Wednesday, March 25, 2020


with HUMILITY...the Only Way to Live


We continue moving deeper into Lent in these uncertain times hoisted upon us by invisible forces. Yet, like a violent wind, the impact of this adversary is everywhere evident at every level of society.  Benedict's Rule and the Sixth Key of Humility, "Serenity", invites us to see what "gifts" might be present in every circumstance in which we find ourselves, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Serenity can seem like a stretch when our minds are fragmented and anxiousness roils up within us disrupting our sleep, coherent thought, and even our ability to pray. All the more reason to center ourselves in Christ, to take stock of what truly is important and worthy of our time and energy.  No matter how we imagine ourselves to be in charge of the universe, or at least our own, a refresher course in reality can be a gift and Benedict's understanding of serenity can prove helpful.

The Sixth Key of Humility regarding serenity is very straightforward.  It reads: "Serenity is that we are content with the lowest and most menial treatment."  What does that mean?  The power of humility with serenity lies in its simple invitation to join the human race!  Without trappings.  Without gain.  Without expectations.  It means to stop comparing ourselves and our position in life over against all others we encounter.  No competition, no envy, no striving and consequently, no expending all our time and energy on things that have no lasting value!  It means no longer jockeying for superiority, status, praise, or preferential treatment, affording us an opportunity to simply be who we are - and where we are - nothing more, nothing less.  Serenity, gifts us with more life to learn from and give to and be thankful for.

The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, Chapter 4:11-13, "...for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.  I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty.  In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.  I can do all things through him (Christ) who strengthens me."

In these times, life as we have measured it or our standard of worth has been called into serious question - can we find contentment in knowing that our one precious, valuable life comes from the Lord?  Can we offer it back to God for the sake of our families, friends, and society trusting that with God all things are possible?  Can we be content, trust that our Savior is with us?

So what possible gifts are there in the midst of a global pandemic?  How about an undeniable call to see that our actions DO impact our neighbor and that we have an opportunity to help keep others safe?  Isn't it a gift to actually spend time with your children or spouse eating meals, playing games, finding ways to help each other adapt to a new normal?   Isn't it a gift to take stock of all the people and things we have taken for granted on a daily basis so that we can do something to correct our behavior?   Truly, the list of gifts in this unprecedented time is endless.  Paul's secret is this: when a heart is filled with gratitude it is impossible NOT to be content - to experience serenity!

Nothing we do is ever as important as HOW we do it!  This is a good thing to remember as the Shelter in Place order mandated by our governor today changes life as we have known it even more.  Many will be struggling to adapt.  But if we purpose to  practice gratitude, do all we can out of love and the joy of serving Christ, our words and deeds will make a difference - yet another gift of serenity!

May your hearts be filled to overflowing with thanksgiving and the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding guard you hearts and minds!  Holy serenity!

Thursday, March 19, 2020


with Humility...the Only Way to Live


This week's Key of Humility adapted from the Rule of St. Benedict for our midweek Lenten Services is repentance.  We all tend to think we get it.  Repentance is being sorry for something you have done, sorry for whatever particular sin(s) we have committed.  Most acknowledge that confessing our sin to God is also a part of repentance but mainly so we can be forgiven, the quicker the better.  The truth is, repentance is much more than that and much harder too.

In Greek, the word for repentance is metanoia, a whole new way of understanding how Christians are invited to share in the life of Christ.  For starters, it means to stop, turn around and head in the opposite direction of wherever our current path is leading us. Far too often we find ourselves headed in a direction that keeps God and our neighbor at our backs, and not in a good way!  Metanoia requires that we stop, turn around and begin walking the path that draws us nearer to our Savior.

The primary aspect of repentance is that in turning back toward God, we are surrendering our will to the will of God, necessarily allowing the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out.  Too often we carelessly seek forgiveness without any thought for actually being changed or transformed by the Holy Spirit.  Humble repentance enables us to continue our faith journey, being conformed daily to the likeness of Christ.

Another important aspect of turning back toward God is that it allows us to actually see and recognize that many others are headed in a direction away from God as well.  Being awakened, we can invite others headed down the broad road of destruction to, "stop!"  Engaging in honest and vulnerable conversation with those we meet, provides an opportunity to become companions on the way just as the first disciples of Jesus accompanied and witnessed to others about his life, death and resurrection.  The best disciples are those who have experienced first hand the unmerited grace of a loving, compassionate and merciful God.

It is in our relationships with one another that repentance bears the most fruit.  Dying to ourselves, we repent of our pride that keeps us from owning our sinfulness and acknowledging the harm we have caused to a fellow sojourner.  As Christians, we are called to confess our sins to one another, always being eager to reconcile our differences.  If we have harmed someone, repentance calls us to go to our brother or sister confessing our sin in order that we may seek forgiveness.  Of course, all sin is against God, especially when we abuse or neglect one of his children.

While we still were yet sinners, God in Christ Jesus reconciled all people unto God, pouring himself out that all may have life in his name.  That being true, repentance also means setting aside our pride when someone betrays, hurts or denigrates us.  We are called to make the first move to restore the relationship by granting forgiveness.  It doesn't mean that we excuse the wrongful or denigrating actions of the other, but rather that we seek Christ's help in offering forgiveness.  In doing so, whether the other person acknowledges the harm they have caused or not, our burden is lifted and a door has been opened.

