Solemnity of St. Benedict, Abbot
Proverbs 2:1-9; Ephesians 4:1-6; Luke 22:24-27
“My son, if you accept my words and take my commandments into your heart, so as to open your ears to wisdom, and lend your heart to know prudence . . . then you will understand the fear of the Lord and you will find wisdom. “ When Saint Benedict wrote the opening words of his Rule for Monks he wrote as a man who had been influenced by these words of the Book of Proverbs and had sought to live by them. He displays a similar quiet confidence in what he is to write in the pages that are to follow. ”Listen attentively, O my son, to the words of a master.” With this inviting introduction, Abbot Benedict makes it clear that he is the teacher of those who are willing, even eager, to listen to what he has to say in what follows. He soon indicates that, while he is the Master, yet he too is subject to a Superior whom he willingly serves. He is willingly in the service of the supreme Ruler of the universe, Christ the true King.
This statement in the Rule has a particular significance for our monastic community which from early times was given the name “Monastery of Christ the King.” It was some years after its foundation that, at the suggestion of Abbot General Gabriel Sortais when he made his first visitation here, the title “Our Lady of the Genesee” became the official designation. He explained that, like Citeaux itself, a monastery is suitably named after its local situation. Reflecting on this ever flowing river serves to remind us that all of God’s creation is moving on to an end, like the Genesee stream that ceases to exist as it flows into Lake Ontario.
Today’s text from the Letter that Saint Paul wrote to the Ephesians , a portion of which we heard in the second reading today, reminds us that we as well are moving to our end when we enter into the fullness of life with the living God. Saint Paul, as he writes to the faithful living in Ephesus, reminds his readers that we are all called to live as members of the same Body. That being an essential feature of our life in Christ, he urges his readers to strive to follow through in practice the implications of this truth. Doing so consistently, he points out, requires a selflessness that is the fruit of charity.
In another epistle, written to the sophisticated Corinthian community Paul made it clear that attaining to such unity can entail confronting very decided disagreement that must be worked. Such efforts inevitably give rise to tension along the way. Realizing this he urges his readers to take care to “live humbly, in meekness and with patience, supporting one another with charity.” He encourages his readers by urging them to strive after a unity that is modeled after the nature of God Himself, reminding them that just as there is “ one God, one faith one baptism.” This second reading today terminates with an even more impressive consideration as the apostle, writing as he is from prison, reminds us that there is but “One God and Father of all who is above all, through all, and in all of us.”
The Gospel chosen for this mass in honor of Saint Benedict takes up the issue of humility. We do well to take it to heart as we honor this saint. The most sound way to understand our Lord’s teaching here to his chosen apostles is to consider the life of Jesus. In doing so we learn that humility does not always mean agreeing with others, even with those in high office. Our Lord lived most of his life on earth in humble obscurity. But when he entered upon his life of preaching and made claims that he had a unique relation with God his courage and selfless dedication were evident to all. Though he put himself forward and claimed obedience, yet he consistently referred to his Father whose will he followed, making it his own. As we honor St. Benedict at this Eucharist, may we receive the grace to follow his path of loving obedience, in union with our Savior who obeyed even to death on the cross.