AND THE WHOLE COMMUNITY OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL BEGAN TO COMPLAIN. The complaint of the community was against Moses, as the people understood it. But the Lord saw it as it truly was, and condemned it as murmuring against Himself. It was He who had commissioned Moses and gave him the explicit command to lead the people out of the bondage of Egypt into the Promised Land. Had Moses not interceded for them the Lord would have destroyed them in His just anger at so great a sin. St. Benedict too considers murmuring against authority, for whatever reason, to be a serious evil. Why is this so? Because it comes from a lack of faith in God and leads to division. Both of these are inimical to the kingdom of God. To attack legitimate authority by criticism among the subjects is to undermine the very structure of monastic life and of the Church itself.
There are legitimate ways of treating complaints that are constructive. Every Christian has the obligation to make use of these means to correct defects. The first is to speak to the offending party; if it is the superior, especially, but for all others as well, this correction should be given in a spirit of love and truth. If the correction is not accepted or followed by appropriate action then the complaint can be taken to a Council member who can speak to the superior about it. If this is ineffectual, a higher superior can be informed and asked to intervene. In some cases the superior may ask the whole community to discuss the matter and make recommendations. Jesus himself considered the matter sufficiently important to give detailed instructions to the Church concerning it. He came to reconcile us to God and to one another. His Church is a communion among brothers and sisters in a union with God. Thus those practices that lead to division in his Church, are an abomination in his eyes, for they tend to injure the very essence of Christian living.
The meaning of the Eucharist is communion, not only with the glorified Lord Jesus, and through him with the Father in the Spirit, but also with all who belong to him. Let us spend our energies and our time and use our talents in building up this unity among ourselves and those whom the Lord sends to us to help on the way to the kingdom. May this constructive work guide our every undertaking and inspire prudently our way of speaking and of treating one another. Let us cultivate a lively faith that the authority set over us by the Church speaks in God's name and that we cannot do His will apart from union with his ministers. Then shall we build up and not tear down, and become worthy successors to the holy monks who followed St. Benedict's teaching and lived together being the first to show honor to others. Finally, may we all cultivate a sincere affection for those set over us as superior who represent Christ our Savior, that he might bring us all together into the Father's house.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
© Abbey of the Genesee
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