JULY 11, 2006, FEAST OF ST BENEDICT- EPH. 4:1-6; MT 19:27-29
LORD, SEE, WE HAVE LEFT EVERYTHING AND FOLLOWED YOU; WHAT WILL BE OUR REWARD? For a number of reasons, this question of St. Peter and our Lordís answer to him that we have just heard retains much significance for us today. This brief dialogue gives us a rather sharp insight into the character and mind of Peter; it informs us even more concerning our Lordís attitudes and his manner of relating to his associates and followers, among whom all of us here count our selves. Of course, this text has a more particular resonance for those of us who follow the Rule of St. Benedict, for in it we hear words of our Lord that moved us to leave behind the persons and possessions that he lists in such detail. "You who have followed me ... and all who have left home or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or sons or fields for my name will receive a hundredfold and will possess eternal life."
Jesus answers Peter as he finds him; he speaks to his concerns so as to give him reassurance and further motivate him to fidelity. He does not give the outspoken Peter a lecture on why he should be satisfied simply with being a chosen friend who enjoys the confidence and intimate exchanges replete with brilliant, profound insights into life and Providence. Our Lord accepts the very human desire for satisfaction of the basic feeling that sacrifice merits a reward. Peter has the confidence to give expression to this interest in having some tangible reward and does not hesitate to lay it out in the presence of others. He trusts that Jesus will take his question at face value; it does not occur to him that such a concern might be felt as selfish, as lacking in loving devotion to his master that is so pure and elevated that nothing else than the service itself matters. And his trust is not disappointed.
On the contrary, it is rewarded by a promise that surpasses expectation. Jesus does not require of us more than we can manage to give. We need not be better, more selfless, more devoted before he assures us that so long as we follow him we shall not be lacking a reward that satisfies more than anything we might possibly acquire in this world. "A hundred fold in this life" is already a great deal more than one might reasonably expect to acquire in the way of gain f any kind, and that is but the lesser promise. It is accompanied by the pledge of everlasting life in the world to come.
We know too, from the rest of the story of Peter and the twelve, that this promise is made with the understanding that the following of Christ is lifelong, that the disciple perseveres in the choice to leave all things. Fidelity to this choice then entails a persistent, daily adherence to our Lord and his teaching. It is not enough to have made the decision to abandon all for the sake of the kingdom and the Lordís service; we must live out its consequences. Daily to witness to our adherence to Christ requires that we remake the decision to leave behind the kinds of possessions and satisfactions that we once found in the family, in our familiar possessions, in our close friends. The hundredfold in this world is not an increase in the same kind of happiness and satisfaction we found in our loved ones and possessions; rather, what makes it a hundredfold is the new quality of our dealings and relationships. We discover a manner of knowing, loving, working- a manner that is imbued with the same Spirit which marked our Lordís way. This mode of giving one self to life, to others, to the service of the kingdom represents already a participation in the life and love of God. It is not of this world; it has a transcendent dimension and we are to learn to become sensitive to its active presence within us.
It is in view of such a manner of life that St. Benedict formed his community of monks and then, after he experienced its possibilities, its demands and the difficulties in the way that he wrote his Rule. Rightly to follow the prescriptions of the Rule and the way of life its structures provide, we must enter upon this inner work of the heart under the guidance of the Gospel, ducente Evangelio, as he puts it. In this interior work the grace of the Spirit gradually transforms our sensibility so that we become responsive to the Divine illumination and see all things in the light it casts on their true meaning and significance. As we progress in this path we already begin to experience the reality promised in our Jesusí words and taste the goodness of the Lord, a hundredfold more satisfying than this worldís goods, and know the hope of eternal life lived in unity of heart with all the children of God.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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