OCTOBER 22, 2004, HOMILY- Ephesians 4:1-6
I PLEAD WITH YOU TO LIVE A LIFE WORTHY OF THE CALLING YOU HAVE RECEIVED, WITH PERFECT HUMILITY, MEEKNESS AND PATIENCE, BEARING WITH ONE ANOTHER LOVINGLY. Of all the manifold requirements of the fullness of Christian life, St. Paul singles out these virtues that favor daily community living as he makes a fervent appeal to his readers for fidelity to their vocation. Unity of spirit created by sharing with love and faith in the true revelation made by the Lord Jesus was not only Paul’s concern; it was prized and stressed in the primitive Church of Jerusalem as we read in the Acts of the Apostles. This emphasis was not in view of making life easier for the leaders of the Church, but rather was based on theological considerations. Paul himself would seem to state the reason for his fervent plea for fraternal charity within the congregation when he adds the following words a few lines later.
There is but one body and one Spirit, just as there is but one hope given all of you by your call. There is one Lord, one faith one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all, and works through all and is in all.
Clearly then in order to fulfill her mission by giving witness to the fundamental truths of faith, the Church must show for all to see in her faithful that singleness of belief and of purpose which is possible only to those who love enough to bear with one another’s limitations and defects. St. Benedict in his Rule for Monasteries faithfully echoes this exhortation of the Apostle. He indicates that he is aware that “maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” can require strenuous efforts. Those we live with can prove exasperating on occasion, due not only to their defects but to our own sensibilities. “Let them bear with the utmost patience one another’s weaknesses whether of body or behavior.” (Ch.72)
Even in loving families unity at times requires precisely those virtue of meekness, patience and endurance of vexations. I recently received notice from a friend of an instance where only willingness to endure in meekness could keep the family of a middle-aged couple together. The husband’s business recently failed; he took a loan, perhaps imprudently, in an unavailing attempt to improve his fortunes. However, when he could not repay he was forced to sell the family home. The wife is so angry she has separated from him and threatens divorce. Unity can be maintained only at high personal cost at times; humility, meekness instead of displays of anger and loving bearing with the defects of others are needed even in dealing with those we naturally like and are drawn to. Paul too realized by experience the necessity of forgiveness and loving forbearance for the sake of fidelity to one another and to our vocation as witnesses to “he one God and Father of all who is over all, and works through all and is in all.”
Whether monks or members of a family, each of us shares the same vocation to be witnesses to the truth of the Gospel. May these words of St. Paul take root in our heart so that we put into daily effect his plea. And thus may the grace of this Eucharist enable us TO LIVE A LIFE WORTHY OF THE CALLING YOU HAVE RECEIVED, WITH PERFECT HUMILITY, MEEKNESS AND PATIENCE, BEARING WITH ONE ANOTHER LOVINGLY.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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