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!

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