“ God loves a cheerful giver”
On this day on which we celebrate the the passing of our Holy Father St Benedict to eternal life, I propose to ask our glorious Patriarch for three graces linked with three aspects of his life.
First of all, St Benedict, from a very young age – he was probably 15 or 16 years of age – understood what life is really about and what is at stake. He knew that whatever he did, he would not jeopardise the eternal salvation of his soul. These great truths are reflected in chapter four of the Rule in which he tells us to “Keep constant guard over the actions of one’s life; Keep death daily before one’s eyes; Fear the day of judgement; Dread hell; Desire eternal life with all spiritual longing”. What is the Holy Rule if it is not a recipe for guaranteeing one’s salvation and arriving at perfection in loving and serving God? Good St Benedict, please obtain for all of us this grace to put all things into the perspective of eternity and to see all painful episodes in our lives as opportunities to prepare for God’s judgement. Let us never be forgetful of Hell that burns forever unrepentant sinners nor of Heaven that awaits those who live in God’s grace and wait patiently for His reward.
Secondly, St Benedict insists in the Rule no less than twelve times that grumbling, murmuring, complaining, are very serious faults that a monk must always guard himself against. Grumbling obscures one’s internal vision, it drains one’s energy, it troubles the heart, it makes it impossible to consider the situation as it is, for it clamours for all the attention. When that internal grumbling passes to the outside, it spreads like a virus. It is called griping. The Dutch actually call it a kankeren, a form of gangrene, which eats up the lively, healthy tissues of social life and poisons the order of life in common. The remedy to grumbling is to cultivate cheerfulness. “God loves a cheerful giver”, says St Paul (2 Cor 9:7), and St Benedict quotes this text in the Holy Rule in the chapter on holy obedience. Let us learn how to “give everything God takes, and to take everything He gives” to use an expression dear to St Teresa of Calcutta. In our present situation, let all the sons and daughters of the Church strive to accept the reality before us. Our civil and religious superiors have a hard task before them. Their decisions may cause us pain and suffering. Holy Father St Benedict, help us strive to see God’s hand in whatever happens to us, to not grumble, to give with joy everything He takes, for we know that He wants to give Himself in exchange. Teach us to pray with St Edith Stein, who with you is one of the patron saints of Europe, this prayer composed in the dark days of the Second World War: “Let me, O Lord, walk without seeing upon the paths that are Thine. I do not want to know where Thou art leading me. Am I not Thy child? Thou art the Father of Wisdom and also my Father. Even if Thou dost lead through the night, Thou art leading me to Thyself. Lord, let happen whatever Thou willest: I am ready, even if Thou dost never satisfy me in this life. Thou art the Lord of time. Do all according to the plans of Thy Wisdom. When Thou dost gently call to sacrifice, help me, oh yes, to accomplish it. Let me totally surpass my little ego, so that dead to myself, I may no longer live but for Thee!”
Thirdly and lastly, St Benedict strives to impress upon us and share with us his great love for Jesus. “Let the monks prefer nothing to the love of Christ”, he says. Elsewhere he says that obedience is the hallmark of those who love God. Clearly, for him life is about love for Jesus, whose tender gaze he met when he was still a young man. At this holy time of the year in which so many are deprived of Holy Mass, of Holy Communion, let us be reminded of the power of the love of Christ. Nothing, nothing at all can separate us from the love of Christ. St Paul was clear about that: If God be for us, who is against us? He that spared not even his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how hath he not also, with him, given us all things? …. Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? Or distress? Or famine? Or nakedness? Or danger? Or persecution? Or the sword? (As it is written: For thy sake, we are put to death all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.) But in all these things we overcome, because of him that hath loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:31-39)
Holy Patriarch, share with us, with all the Benedictine order, and with all the faithful, something of your great love for Jesus. Help us to believe in that love, to trust in that love, come what may.