Feast of St Benedict
Sunday 11th July 2021
Saint Benedict, like St Anthony of Egypt, became aware of God’s call and of his thirst for God early in life. He responded with courage and total commitment. In contrast the young man who had come so eagerly to ask Jesus advice had gone away sadly, unable to face detaching himself from the love of earthly riches. Jesus did not want to lose the opportunity provided, but continued his teaching on detachment because it is of burning relevance for all his disciples in every age. Let us be courageous in our approach to our Master’s teaching, encouraging each other, knowing that when we are invited to come closer to Our Lord we may be sure that the Holy Spirit is at work strengthening us and giving us joy in facing all the challenges that lie ahead.
We need to remember that the first step on the road to holiness is the one Jesus proposed: ‘Keep the commandments’. If, by God’s grace, we keep them all we are prepared to respond to subsequent calls and inspirations. The call to renounce all one’s possessions corresponds with the vocation of the Levites, who had no inheritance in the Promised Land because the Lord was their heritage; it was for the Levites to sing “The Lord is my portion and my cup, the lot marked out for me is my delight”. The vows of religion, even more than the vows of Baptism are intended to help us to detach ourselves from worldly cares.
This is one way in which the justice of the disciples of Jesus is to exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees. Another arises from the mere command not to commit adultery. The disciples of Jesus may be called to renounce their right to marry in order to show to the world the power of God and the truth of the scriptures. Our Lord taught that marriage is only a temporary institution, and that in the resurrection it will have no place. Some of Jesus disciples are offered the gift and privilege of living the life of the resurrection in the present age. The disciples had already recognised the attraction of the single life when Jesus rejected divorce, but the motivation he offers, a lived witness to the resurrection, is of an incomparably higher order.
Perhaps the most demanding of the prescriptions of our Lord for his flock is the command not to be angry with one’s brother, but to treat everyone respectfully at all times. The only safeguards against anger are complete unselfishness and perfect humility. Accordingly, St Paul in our second reading invites us to put on love which binds us together in perfect harmony. We are to be thankful, not only to God, but also to his ministers, to all who serve us. In the monastery we all, beginning with our Abbot, serve each other. We are thankful to each other, but thankful first of all to God, who is raising us up in Christ. We are a eucharistic community: it is thanksgiving that holds together those already gathered by the love of Christ.
Our Lord’s teaching also touches our faith at the deepest level: we are commanded to believe not only in God the Eternal Father, but also in Jesus Christ, Son of the living God. Only by him can we enter into union and communion with the Father through the gift of the Holy Spirit. The knowledge of God is to fill the earth as water fills the sea: that is the gift that opens us to God so that we may worship him in Spirit and in Truth. Through the prayers of our holy Father Benedict may we enter daily ever more deeply into this knowledge, to the glory of God.