March 31, 2014

Reflections on the Rule of St. Benedict

                                                                                                                                              M. Rebecca
RB  Vs 16-17:  “If hearing this and your answer is, ‘I do’, God then directs these words to you. If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue from evil talk and your lips from all deceit.  Turn away from evil and do good.  Seek peace and pursue it.”  

            Last week we spoke about 3 necessities for obtaining eternal life: 1) controlling the tongue and thoughts; 2) living a moral life; and 3) making peace.   We discussed the first one on controlling our tongue, thoughts, and emotions last week.  So today I would like to talk about the other two ways for obtaining true life. 

            First, “turn away from evil and do good”.  St Augustine said there are many people who do good but don’t turn away from evil.  An example is someone who helps or is kind to a person in need but then turns and despises another person in community.   But then St Augustine adds, there is another kind who turns away from evil yet performs no good at all.  An example would be a nun who leaves behind earthly ambitions in the world only to follow her own pursuits in the monastery.  Or we give up everything in the world but still holds on to small things in the abbey (Cassian, somewhat humorously, used the example of the monk who left all only to covet his writing pen!)   St Augustine commenting on Ps 33 said “It is not enough that you do not strip a person; you must clothe the naked as well”.  So that little word “and” is very important, we must do both – turn away from evil AND do good.   An either/or interpretation can be deceptive in the spiritual life.  

            This verse also reminds me of the story in Mt 12(43-5).   An unclean spirit returns to a person and finds it “unoccupied, swept, and tidy” and so it returns with 7 more spirits and makes their home in him.  Again, we are called not to just avoid evil (remain empty) but to fill it with charity and good works.  This is what will bring our soul peace…which brings us to the third point.

            In beauty pageants it has become a joke that Miss America’s winning answer to the question “what do you desire most” is to say…”world peace”!   I think this is because it is a universal desire - we all want peace.   But wanting peace and pursuing it are not the same thing.  The Beatitudes challenge us to make peace – but we can’t “make” peace w/in ourselves or others.  However we can practice virtues that will promote it: humility, charity, patience, and forgiveness…to name a few.

 To give some examples: 

  •  If we have trouble with anger, then practice humility and ask for forgiveness frequently…even if    it means every time you see a sister!  Never tire of asking forgiveness until it softens you. 
  •  If we have trouble with critical thoughts then compliment people when you get the chance – make   an effort to say kind words. 
  •  If you have trouble with silence then practice going to the library to read more often. 

  •  If we lack gentleness, practice closing doors and cabinets quietly.   Practice walking softly and slowly.

  •  If we find ourselves getting depressed or too self-focused then do some acts of charity for others.    Practice getting out of our self and our thoughts. 

            The list goes on and on…


Each of us desires true and eternal life and so we desire also to follow as God directs us.  By our profession we have already answered to God “I do”! let us “do” what God has directed! 


                                                                                                                                 M. Rebecca
                                                                                                                                 Fourth Sunday of Lent
Eph 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41 

            St Paul tells us in today’s letter to the Ephesians, to “live as children of light” and that “you are light in the Lord”.   We know that St Paul experienced this personally in his own life.  On that road to Damascus he was pierced by Divine Light – a light that blinded him giving him a second sight and a second chance.  This Light is Christ and, like St Paul, it can lead us to conversion so that we can (quote) “produce every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth”.  Lent is a time to recognize this Light and be given a second chance, a chance for conversion in places of our own darkness or obscurity.

            There are many similarities with St Paul and the blind man in today’s gospel – and I will briefly name two.  One is that neither took the initiative to ask for sight.  Jesus approached them, or more accurately burst into their darkness, and gave the light.  This is one of the troubles with blindness – we don’t even know that we cannot see.  This leads to the second similarity.  Paul could see but was blind and when he became blind he began to really see…to see Reality.  In John’s gospel, the blind man sees while those around him with sight are blind.  The effect of this healing brings both Paul and the cured man to amazing boldness and confidence in Jesus Christ.  This daring faith is the true miracle as we discover that the blindness is really about a lack of faith.

             Jesus once asked a blind beggar point blank, “Do you want to see?”  The answer seems a no-brainer but we may need to pause and reflect before saying “of course I do”!   More often than not we don’t want to see our inner reality – our brokenness, unkindness, or fear.  For example, if people are afraid to approach me for fear of the reaction they will get, can I really say I want to see?  Or if a person is giving me their opinion and I get defensive am I not choosing to remain partially blind?  As Pat said several times, we need feedback to know reality, otherwise we do remain blind.  When we are aware that God is The Reality, the Truth, we do not need to be afraid.  The divine light is right there to help, heal, and hold us?   After all if we go deeper, we will find under our brokenness the beauty of our hearts, the capacity to love and to be loved…without fear. 

