Saturday, July 11, 2015

Proclaim on the Housetops

“Have no fear. Can I take the place of God? Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people.” Genesis 50:19-20

“Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”  Matthew 10:26-27

[B]ut for all their necessities let them look to the Father of the monastery. And let it be unlawful to have anything which the Abbot has not given or allowed. Let all things be common to all, as it is written (Acts 4:32), and let no one say or assume that anything is his own. RSB 33

There is a story that you might have heard about a somewhat famous rabbi.  A visitor went to see him and was taken aback by the lack of furniture in an almost barren house.  It prompted an exchange that went something like this:

“Why don’t you have any furniture?” said the visitor.

“Why don’t you?” asked the rabbi.

“Well, because I am only passing through,” the visitor said. 

“So am I,” explained the rabbi.

On today’s memorial for Saint Benedict, the reading from his Rule reminds us of the pledge in Acts of the Apostles that all property would be held in common.  That is how the first Christian community lived.  That is how today’s communities of Benedictine men and women live.  That also is how people in poor communities live. 

The Rule of Saint Benedict offers a simple prescription for living.  The Rule offers people a plan for living a balanced, simple, and prayerful life.  In it Benedict tells his monks and nuns that ora et labor is their way (work and prayer), that the Divine Office is their work (opus dei) and the vows of stability, conversion, and obedience are their commitments.  These vows have much to say to those of us not living in a monastery or convent.

Private property, 401(K) accounts, two cars in the driveway, renters insurance, a curio cabinet filled with the tchotchkes of life all get in the way of the Benedictine way. We cannot be present to the Kingdom of God if we are tied by possessions to the Kingdom of Best Footwear. We cannot proclaim from the housetops the need to change if we do not change ourselves.  

Stability refers to the importance of community and commitment in life. For the Cursillista, stability begins in the community of a weekend and continues in the community of the family, the parish, the diocese, the group reunion, the ultreya and more. We may not be a monk or a nun but the vow of stability speaks to our current situation and the environments in which we live.  As the encyclical Si Laudate reminds us, when we remain committed to the earth we learn how to be good stewards of that which God has given us and that we share with the world.

Conversion is not confined to a one-time experience.  The experience of your Cursillo weekend may have felt like you were on the mountaintop.  But when you are on the mountaintop, the only place to go is down.  Conversion may occur for some when they are “born again.”  However, conversion for the Benedictine/Cursillista is being ready to change when the present moment demands that we change.  We need to be open to those “close moments with God” every day.  When I was in college living next to (or as a part of) a Benedictine community that had been present for 100 years, I probably was not aware of the community as much then as I am now.

Obedience is obedience.  As the Rule implies today, it is obedience to the Abbott.  However, the real obedience is to God.  Anything that gets in the way of hearing and acting upon that message is the flotsam and jetsam of suburban or city life.  For a Cursillista, we must have a way of cultivating a disciplined, intentional life that is yearning to be obedient to God.  It helps to have a healthy dose of humility – and elsewhere in the RSB, St. Benedict outlines twelve essential steps for humility. 

How can you incorporate the spirit of St. Benedict in your piety, study, and action?     

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