8th Tuesday in Ordinary Time
Sirach 35: 1 – 12; Ps 50; Mark 10: 28 – 31
As a wise father, a practical leader, a realistic monk, a man of God, St. Benedict offers this admonition on the observance of Lent in Chapter 49 of the Rule: “…during these days, therefore, let us increase somewhat the usual burden of our service as by private prayer and by abstinence in food and drink. Thus every one of his own will may offer God ‘with the joy of the Holy Spirit’ something above the measure required.”
Clearly this is neither radical nor extreme advice; notice, he writes: “…let us increase somewhat the usual burden of service. He leaves the ‘somewhat’ to each one’s discretion; he does not give a detailed list. However, whatever one offers should be enough – ‘enoughness’ is something St. Benedict underlines throughout the Rule.
In the reading from Sirach for this Mass, we heard: “For the Lord is one who always repays. But offer no bribes, these He does not accept. Trust not in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion.” In these words, I believe, Sirach would have us look into the motives behind our Lenten observances. Might these observances be chosen in order to get something from God – a kind of bribe – or a demand for grace like an extortion?” Might these observances be more like a contract than a covenant?
Do my Lenten sacrifices, my observances “above the measure required” come from a desire to respond to God’s merciful, generous love? Desiring to know my motivations in all honesty is surely more radical than any prayer or abstinence “above the measure required.”
Coming to know and embrace our motivations is what conversion is about and can only be the fruit of serious prayer, heartfelt prayer seeking God’s light. Coming to this knowledge is totally personal – no one can do it for me/you and the fact that we do seek this is the effect of God’s grace. He graces me/you to seek His light, His grace – to live in the truth.
Sirach reassures us: “For the Lord is one who always repays, and He will give back to you sevenfold.”