Practice makes commitment
As we have done for many years on the feast of St Benedict, this week we drew out of a basket our annual "Tool For Good Works," one of seventy-two practices of love and humility set out by St Benedict to assist the sanctification of his monks. Calling these the "tools of the spiritual craft," St Benedict says, "When we have used them without ceasing day and night and have returned them on judgement day, our wages will be the reward the Lord has promised...The workshop where we are to toil faithfully at all these tasks is the enclosure of the monastery and stability in the community."
This life we practice at (and practice and practice) is primarily one of attentive and obedient—responsive—availability. Like a glassblower's lump on the end of a steel rod, we are heated in the fire of communal prayer five or more times a day and sent out into our common life of work, study, silence and rest to be formed—alternately drawn, pushed, pulled, and poked by this common life into becoming something beautiful, something within which wisdom is welcomed and makes a home. With our willing cooperation, one day we will match the pattern of what we are eternally and already in the mind of God.
The costly nature of the path onto which Jesus has called us is made clear from the outset. The context of our discipleship is his passion; the odds of success are quite against us, but following Jesus is not, in fact, a call to be “successful” in the common sense, but a call to long term and faithful surrender of self. This often entails the appearance of waste and failure in matters we had long believed mattered most, a way where the real growth is often not readily apparent, nor where we expect (or desire) to see it.
Describing the good zeal of monks on their way to God, Benedict says, "No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else. To their fellow monks they show the pure love of brothers; to God, loving fear; to their abbot, unfeigned and humble love. Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life."
Our commitment is to embrace with joy this hidden way of the cross, the long way of obedience by which we proclaim in our own lives the peace of Jesus until he comes.