June 19, 2014

Faith AND Good Works

                                                                                                                    Wednesday Rule of St. Benedict Reflection  M. Rebecca

Rule of St. Benedict Vs21:   “Therefore, with our loins girded with faith and the observance of good works, let us set out on his journeys with the gospel for our guide, so that we may be worthy to see the one who has called us into his kingdom.”

We all have the same destination; however our destiny is played out in as numerous ways as there are people.  Paradoxically, each of us has a unique path on this One Way.  This could cause confusion since none of us are on the exact same route, except for the fact that we have a map, the gospel for our guide.  And as Cistercians we have “this little rule set before us” as well. 

When I was reflecting on this verse, the line that came to me from our guidebook, the Scriptures, was from Ps 118, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” [Ps 118:105].   Our daily contact with the word, our lectio divina, gives light on our path.  I think this “light” can also be referred to as our faith “for we walk not by sight but by faith” - and this light shines bright by the fuel of love.  This is why Benedict says we need to gird ourselves with faith and good works – for as we hear in Galatians:  “faith makes itself felt through love”.    St James says quite bluntly, “faith w/o good works is dead.”  And St Frances De Sales adds that when faith is dead it can only be revived by love.  Love enlivens faith and w/o it faith is dead.    In other words, if we find ourselves weary in faith or dragging along the road, we can be revitalized by doing acts of love.  By performing good deeds we move out of ourselves.  So often we get weary on the journey because we are carrying around too much of our self!  If this goes on too long, it can press down on us and “de-press” us.   In our last reflection we spoke of “girding” our loins, needing to let go of all the excess clothing loosely bound to us as we walk this path towards God more freely.

We also read in “our guidebook” from Luke Ch 12:  “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.  Blessed are the servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”  (Lk 12:35+)  Doesn’t this sound a lot like Luke’s version of Matthew’s parable of the 10 Wise and Foolish Virgins?  I remember Fr Simeon explaining that fidelity was not the issue with the foolish 5…nor was it desire.  They, too, were there waiting expectantly.  Rather, Fr Simeon said what they were lacking in their vigilance was wisdom…a wisdom that took faith and put it into concrete practices of love.  They did not follow through with their vocation by letting it become concrete and practical.  In other words, wisdom takes fidelity and puts it into good deeds. 

But Luke ends this story with a surprising twist, “Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.”   In this life we are called to be vigilant, to wait in faith, and to translate that faith into good works through the wisdom given to us…like that German sister who wanted to be “used up” completely in this life because in the next she will be at rest, reclining at the table of the Lord. 

So let us remain vigilant with our lamps’ burning - which is done by fidelity to our lectio – for the Word is the lamp for our feet and the light for our path.   And let us keep our lamps burning with the oil of good deeds for it is love that enlivens and increases faith.   And let us remember that this vigilance is filled with hope because “one day we shall be worthy to see the one who has called us into His kingdom”. 

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