Monday, July 11, 2016


Hear the word of the LORD!

Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.  Isaiah 1:16-17

Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
  Matthew 10:38-39

Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas! (Be gone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!)

 Let us all pray through the intercession of St. Benedict of Nursia that our “ora et labora” (prayer and work) will grow in holiness and simplicity! 

St. Benedict, pray for us!

Today, on the Memorial of Saint Benedict, our first reading from Isaiah begins with words that form the basis for the opening of his infamous Rule: 

Isaiah:  Hear the word of the LORD!
Benedict:  Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.[i]

Isiah’s delivered a stinging indictment of hypocrisy to the religious rulers of his day.  Those leaders thought that they could please God with another meaningless sacrifice or another external form of worship while ignoring the needs of the “anawim” (the weakest who need help including widows, orphans and the poor). Benedict echoed Isaiah’s warnings and proposed a new way forward to the same end – through a school of study, piety, and action which denied the self in favor of holy humility and hospitality to whoever knocked at the gate.

The end desire of both prophets and saints is the same:  If we wish to dwell in God's tent, we will never arrive unless we run there by doing good deeds.[ii]  Isaiah reproaches us to wash clean and do good.  Benedict also tells us to make justice the aim of our piety, study, and action. 

The conditions of discipleship do not get any easier as time passes.  Not in 742 BC when Isaiah got his call to purification.  Not in the sixth century of the Christian era when Benedict laid down his Rule.  Not in the 21st Century when we remain indicted with the same words: “Your hands are full of blood!”

We seem to be engaged and/or enraged in a debate about lives. The bottom line is that all lives matter.  Some – like the widows and orphans singled out by Isaiah – demanded special consideration of the leaders because they could not fare for themselves the same way as others with more money, strength, or options.

For all the debate, we do not seem to be making any progress in the mission.  The streets of Detroit and Watts and Newark ran with blood in the summer of 1967.  Nearly 50 years later, the people on the streets of Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, and Dallas face the same fate.  Let us pause today for a dose of the peace sought by St. Benedict from the poison all around him, and heed the first word of our readings.  Listen!  Hear!  Let us not rush to judgment but instead, let us humbly put ourselves into the shoes of the carpenter and those whom he touched by losing our life for His sake.

[i] References to the Rule are based upon the translation by St. Joan Chittister, OSB, in Rule of St. Benedict: Insight for the Ages.
[ii] Ibid.

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