Wednesday, January 3, 2007

A thought from Benedict and Sister Joan

There is a great online version of the Rule of Benedict with Joan Chittister's commentary attached, just like the Rule that read from daily. I have gotten into the habit of using the online version, just like I have gotten into the habit of using the online version of the Daily Office. Anyway, I wanted to share with you part of todays reading, along with Sister Joan's comments:

Seeking workers in a multitude of people, God calls out and says again: "Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days (Ps 34:13)? If you hear this and your answer is "I do," God then directs these words to you: If you desire true and eternal life, "keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim (Ps 34: 14-15)." Once you have done this, my "eyes will be upon you and my ears will listen for your prayers; and even before you ask me, I will say" to you: "Here I am (Is 58:9)." What is more delightful than this voice of the Holy One calling to us? See how God's love shows us the way of life. Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see the Holy One "who has called us to the eternal presence (I Thes 2:12)."

In Benedict's mind, apparently, the spiritual life is not a collection of asceticisms, it is a way of being in the world that is open to God and open to others. We struggle, of course, with temptations to separate the two. It is so easy to tell ourselves that we overlooked the needs of others because we were attending to the needs of God. It is so easy to go to church instead of going to a friend whose depression depresses us. It is so easy to want silence rather than the demands of the children. It is so much easier to read a book about religion than it is to listen to a husband talk about his job or a wife talk about her loneliness. It is so much easier to practice the privatized religion of prayers and penances than it is to make fools out of ourselves for the Christian religion of globalism and peace. Deep, deep spiritual traditions everywhere, however, reject those rationalizations: "Is there life after death?", a disciple once asked a Holy One. And the Holy One answered, "The great spiritual question of life is not 'Is there life after death?' The great spiritual question is, 'Is there life before death?'" Benedict obviously believes that life lived fully is life lived on two planes: attention to God and attention to the good of the other.