Wednesday, the 3rd Week of Easter
Monastic tradition has usually considered the chapter on humility as the heart of the Rule, and the key to Benedictine spirituality. And in that chapter, St Benedict takes up a saying of our Lord that occurs in today’s Gospel. He writes: “The second step of humility is that a person loves not his own will nor takes pleasure in the satisfaction of his desires; rather he shall imitate by his actions that saying of the Lord: ‘I have come not to do my own will, but the will of the one who sent me’”.
St Benedict associates this saying with humility because it is pride that does its own will, but humility that does the will of God. A monk is someone who truly seeks God, and he cannot find God by loving his own will or taking pleasure in the satisfaction of his desires. These will only be followed by other desires, and none of them will fully satisfy us, because our deepest hunger is for the infinite.
Only those who come to Jesus will never be hungry. They know from experience that he is the bread of real life, and they can never be satisfied with anything less than God. Our own will and desires are things that are less than God, and leave people wrapped up in themselves; whereas humility takes us out of ourselves and leads straight to the mind and heart of God.
For St Benedict, humility is not about how we think about ourselves. He calls it a “step”, and the essential thing is to act, to imitate Christ by our actions, to do the will of God as Christ did. Humble people respond to the grace of the present moment, and do neither more nor less than what God wants for them. They do thoroughly at every moment whatever it is they have to do, simply because it is the will of God.
St Benedict does not hide the fact that this involves a battle. At the very beginning of the Prologue, he says that “this message of mine is for you, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord”. The effort to get up after repeated falls is part of this battle, and plays an enormous part in the formation of the will. We can always come out of these efforts stronger in humility and more trusting in God, because we see where trusting in ourselves has led us.
Christ our King must be the driving power of our life, and the leader in this battle against the forces of self- will and evil. In this battle, we are both actors and witnesses of the marvelous designs of Love, and we can make the contribution of our own free will moment by moment. That is how Christ himself did the will of the one who sent him, and became an example of humility for us to follow. May we heed his lesson of patient suffering, and so merit a share in his Resurrection.