            As we all know, the Light of Christ does not have anything to do with physical light.  In The Life of Benedict, we hear that his greatest experience of the Divine Light happened at midnight.  He got up to pray and saw one profound ray of light that captured the whole world in its single beam.   Benedict instructs all his monks to rise before dawn to pray in the dark, waiting in faith and hope for the daily coming of Divine Light.  Keeping Vigil is one of the necessary components of our monastic life.  Praying in the night reminds us to watch for Christ’s coming in death and for His coming at the end of time.  One day, of course, will be our last.  Each morning as we keep Vigil, waiting for the sun to rise, we can wonder if this is the day the Son will come and take us to Himself.  A question worth asking each day is, if you knew this was your last day would you do anything differently?  It reminds me of a saint (can’t remember who?) that was asked what would you do if you knew that today was your last day.  He response was “I would sweep the floors like I do every morning”!   We never seem ready for death yet we are always ready…vigilant for the Light of the World to come.

            We just celebrated on the feast of the Annunciation, Mary’s own experience of Divine Light piercing her heart and soul.  The week before, we celebrated her husband, Joseph, who also encountered this Light but in the form of instruction and direction.

            A place to reflect today would be to recall one of the greatest experiences in your own life where you came in direct contact with the Light of Christ.  What were you doing?  Were you like the blind man sitting idle in darkness?   Or like St Benedict caught up in prayer? Or like St Paul walking along the road with negativity in his heart?  Or like Mary who may have been doing household chores, as Mary Ann suggested in her meditation this week?  Or maybe we were even like St Joseph who was sleeping?!  …Where were you when the Light came to you?

            Secondly, what effect did it have on you?  Was it like St Benedict in experiencing transcendence; or like St Paul in experiencing conversion?   Or was it like Mary who received Jesus Christ within her; or  like Joseph who received guidance and insight?  Perhaps it was more like the blind man who simply deepened in faith?  What effect did the Light have on you?

   today’s gospel gives us confidence and boldness.  Let us ask Jesus to remove our own blind spots so that we can not only see the Light but be the Light!   

March 23, 2014

Our Exodus Journey to The Fountain of Love

3rd Sunday of Lent; March 23, 2014
M. Rebecca
Jn 4:1-42
            At Vigils we have been reading from the book of Exodus about Israel’s journey from an alien land in Egypt to a promised kingdom – a journey from slavery to salvation.  In today’s gospel we read of a woman who is making this “exodus journey” as well.  She, too, is moving from the bonds of slavery to the new horizons of a land of promise.   They are the same journey in many ways – one as a community and the other as an individual.  We each make this journey as well – both as individuals and as community.  This last week with our Visitation, it was a time to communally examine our journey to God – where is our community needing to go or the Spirit leading us - where to improve, where to encourage, where to change, and where to praise God with gratitude.  Lent is a time for us to do the same on a personal level – where does the Spirit want to lead me, where to improve, encourage, change, and where to praise God with gratitude.  So, how fitting that our Visitation coincided with this Lenten Season.  The Samaritan woman at the well was discovering her life, or more precisely, she was discovering Jesus Christ in her life.   The Israelites in the desert were discovering who they were as community – or more precisely, discovering God in their midst.  Through the struggle of the desert they were finding their uniqueness, their values, their goals, and their desires.  We, too, must continually make this journey - this discovery – an exodus from any forms of slavery to a promised kingdom…which is none other than God Himself in our midst.

March 5, 2014


                                                                                                                                                   Ash Wednesday 2014 
                                                                                                               M. Rebecca
 Joel 2:12-18; 2Cor 5:20-6:2; Mt 6:1-6,16-18
            Our Ash Wednesday liturgy this morning is calling us both to conversion (“Repent and believe in the good news”) as well as to an awareness of our mortality (“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return”).   But this does not create for us a sense of despair or anxiety because we know that the story ends with Easter.   Rather, as our Rule states, we “look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing” because we know that Lent will bring us closer to wholeness, immortality, and the risen Christ.  St Benedict sees Lent as a time of renewal and re-‘forming’ our lives by renouncing poor habits and adding good spiritual practices.   The gospel, like the Rule, invites us to alms-giving,  prayer, and greater ascesis.

            I noticed a parallel in the first reading from the prophet Joel that adds light and depth to these three gospel precepts.  The first precept Jesus gives to us is about almsgiving.  Though our abbey does give material alms, we as individuals do not own anything and so we are unable to give personally any material gifts.  This is part of our poverty but places even more importance on our prayer!  But there is an almsgiving that each of us are called to do.  Joel says God is “gracious and merciful” and we are called to be like God who is gracious and merciful.  Each of us can give alms in the form of forgiveness…giving mercy wherever it is needed.  This season challenges us to be gracious and to forgive.   So where do I need to show mercy?  Have I held anyone in bondage by my lack of forgiveness?   This is the almsgiving we need to consider.