Image: Benedictine Chapel of New Westminster
Today is the memorial of St. Benedict who is considered the founder of monasticism in the western Church. Benedict lived in fifth century Rome, during a time when the city was not exactly an ideal place to focus on one’s spiritual life. He left the city to go and live in a cave, in order to contemplate and listen to the quiet voice in his heart that was calling him to a God centered life.
Word of the saint’s new lifestyle got out and soon others were flocking to him and asking to learn from his insights. From these earliest beginnings, Benedict formed a rule, a way of life, whose influence remains to this day in the lives of the Benedictines and many other religious communities who were influenced by them.
I have always been interested in how these movements get started. A lot of people have good ideas but most remain small and little interest is paid to them. It makes me wonder how many world changing ideas have come and gone without anyone having ever had the chance to listen to them. But then there are those ideas that stick, and make a difference.
Saint Benedict happened to live in a time and place that was begging for spiritual renewal. By listening to the call that was in his heart, Benedict showed others around him that a different way of life was possible. Benedict was true to himself and others followed his path as they discovered their own call.
The prophet Isaiah is one who experienced a similar call and we see it described today in the first reading. Isaiah struggled with the invitation to become God’s prophet and did not see himself as worthy to be the one to share the Word of the Lord with the people to whom he was sent. It is important that anyone who wants to share God’s word goes through this process of discernment.
We want to be certain that it is God’s word that is being shared and not just our ego, that part of our self that is looking for attention. Isaiah was not a perfect human but God was able to use him to share his Word because he was open to begin forgiven and he was willing to put aside his own plans and focus on doing the will of God.
We see in both these men of God, Saint Benedict and the Prophet Isaiah, an openness to the word of God in their life and the willingness to act upon it. The both put their own concerns aside and trusted that God would give them what they needed for the task ahead. They did their best not to let their own weaknesses and doubt get in the way. The final ingredient that was needed as, their mission bore fruit, was that they never forgot that God was in charge.
In our gospel today Jesus reminds his followers that, “A disciple is never above his master”. Our invitation is to grow in our spiritual lives to become one like God, but we will never be God. This marks the difference between a holy man of God and someone who has just gone out of their mind?
How easy it would have been for Benedict to begin to believe that people were coming just to see him and not to learn about God. Many movements have come and gone because their leaders forgot this lesson. If we fail to allow God to be the center of what we do our enterprise will not last, but if we keep the focus on God, God will always be there for us and what we offer will be good for everyone we share it with.