From yesterday’s reading from the Rule of St. Benedict, this is one of my favorite sections:
And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord. In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. But if a certain strictness results from the dictates of equity for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, do not be at once dismayed and fly from the way of salvation, whose entrance cannot but be narrow (Matthew 7:14). For as we advance in the religious life and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of God’s commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love (Psalm 118:32). Thus, never departing from His school, but persevering in the monastery according to His teaching until death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13) and deserve to have a share also in His kingdom.
Thinking about a monastery, or really any Christian life, as a school where we are both always learning, always teaching, always diving deeper into the subject, that is living the Gospel, is really beautiful and strikes me.
To further expand, no one “deserves” what God has for us. For me, I parse this that I do need to have my actions demonstrate that I am reaching for something… I need to strive to be worthy of it, yet I know that I’ll never be worthy or deserving of it. It’s ultimately a gift from God.
To throw in a secular example, it reminds me of the final scene of Saving Private Ryan. Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) is dying after participating in the effort to bring Private Ryan (Matt Damon) back home. As he’s dying, Miller tells Ryan to “earn this”, meaning to live his life to “earn” the ultimate sacrifice that he and the other soldiers had laid down.
I balance in my mind that we need to strive to earn something, though we’re not capable of actually earning it.