off its tracks? Modern Christians seem to me to like the train off the tracks because we haven't learned to choose, say yes to some and leave the others behind. We are afraid, I think, of missing out on all the good stuff. And yet, too much good stuff makes us sick while just enough brings pleasure.

If we take the RB one day at a time, we will learn to hear and to choose, because what could possibly be better for us than learning to become the unique individual God has called us to be. We can also rest easy, because as Father Benedict tells us, we can rely on the Lord to sort it all out for us, if we are but faithful to each day's part of the Rule.

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