32nd Tuesday in Ordinary Time
Feast of All Saints of the Benedictine Family
Isaiah 61: 9 – 11; John 15: 1 – 8
We celebrate today over 14 centuries of saints of the Benedictine Family – a long line canonized and not, known and unknown monks and nuns. Called by God to vowed life and by the mystery of grace attracted to the Rule of St. Benedict, each one lived this way of life uniquely, faithfully, gratefully. Benedict’s desire became theirs and they ran “on the path of God’s commandments with hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.” (Prologue of the Rule)
These countless religious embraced a most sacred desire – one that St. Benedict proposes almost at the end of the rule, a desire of his own heart – not a command – rather a gentle prayer, a fatherly desire with extravagant consequences: “…let them prefer nothing whatever to the love of Christ.” The readings for the Mass from Isaiah and St. John address this love of Christ and reveal something of the mystery, of the reality of this sacred preferment.
For Isaiah, to prefer the love of Christ before all else is to live with gladness, is to know joy deeply because one is embraced extravagantly by Christ the Lover. Isaiah tells us it is like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with jewels because to prefer nothing to Christ is a kind of marriage, truly a nuptial life – delighting in the faithfulness of Christ whose faithful love is never affected by human fragility, human imperfection.
St. John presents Jesus’ words at the Last Supper and these very personal words unfold for us the depth of preferring nothing to the love of Christ. What kept these monks and nuns preferring more and more the love of Christ from first vows until death is Jesus own desire, His divine preferring. He says of Himself and us: “I am the Vine and you are the branches…Live on in Me…remain in Me.” Reflecting on this image of this reality someone commented: “There is a transfer of God’s own life” – there is a gifting, a flowing of love from vine to branches – thousands of branches and the transfer begun in life has no end.
All the saints we commemorate today would have us know, without hesitation, that without this flowing life from Vine to branch, one can do nothing – to prefer the love of Christ above all else would be impossible, an unattainable desire.
We, too, are branches on this Divine Vine, our Lord Jesus Christ; we too experience the transfer of divine Life – how else can we prefer the love of Christ above all else and make this our life work? Our brothers and sisters of the Benedictine Family – among whom are the brothers who lie in our cemetery call us with passion “to remain, stay, live on the Vine.” Above all, our God Himself desires this for us with passion – a passion beyond words.