Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Obedient from the Heart

October 19, 2011

Memorial of Saint John de Brébeuf and Saint Isaac Jogues, priests and martyrs, and their companions, martyrs

But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin,
you have become obedient from the heart
to the pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted.
Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.
Romans 6:17-18

"Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more."
Luke 12:48b


Listen carefully to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from one who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. The labor of obedience will bring you back to one from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience. This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for Jesus, the Christ.

First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to God most earnestly to bring it to perfection. In God's goodness, we are already counted as God's own, and therefore we should never grieve God by our evil actions. With the good gifts which are in us, we must obey God at all times that God may never become the angry parent who disinherits us, nor the dreaded one, enraged by our sins, who punishes us forever as worthless servants for refusing to follow the way to glory. (Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue from RB: Insights for the Ages)


Obedient from the heart.

If we are truly going to be prepared for the arrival of the master of our house, St. Paul points out that we cannot do so with sin in our hearts. Rather, we must do so out of a sense of total obedience and dependence. This is not a state which is imposed upon us from some external force…rather it is a state we willfully put on like our favorite shirt in the morning or prepare like our favorite meal or an activity in which we enjoy.

Surely God WANTS us to be obedient. His love requires our obedience. Yet God gives us the freedom to accept or reject Him. God wants us to welcome his love and to faithfully put it into practice because he loves us, not because we want to avoid some hypothetical whipping.

The Prologue from the Rule of St. Benedict speaks of listening with the "ear of the heart" the heart which is the part of our body we most acquaint with love. St. Benedict, like St. Paul, ask us to attend to the work of obedience, not the work of disobedience. Obedience requires that we put the other first and the self last. Sin or disobedience is the state in which we put the self first and the other last. Obedience requires humility. Disobedience does not.


In life, all things boil down to choices…choices that are under our control and choices that are beyond our control. Starting out with the accident of our birth, consider how life would be different if you were born someplace else. What if I was not born in Staten Island, NY? What if I was born in the Sudan? What if I was born in Haiti? What if I was born in Cuba? What if I was born in Burma? The end of this accidental life comes we know not when, we know not how.

In between these events, all things boil down to choices which we can make to accept our life and live it fully for the other or to succumb to the temptations surrounding us to live for the self.

What one thing can you commit to do today to make life better for the other? Sr. Joan, in meditating on this passage of the Rule comments, "To the wise, it seems, life is not a series of events to be controlled. Life is a way of walking through the universe whole and holy." How will you walk through today in search of the holy?

One way to consider is to commit to joining the interdenominational Circle of Protection for the Poor. This petition states that in these difficult times, the choices our nation makes are not only political and economic, but they also are moral. While we must cut back, it says we cannot do so at the expense of programs serving the poor. This is a tenant of Catholic Social Teaching stretching back to throughout the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and documents of the church.

As people of faith, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. We are also committed to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people. Therefore, we join with others to form a Circle of Protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad.

This is a petition which you can read and consider signing here:

If you sign it, it will share your commitment with your nationally elected officials from the President, your senators and your member of the House of Representatives.