Give us faith to claim as our only glory the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Look with love on those who suffer because of our indifference, come to their aid, and turn our uncaring hearts to works of justice and charity.”
—Intercessions, Evening Prayer II of Palm Sunday
The sixth degree of humility is that a monk be content with the poorest and worst of everything, and that in every occupation assigned him he consider himself a bad and worthless workman, saying with the Prophet, “I am brought to nothing and I am without understanding; I have become as a beast of burden before You, and I am always with You.”Chapter 7, Rule of St. Benedict
This always strikes me. It resonates. How freeing is it to accept with humility whatever we have. This doesn’t say we must have the poorest and worst of everything, but that we be content with it.
Each time I read it, I want to sit with it for days.
It continues that he consider himself a bad and worthless workman, which is pretty easy for anyone in software engineering to do. Anytime things work right, I am quickly corrected by a flaming pile of code. But, the first part is really something else.
The short reading for Mondays in Week 1 of the Liturgy of the Hours during Ordinary Time comes out swinging…
Do not let anyone have any food if he refuses to do any work. Now we hear that there are some of you who are living in idleness, doing no work themselves but interfering with everyone else’s. In the Lord Jesus Christ, we order and call on people of this kind to go on quietly working and earning the food that they eat. My brothers, never grow tired of doing what is right.
But, I’m a manager? Isn’t doing no work but interfering with everyone else’s work my job description?
In all seriousness, it is a good kick in the butt to get moving today.
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.
Today’s feast day is the Holy Name of Jesus. Before the calendar reforms of the late 1960s, this celebration was held on January 2nd. It was removed outright from the calendar until 2002, where it was added to January 3rd.
In the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, we’re instructed that during the Mass, we’re to make a bow of the head when the three Divine Persons are named together, the name of Jesus, Mary, and any mention of the Saint whose feast day is being celebrated in the Mass.
A noble devotion is to not limit this to Mass, but generally bow your head at the mention of Jesus always. For me, it’s a small acknowledgment of the Biblical exhortation that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend and a similar devotion to one of making the sign of the cross when passing by a church.
In Genesis, chapter 3, when the Serpent urged Adam and Eve to eat the fruit, the serpent didn’t deny God’s existence or even God’s authority. The vector is to attack God’s trustworthiness, instead.
It isn’t a question of believing, it is a question of belonging.
The wise man must not boast of his wisdom, nor of the strong man of his strength, nor the rich man of his riches. What then is the right kind of boasting? What is the source of man’s greatness? Scripture says: The man who boasts must bost of this, that he knows and understand that I am the Lord. Here is man’s greatness, here is man’s glory and majesty: to know in truth what is great, to hold fast to it, and to seek glory from the Lord of glory.
— OOR, Monday, Third Week of Lent
From the Letter to the Ephesians by Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr
The harmony of unity
It is right for you to give glory in every way to Jesus Christ who has given glory to you; you must be made holy in all things by being united in perfect obedience, in submission to the bishop and the presbyters.
I am not giving you orders as if I were a person of importance. Even if I am a prisoner for the name of Christ, I am not yet made perfect in Jesus Christ. I am now beginning to be a disciple and I am speaking to you as my fellow-disciples. It is you who should be strengthening me by your faith, your encouragement, your patience, your serenity. But since love will not allow me to be silent about you, I am taking the opportunity to urge you to be united in conformity with the mind of God. For Jesus Christ, our life, without whom we cannot live, is the mind of the Father, just as the bishops, appointed over the whole earth, are in conformity with the mind of Jesus Christ.
It is fitting, therefore, that you should be in agreement with the mind of the bishop as in fact you are. Your excellent presbyters, who are a credit to God, are as suited to the bishop as strings to a harp. So in your harmony of mind and heart the song you sing is Jesus Christ. Every one of you should form a choir, so that, in harmony of sound through harmony of hearts, and in unity taking the note from God, you may sing with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father. If you do this, he will listen to you and see from your good works that you are members of his Son. It is then an advantage to you to live in perfect unity, so that at all times you may share in God.
–Second reading from the Office of Readings for the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
This command from St. Ignatius is most sobering for pastoral leaders–bishops, priests, lay ministers. It reminds us that we are expected to have our own ship in order, ourselves conformed to the mind of God, for others will often judge God through us while others will follow our lead, for better or worse.