Friday, September 28, 2007

Reading for January 28, May 27 September 28

January 28, May 29, September 28
Chapter 7: On Humility

As for self-will,
we are forbidden to do our own will
by the Scripture, which says to us,
"Turn away from your own will" (Eccles. 18:30),
and likewise by the prayer in which we ask God
that His will be done in us.
And rightly are we taught not to do our own will
when we take heed to the warning of Scripture:
"There are ways which seem right,
but the ends of them plunge into the depths of hell" (Prov. 16:25);
and also when we tremble at what is said of the careless:
"They are corrupt and have become abominable in their will."

And as for the desires of the flesh,
let us believe with the Prophet that God is ever present to us,
when he says to the Lord,
"Every desire of mine is before You" (Ps. 37:10).

Some thoughts:

As I read this, I recall that Benedict has not yet started to discuss the second degree of humility, so I tend to see this passage as I saw yesterday's. More exposition about what it is to fear God. Does this seem like a valid way to read it to you? What is the relationship between self-will and fear of God? Does self-will interfere with the fear of God? Does fearing God place our self-wlll in conflict with something else in any way?

This passage may be unpleasant to modern eyes. I have often noticed a sort of "Me First" attitude on the freeway, in the supermarket, every where. I notice all the ways I succumb to it. I am terrible at interrupting people, for instance, so eager am I to get a word in. At the same time, I think this passage can be taken to extremes that Father Benedict never meant. For example thinking all the time about what we did wrong. I think that is another form of self-will.

In what ways does Benedict define "fear of God"? He has told us to keep God in the forefront of our minds; remember God's commandments; keep ourselves from sin and the desires of the flesh; that God is always looking at us; to avoid wrong thoughts by praying constantly; to do God's will not our own.

Looking over that list, I am truly thankful Benedict wrote his rule which is a school. I can only pray that I am teachable enough to learn in this school.

Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

Benedict makes two points clearly: First, we are capable of choosing for God in life. We are not trapped by an essential weakness that makes God knowable but not possible. Second, we are more than the body. Choosing God means having to concentrate on nourishing the soul rather than on sating the flesh, not because the flesh is bad but because the flesh is not enough to make the human fully human. To give ourselves entirely to the pleasures of the body may close us to beauties known only to the soul.

Humility lies in knowing who we are and what our lives are meant to garner. The irony of humility is that, if we have it, we know we are made for greatness, we are made for God.

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