Which kingdom?

As we know the monastic life is, in practice, primarily one of attentive and obedient availability. We do not so much become holy by the things we pray, do, think, learn, suffer or submit to, as we let holiness happen in us by being made awake for it, and ready. Waking us up, keeping us watchful is what praying, doing, thinking, learning, allowing, and so on are all meant to do.

And this is not an easy way of life. Today Jesus tells us a story about being willing to do what is necessary to be a disciple, and puts it in terms of a person looking to build a tower, or a king making essay at a hopelessly mismatched battle. If he sees that he is in for a rout (and according to the story, he is) the king gives up the prospect and sends for terms of peace. And why would a person wish to build a tower? For defense, for surveying the wide prospect of their domains, for a display of personal might and glory?

But we can have nothing to do with these things; we cannot use the ways of the world in taking up the cross and following Jesus—and in fact, the enterprise is not about winning or losing at all. If we are thinking in terms of counting, of calculation, we have already lost everything we thought we had. We must give up the project and ask for the terms of peace, that is, submission to Jesus himself.

The real question, and one that St Benedict continually asks us is, which ”king” do we belong to, and just which kingdom do we wish to live in? This is the question we get to answer daily, staying awake in all our doings.

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