Prayers, please, for Rich, terminal lung cancer, and his wife, Linda.
Prayers, too, for Fr. Theophane (a Trappist who wrote the "Magic
Monastery" books,) he is close to death with liver cancer. God's will
is best. All is mercy and grace. Thanks so much! JL
January 23, May 24, September 23
Chapter 5: On Obedience
But this very obedience
will be acceptable to God and pleasing to all
only if what is commanded is done
without hesitation, delay, lukewarmness, grumbling, or objection.
For the obedience given to Superiors is given to God,
since He Himself has said,
"He who hears you, hears Me" (Luke 10:16).
And the disciples should offer their obedience with a good will,
for "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7).
For if the disciple obeys with an ill will
not necessarily with his lips but simply in his heart,
then even though he fulfill the command
yet his work will not be acceptable to God,
who sees that his heart is murmuring.
And, far from gaining a reward for such work as this,
he will incur the punishment due to murmurers,
unless he amend and make satisfaction.
Trust me, folks, I am not second-guessing St. Benedict on this one, I
just think there is a chance that he is often misread and that
something not at all contrary to his precepts needs to be emphasized.
Few who share my cynical bent would fail to chafe at a reading of
this passage which implies that we must all be cheerful, Pollyanna
optimists, blithely smiling automatons. Yes, we are told not to
murmur, and to put the very best face on our obedience that we
possibly can. Often the real miracle of grace is that we can just
barely obey in silence, without any comment at all. No doubt that is
a tender mercy to those who live with us! We must not read St.
Benedict harshly, even less so God. We must keep the loving parent
image ever before our eyes in both instances.
I want to expand the image of the non-murmuring heart a bit.Some days
one's heart cannot murmur, because it is numb and paralyzed, unable
to do much of anything more explicit than ache. Some days one's heart
is Ground Zero, and everything coming at it seems to be just one more
horrible plane. Never, never think that St. Benedict is telling us to
put a happy face on this. A brave face or even a blank expressionless
one may be all one can muster.
However, and here's the rub, even when that brave or expressionless
face is all we can do, we can STILL obey cheerfully. How? Well, for
one thing, that cheer is in the will, not the emotions. It is the
readiness of gift. Beyond that, even when sore beset, we can strive
NOT to complain or whine. Face it, no one but God will really
understand our most broken points anyhow. The sooner we learn that,
the more time we save on trying to find humans who will.
How very great is the love of God for us at such times. A favorite
image I have used before is very apt here: the heart of God is like a
Mother's refrigerator door, plastered with children's bad, even
ghastly art. (OK, I KNOW it may be age-appropriate art, but bear with
me on this one....)
God is bursting and beaming with pride at our struggling efforts. He
cares not a wit that we are not beaming with feigned cheer ourselves.
With all that mud on our faces, who could see the forced smile
anyhow? There will never be a time, in this world or in the next,
when God loves us more than He does when we are fallen, crawling on
all fours and still barely hanging on. The effort, always the effort
is what God sees.
Of course, having written all this in plodder-appropriate language
for strays like myself, I have to add that the ideal of genuine joy
and, yes, even cheer, is what we entry-level folks are aiming at. It
was said of Blessed Titus Brandsma, a Carmelite university professor
killed by the Nazis for opposing their regime in Holland, that he
seemed as happy in prison as if he had been in his monastery.
One witness said it seemed to make no difference to him. His mind was
always on others. They could only tell he had been beaten by the
blood on his jacket and when someone commented on the fact, he would
downplay it and change the subject. He was always cheerful and
gracious. After two prisons, the Germans sent him to Dachau, where
his weakened condition made him fodder for their "medical"
experiments. He lasted less than a month there, killed by a lethal
injection in July, 1942.
Blessed Titus was a gentle, cultured man, an intellectual giant whose
academic world had no shadow of the horrors that were his end.
Fortunately, for him and for us, Blessed Titus truly understood what
he had studied and it made him a great saint.
Love and prayers,