Sunday, August 30, 2015
For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. Luke 4:16C-20
Rule of St. Benedict Chapter 73: On the Fact That the Full Observance of Justice Is Not Established in This Rule
Now we have written this Rule in order that by its observance in monasteries we may show that we have attained some degree of virtue and the rudiments of the religious life…Whoever you are, therefore, who are hastening to the heavenly homeland, fulfill with the help of Christ this minimum Rule which we have written for beginners; and then at length under God's protection you will attain to the loftier heights of doctrine and virtue which we have mentioned above.
Last week, I was standing in Arlington National Cemetery for the internment of Master Chief Petty Officer James L. Gates, Sr. His son was my college roommate. The Navy Centennial Guard Band played "Come Holy Spirit" as the ashes of the deceased were transferred to the caisson. (Attempting to) Listen to the readings (above the sound of jets taking off from National Airport, watching the family on this beautiful summer day, hearing the bugle and the 21 rounds fired off, witnessing the sailor kneel before Mrs. Gates to quietly and somberly present her with the three-sided, folded flag. Who could not be moved?
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” Luke 4:18A (Isaiah 61:1)
The whole passage is rich with piety, study and action. The complete citation of what some call “the Nazareth Manifesto” outlines a plan of action rooted in faith in the Spirit and based upon study of the Hebrew Bible/Isaiah. To me, it also is important what the Lord leaves out of this reading in the temple. The scroll he unrolled also would have included the line: “and a day of vindication by our God.” Our peace-seeking, peace-loving Brother Jesus would have turned his back on any mark of vengeance. And that omission might have been what started the locals to rise up against him.
The focus then is not on what’s in it for me (vengeance against the belligerent, occupying Roman army) but rather what service-action-love is in this for the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. Luke/Jesus also focus on what is in it for the Lord – that our fasting, almsgiving and prayer are acceptable.
Today also draws to a close the thrice annual cycle of readings from the Rule of St. Benedict. In monasteries around the world, tomorrow, the page will turn back to the prologue. The focus of this closing is that wherever we are headed, we go there with the help of Christ. The spirit of the Lord is upon our journey.
As we move into September, we will go before the Lord to prepare his ways. Through our Cursillo example of piety, study and action, the tender mercy of our God is upon us. He comes down from on high to shine on those who sit in darkness in order to provide the words, wisdom and rules to guide our feet into the path of peace.
When His spirit is upon us, the responsibility also is upon us to guide others to where we are led.