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  • Writer's pictureImmersed in Christ

Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

by Fr. David M. Knight

View readings for Week 14 of Ordinary Time LECTIONARY 384 (Gn 32: 23-33; Ps 17; Mt 9:32-38: 1-7)

There are three Saint Benedicts that I know of: Benedict who wrote the Rule for the Benedictine order and is called the "Founder of Western Monasticism" (his feast is July 11); Benedict the Moor (April 4), a black man born a slave near Messina in Sicily in 1546 and freed as a baby, who became a Franciscan and was elected superior twice, although he was not a priest but the cook; and Benedict Labre (April 16), who tried to be a Trappist, a Carthusian and a Cistercian, and finally wound up as what we call a bum, except that if you get canonized they say you were a "pilgrim" instead. He died in 1783. You can take your choice, but they all sound like kindred spirits to me. One thing they had in common: they were all drawn to the hermit life, "and they all tried it for a while.

The famous St. Benedict was born in Italy around 480 A.D. It was not a nice time to be born. When Benedict went to Rome to study, the barbarians were marching through Italy, the Church was torn apart by schism, and Rome was a morally corrupt city. So Benedict went to live as a cave hermit on Mount Subiaco north of Rome. Other monks asked him to be their abbot ("father") or leader, but they found him stricter than they bargained for and tried to kill him. Two things resulted from this: he was named the Patron against Poisoning after he was canonized, and the Rule for monks which he finally wrote became famous for its moderation.

The world -- both religious and not -- can never measure what it owes to the Benedictine monasteries. They preserved learning and culture in Western Europe during the best and worst of times, not to speak of what they did to preserve and foster the religious spirit among a violent people barely removed from paganism. Our times can use a large dose of what they did!

Reflection for Today's Readings for the 14th Tuesday in Ordinary Time:

The Fruits of Ministry

The Responsorial (Psalm 17) gives us the fruit of engaging in ministry: “In my justice, I shall see your face, O Lord.” In trying to give Christ to others we grow in knowledge and love of him — and of ourselves. Genesis 32: 23-33 marks a turning point in Jacob’s life and mission. “The cunning “Jacob” becomes the divinely commissioned “Israel,” father of the chosen people and the special object of God’s protection.” Jacob relied on his wits. He had cheated his brother Esau out of his birthright by a ruse, and now he is about to meet Esau coming toward him with 400 men! Jacob sends his wives, children and possessions across the river and remains alone struggling all night with God, or an angel (Hosea 12:4). Either way, he is struggling with the truth of his life, character, and fragility. In the end he comes out a wounded but wiser man, walking with a limp but blessed with the experience of mercy from one who could have killed him. Jacob has learned to trust. He throws himself on Esau’s mercy, and God moves Esau to forgive. (See Jerome Biblical Commentary 1968.) Ministry is a humbling experience. In trying to be Christ for others we come face-to-face with ourselves. We struggle sometimes with ourselves and with God. Finally, we learn that we don’t bear fruit for Christ; we surrender to him and let him bear fruit through us. We learn that Jesus has chosen to play with a team that limps — and still wins. Matthew 9: 32-38 shows us Jesus can empower people to speak, even if he has to expel demons to do it! This means first of all to speak words of response to his invitations. But it also means to teach, preach, and share our faith with others — not necessarily in a classroom or from a pulpit, but to teach constantly, by words and example, in all our ordinary occupations. We do this by letting Jesus speak with us, in us and through us (the WIT prayer). Jesus’ ministry was to tour, teach, proclaim the good news, and heal. He continues to do all of this in us: where we go, he goes. In our every act, our body language, words, smile, way of dealing with others, Jesus teaches his message. In the “fruit of the spirit” manifest in us — love, joy, peace, etc. — he proclaims the Good News. And through our love he heals — especially through the love displayed in the community whenever and wherever it gathers. But the key is surrender, seeking union of mind and will and heart with Christ and letting him act in and through our bodies as he will. Then we will know him as we make him known. “In my justice, I shall see your face, O Lord.” (See Galatians 5: 22-23.)

Initiative: Be a priest. Surrender and trust. Let Christ act through you.

Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

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