Thursday, 11 July 2013

Faithfulness in action: Readings for July 11th. Memorial of St Benedict.

Feast: July 11

Feast Day:July 11
480, Norcia (Umbria, Italy)
Died:21 March 547 at Monte Cassino, Italy
Major Shrine:
Monte Cassino Abbey, with his burial

Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, near Orléans, France

Sacro Speco, at Subiaco, Italy
Patron of:Against poison, Against witchcraft, Cavers, Civil engineers, Coppersmiths, Dying people, Erysipelas, Europe, Farmers, Fever, Gall stones, Inflammatory diseases, Italian architects, Kidney disease, Monks, Nettle rash, Schoolchildren, Servants who have broken their master's belongings, Speliologists, Spelunkers, Temptations

Founder of western monasticism, born at Nursia, c. 480; died at Monte Cassino, 543. The only authentic life of Benedict of Nursia is that contained in the second book of St. Gregory's "Dialogues" where he relates  a number of miraculous incidents.
The son of a Roman noble of Nursia. A tradition, which St. Bede accepts, makes him a twin with his sister Scholastica. In his youth he committed himself to studies, but eventually "gave over his books, and forsaking his father's house and wealth",  he sought for some place where he might attain his desire to serve God. He was capable of weighing all the things (of the world)  in comparison with the life taught in the Gospels, and chose the latter.we may fix the date of his abandoning the schools and quitting home at about A.D. 500.
 In Enfide, he found an  association, "a company of virtuous men" who were in sympathy with his feelings. 
  There, Benedict was already gaining notoriety for certain small miracles that drew attention to him. This drove him to escape still farther from social life; he now determined to be poor and to live by his own work. "For God's sake he deliberately chose the hardships of life and the weariness of labour" . It's on this quest that he met a monk, Romanus, whose monastery was on a mountain near the town of Subiaco.

 Benedict joined the monk in a life of hermit, and for the next 3 years would be committed to living in solitude, only meeting with Romanus once in a while to get food and conversation. It's said that in this time,  he matured both in mind and character, in knowledge of himself and of his fellow-man.  Despite his desire for solitude,  many people, attracted by his sanctity and character, came to Subiaco to be under his guidance. For them he built in the valley twelve monasteries, in each of which he placed a superior with twelve monks. In a thirteenth he lived with "a few, such as he thought would more profit and be better instructed by his own presence" (ibid., 3). He remained, however, the father or abbot of all. With the establishment of these monasteries began the schools for children; and amongst the first to be brought were Maurus and Placid.
The remainder of St. Benedict's life was spent in realizing the ideal of monasticism which he has left us drawn out in his Rule.

Commentary on Readings:

 A few years ago, around the time that I entered the  Jesuit novitiate, I met a young woman who decided she was going to enter the Carmelite monastery in Montreal. That on its own would cause alarm for anyone today: Why would any young woman of today want to lock herself up for the rest of her life in a monastery?  Aren't there better ways in which one can 'serve God'? What was worse for people who heard her story, was that she had been top in her class in Med School at McGill. Many thought she was throwing her life, and brilliant mind  away. She didn't end up staying with the community for reasons that are unknown to me, but the response people had, was a valid point of view. It is however, not a point of view that corresponds too well with what the Church needs today. The way I see it, we need holy people that dedicate their lives to prayer as much as we need missionaries who dedicate their lives to being among the poor as people like Mother Theresa did. It's clear that the public has more respect for the latter. But the decision to enter religious life is not based on gaining people's respect, but on serving God. And who are we to say that actions serve God more than prayer? There will always be a need for both in our world.  I myself am  called to both prayer and actions, (or to use the Ignatian terminology,  a 'Contemplative in action') and this choice has given me much life. But this should not be the only option available  to those seeking to do God's will. This is why I am grateful for St Benedict who saw the need for a more contemplative lifestyle. No doubt he also had to deal with negative reactions from people of his time for his life choices, but in the end, his desire was to be faithful to what he felt God was calling him to, not gaining people's respect.
  I feel that the theme of faithfulness is rather strong in today's readings as well.  Joseph, the son of Jacob/Israel, was given a special gift from God that he chose to be faithful to: That gift of course, was annoying dreams. Dreams that would piss everyone off, even his brothers and his own beloved father ( Gen 37: 8-10). His brothers even tried to kill him because of these dreams. In the end, they opted to sell him  into slavery instead. But Joseph was faithful to the gifts God had given him, and in the end, God had a very different destiny for Joseph than the one his brothers had forced him into.  Of course, the climax of the story comes in today's readings. As one of our Priests said today, there are many ways this story could have ended...there are many ways WE would have it end: Joseph should get his revenge! He should punish his brothers etc... what we have instead, is a story of forgiveness. A rather unexpected one at that! I feel this is also a story of faithfulness. Joseph never steered from the path that God had set for him, even in the hard times. 

 The theme of faithfulness becomes the theme of Trust in today's Gospel.  It's not an easy Gospel passage to pray with, especially with this whole "those who don't receive the Good News will receive a worse fate than Sodom" business ( for those who don't remember the Sodom and Gamorrah story, check out Genesis 19), but there is a very beautiful element of trusting God that is expressed in the first part of the passage that describes any experience in religious life fairly well: 

"Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts,  no bag for your journey,  nor two tunics, nor sandals."

In that God will provide. It's not an easy thing to hear for anyone, but it's something that we all learn with time!

Blessings on your day!

Genesis 44:18-21, 23-29; 45:1-5

18 At this, Judah went up to him and said, 'May it please my lord, let your servant have a word privately with my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself.
19 My lord questioned his servants, "Have you father or brother?"
20 And we said to my lord, "We have an old father, and a younger brother born of his old age. His brother is dead, so he is the only one by that mother now left, and his father loves him."
21 Then you said to your servants, "Bring him down to me, so that I can set eyes on him."
23 But you said to your servants, "If your youngest brother does not come down with you, you will not be admitted to my presence again."
24 When we went back to your servant my father, we repeated to him what my lord had said.
25 So when our father said, "Go back and get us a little food,"
26 we said, "We cannot go down. We shall go only if our youngest brother is with us for, unless our youngest brother is with us, we shall not be admitted to the man's presence."
27 So your servant our father said to us, "You know that my wife bore me two children.
28 When one of them left me, I supposed that he must have been torn to pieces, and I have never seen him since.
29 If you take this one from me too and any harm comes to him, you will send my white head down to Sheol with grief."
1 Then  Joseph   could not control his feelings in front of all his retainers, and he exclaimed, 'Let everyone leave me.' No one therefore was present with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers,
2 but he wept so loudly that all the Egyptians heard, and the news reached Pharaoh's palace.
3 Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am Joseph. Is my father really still alive?' His brothers could not answer him, they were so dumbfounded at seeing him.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'Come closer to me.' When they had come closer to him he said, 'I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt.
5 But now, do not grieve, do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here, since God sent me before you to preserve your lives.

Psalms 105: 16 - 21

16When he summoned a famine on the land, and broke every staff of bread,17he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.18His feet were hurt with fetters, his neck was put in a collar of iron;19until what he had said came to pass the word of the LORD tested him.20The king sent and released him, the ruler of the peoples set him free;21he made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his possessions,
Matthew 10: 7 - 15

7And preach as you go, saying, `The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'
8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.
9Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts,
10no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the laborer deserves his food.
11And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it, and stay with him until you depart.
12As you enter the house, salute it.
13And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.
14And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.
15Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomor'rah than for that town.

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