August 25, 2014

Carry One Another's Burdens

Rule of Benedict Rule Reflection
M. Rebecca

Who will dwell in his tent and rest on his holy mountain?  Benedict’s answer comes from Ps 14 which is our next verses…Vs 25-27: “He says, ‘The one who enters without stain and practice righteousness.  The one who speaks truth in the heart and does not commit deceit with the tongue.  The one who does no evil to a neighbor or allows dishonor against a neighbor.’”

Therodoret of Cyrus in his commentary on Psalm 14 (which is where this verse comes from) points out that there is an order to these directives.  Speak first the truth in the heart, then with the tongue, and then in actions.  All righteousness begins in the heart and so striving for purity of heart is necessary in our seeking goodness.  He says the place to begin is the heart but it cannot stop there, in desire and longing, but must be brought to completion by concrete acts towards our neighbor.   Who could be a better model of this than Our Blessed Mother?  Mary was a woman “w/o stain and who practiced righteousness, speaking truth in the heart”.   We will celebrate in 2 days her Assumption into heaven.  She maintained a purity of heart by pondering on the Word in lectio and allowing it to soak into her heart.  Here is our model. 

Something from our Vigil reading last month for Blessed Joseph Cassant has stayed with me.  It said that in order to help people grow in holiness and their love of God we should promote each other’s strengths and not attack their weaknesses…to build up goodness rather than tear out faults.  This gentleness grows from an understanding of our own weaknesses and strengths as well as a deep experience of God’s loving mercy in our lives.

Isaac of Stella in his 31st sermon explains it well and so I will let him speak:  “Why my brethren, are we so little concerned with finding opportunities to advance each other’s salvation, responding to greater need with greater help and bearing each other’s burdens? This is what St Paul advised:  ‘Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ’ – or, again, ‘forbearing each other in love’. For that is most definitely the law of Christ”.

Isaac continues, “When I notice something wrong in my brother (or sister) that cannot be corrected – either because it is inevitable or because it comes from some weakness of his in body or character – why do I not bear it patiently and offer my willing sympathy?    Could it be because there is a lack in me, a lack of that which bears all things and is patient enough to take up the burden…is it rather a lack of the will to love?” {This lack of love in me should be the focal point rather than my sisters faults!}

He goes on to say, “This is what the law of Christ is like, of Christ who bore our grief in His passion and carried our sorrows in His compassion {}, loving those whom He carried and carrying those whom He loved…”   So like Mary, let us have such vulnerability and humility so as to show compassion and gentleness to each other.  Let us not attack each other’s faults but rather bear each other’s weaknesses in kindness and love following not only this “most definite law of Christ” but also Christ’s example.  Let us encourage others in their strengths, leading each other along the road to salvation, to Christ, to’ his holy mountain’…for we go this road together.

Let us take up the challenge St Benedict proposes of purifying our hearts so we speak with gentleness, pardoning the sin and always loving the sinner.  Christ carries our weakness so let us carry each other’s in like manner.  Today let us consciously practice with attention and mindfulness this gentleness in our hearts, in our speech, and in our actions.

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