Monday, February 23, 2009

Cling to Him

February 24, 2009

Mardi Gras

Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

My son, when you come to serve the LORD, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity. Cling to him, forsake him not; thus will your future be great. Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation. Sirach 2:1-5

"What were you arguing about on the way?" But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all." Mark 9:33b-35


Father, keep before us the wisdom and love you have revealed in your Son. Help us to be like him in word and deed, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (From The Carmelites)


St. Benedict probably read from the Book of Sirach when you consider how closely the main themes of his Rule overlap with the “wisdom” of Ben Sirach. Just consider these examples from the opening of the Book of Sirach and the Prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict.

Sirach: Incline your ear.

Benedict: Incline the ear of your heart.

Sirach: Receive the word of understanding, undisturbed in time of adversity.

Benedict: Receive willingly and carry out effectively your loving father's advice

Sirach: Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not; thus will you be wise in all your ways.

Benedict: By the labor of obedience you may return to Him from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.

Sirach: Accept whatever befalls you, when sorrowful, be steadfast, and in crushing misfortune be patient; For in fire gold and silver are tested, and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation.

Benedict: To you, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you may be, who are renouncing your own will to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King, and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.

Today, on the last day of ordinary time before Lent, we might be focused on very different verbs than those stressed by Sirach and Benedict. The common conception of Fat Tuesday is to “PARTY!” There are parades. There are the beads. There are kegs. Yet scripture warns us to “prepare yourself for trials,” “time of adversity,” and “the crucible of humiliation.”

The solution behind these dark clouds is not revelry. Instead Sirach and St. Benedict point us toward humility and its fraternal twin obedience. If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” From this comes the Prince of Peace who will wash the feet of those who love him.


Getting us through these trials will be our clinging and loving nature. What do we describe with the word clinging?

A child who clings to her or his mother, the comfort zone of protection from the cruel, big, loud and invasive adult world.

The vine that grows spreads its branches along the trellis. (I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. John 15:5). If we are branches spreading out from the true vine, Sirach and Benedict give us “rules” to live by, “rules” to grow by.

The root meaning of the Latin and Greek words translated as “rule” is trellis. St. Benedict (in his Rule) was not promulgating rules for living; he was establishing a framework on which a life can grow. While a branch of a plant climbing a trellis cannot go in any direction it wants, you cannot know in advance just which way it will go. The plant is finding its own path, within a structure. The space in which it moves is open, though not without boundaries. (From Benedict’s Dharma, edited by Patrick Henry)

As we look forward to Lent beginning tomorrow, we are asked to grow and to change. How will you approach your spiritual growth in the 40 days to come?

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