1st Wednesday of Ordinary Time
St. Maur & Placid
Today the monks and nuns of the Benedictine family celebrate the feast of Sts Maur and Placid. They were among the first disciples of St Benedict, and (as we heard in the opening prayer) God “provided a wondrous example of monastic observance” in their lives. As it happens, today’s readings also illustrate what discipleship involves: namely, receptivity, inner freedom, and joy.
Receptivity comes first, because it is impossible to be a true disciple of St Benedict if we don’t have, to begin with, a generous spirit of obedience. In particular, we should learn how to turn our backs on our own preferences and ideas, and allow ourselves to be formed by the Rule, and by all that community life involves. In the first reading, God could have identified himself to Samuel the first time he called, but he chose to test Samuel’s receptivity to ordinary human authority, and it was from Eli that Samuel learned what to say to the Lord: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”.
At Vigils today, we heard how St Maur showed the same attitude when he set out to obey St Benedict’s command, and kept his eyes fixed on St Placid without looking anywhere else, and rescued him from the lake as a result. Only someone who has made this kind of sacrifice of his self-will can know what a wonderful inner freedom it can give to the disciple.
This inner freedom might be called the daughter of receptivity, of a simple and generous abandonment. Inner freedom in this sense means not being attached to our self-love. Our work and our prayers are always helping to make us more free, and we will experience this inner freedom all the sooner in so far as we are faithful both to work and to prayer, as Hannah was in the first reading.
But the best example of inner freedom is Jesus in the Gospel. After sunset he cured many people who were suffering, and then, “rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to pray”. His work and his prayer show that it is humanly possible not to be attached to our self-love, and for the disciples of St Benedict, inner freedom is a part of our vocation, the part where we run with joy in the way of God’s commands.
Finally, discipleship means joy, the joy that says with the psalmist, “Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will”. There is a special joy connected with the experience of inner freedom, but this joy is not for the disciple alone. In a Benedictine community, it is a gift to be communicated to others, and their response is a support for us also, since what we give we receive back a hundredfold.
As we receive Our Lord in Holy Communion, let us ask him to give us the patience and readiness to give gladly whatever is asked of us, with that supernatural cheerfulness which is the sign of his presence.