Most of all, humility reminds us that a repentant heart is the only sacrifice God desires!  Dying to ourselves, putting the needs of others ahead of our own, is never easy...but with Christ, all things are possible!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020


with Humility...the Only Way to Live


The Fourth Key of Humility in the Rule of St. Benedict, "perseverance", focuses on self-development.  We are reminded that we can't rush life even though that is our modus operandi. When difficult things are expected of us, Benedict says, "Endure and do not grow weary."  Too easily we back away from difficult tasks for fear of failure or because we resist committing our time, energy and effort to achieve a distant goal. For example, we want to be fit without working out or changing our lifestyle.  We want to be a star or expert at a sport or within a field with minimal practice or study.  Instant gratification is our mantra and if you don't believe it, check your attitude when your computer begins buffering and buffering that Netflix movie you've been waiting to see!

It can also be quite trying when expectations are placed on us from an external authority.  Face it, we are all subject to some oversight; no one came claim to be an "autonomous boss" in any area of their life. We are always accountable to someone!  Try writing a book.  It may well be your story, characters, and unique style of writing but ultimately, editors, publishers, and readers will weigh in on "your" book and adjustments will need to be made.  We may enjoy more independence in some aspects of our lives but we also live in communities both great and small that make demands on us.  Again, Benedict's words, "Endure and do not grow weary." prove insightful.

Undoubtedly, there will be occasions when the powers that be dictate a course of action or direction for our lives that feel incongruous with our passions, hopes and dreams.  Begrudgingly we may rail against what we surmise is unfair or even punitive, with a result that we do or accomplish far less than we are capable of achieving.  We complain, grumble, thwart progress and often take every opportunity that avails itself to voice our opinion to whomever will listen.  To what end?

Benedict's Rule regarding "Perseverance" invites us to recognize that we are all a part of something much larger than ourselves.  Occasionally, or for periods of time, a preferred life goal may be delayed or necessarily redirected.  Those who are humbly obedient will often find in retrospect that what was earlier deemed a detour, essential to personal development and a deeper awareness of best use of their gifts.  Appreciating that our service to God isn't about our own romanticized or idealized notions of holy success, reminds us that the whole journey of faith shapes us according to God's will.  

Humility gifts us with the necessary patience to persevere, even and especially when life throws us a curve.  If in the midst of whatever circumstance we find ourselves, we look to see what it is we can learn, experience, and appreciate - we just might glimpse our desired goal newly! 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020


with Humility...the Only Way to Live

As Christians, Lent is an opportune time for diving deep into the waters of our baptismal calling as Children of God.  We are reminded of God's claim on our lives even, and especially, as we acknowledge that we have willfully and regularly turned away from God and our neighbors.  Journeying together in the Season of Lent, "with Humility...the Only Way to Live" as our guide, we are confronted by our sinfulness and deep need for God's saving grace.  However, salvation is NEVER an isolated individual event, but is a gift of God in Jesus Christ meant to be shared with fellow sojourners.  Christ died, once, for all; salvation was a communal and cosmic event and as such, followers of Jesus are charged to, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Obedience when used in regular parlance often carries the stigma of being antiquated, sadistic, and or at best, adolescent in its connotation or usefulness.  Marriage vows (for the bride anyway) used to include a promise to love, honor and obey one's husband.  Personally, I haven't heard that one for the last 30 years!  This obeying seemed to imply that we give up our independence, intelligence, and uniqueness to someone with authority over us. We understand that obedience to the laws that govern a society are useful, that young children need to obey their parents and others in authority to ensure their safety and well-being, and that there are in fact areas of our life together that do require obedience. But we DON'T like it!!  

Why, then, is "Obedience" an essential key to living with humility?  

To appreciate what Benedict of Nursia was aiming for in his "Rule",  we need to grasp St. Paul's words in his Letter to the Philippians 2:5-8:  "Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross."   

The obedience of Christ is, of course, the gold standard!  While it isn't likely that any of us living in the USA will be required to humble ourselves and become obedient to the point of death, it isn't impossible either!   Humility does require us to set aside our preconceived notions of self-importance, entitlement, and self-righteousness in order that we may be truly present to God's claim on our lives.

Obedience, derived from the Latin word, "obedire", held a very different meaning for Benedict and his community of faith.   "To obey" literally meant to listen with the ear of your heart, to hear underneath what another person is communicating so that you may serve whatever need may arise.  This obedience demands that we silence the tapes that run in the back of our minds to advise, admonish or fix the other, and instead, offer ourselves unconditionally to humbly serve the need(s) of the other, the community, or the world.

Rightly understood, obedience IS essential to living with humility!  Beyond our own desires and machinations that primarily benefit us, feed our delusions of grandeur, and isolate us from God and our neighbors, humble obedience can lead us into the true life of our baptismal calling! 

Try earnestly listening with the ear of your heart this week and discover what happens!

FOURTH WEEK IN LENT with HUMILITY...the Only Way to Live "Serenity" We continue moving deeper into Lent in these uncert...