4th Tuesday of Lent
In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks us, “Do you want to be well?” In the words of St Benedict: “What is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us? See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life”: “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”
“Rise”, he says first of all. Rise and respond right away to the word of Christ. He is not going to heal anyone who lies around waiting to see what the word of Christ will do for him. There has to be a heartfelt and immediate recognition that Christ has the power to speak to us in this way, and that what he says to us is true. The first degree of humility is obedience without delay, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all. Obey Christ, and you will find strength enough to do whatever he tells you in your reading. Believe in his power to give you new life, and you will have it. But do not question, do not delay.
“Take up your mat”. There must be no half-way measures, no thought that we can live with one foot in the monastery and the other in the world: roll up the mat of your old self with its ways and put on Christ. So often we seem half in doubt as to whether we can actually live as observant monks. We take a few cautious steps, and then go back to the mat we left when we entered the monastery. It’s so easy to put on the habit and then sink back to the old way of life we knew before entering, a life which takes the easy way out, and doesn’t even try to put ourselves and our all at God’s disposal. We can grow accustomed to a half-heartedness in our monastic life, an underlying worldliness which is a shortcut to mediocrity. Is it faith in Christ and fidelity to our vows that really keeps us going? Or do we just make a few concessions to monastic observances for the sake of appearances, but otherwise continue in the ordinary worldly way?
“And walk”, Jesus says. There has to be a continuous conversion, a continuous use of the strength Christ gives us to live the monastic life. The man who had lain for 38 years was told to walk. In the monastic life, we will have to confront many duties without any past experience to assure us of success. Few people come to the monastery with experience as cellarer, or plumber, or novice-master. And St Benedict knows that sometimes we may be assigned an impossible task. But first he asks that we respond like the man in the Gospel, with faith that Christ who asks us to do something will give us the strength to do it.
“Walk”, he says. Take your place among those who help to build up the community. Discover the ways in which you can be an example to others. Learn how even the weakest member can bear the burdens of others, and be a source of strength for others. And then you shall through patience share in the sufferings of Christ, that you may deserve also to share in his kingdom.
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