In the same way the apostle Paul refused to claim any credit for the success of his preaching, saying, ‘By the grace of God I am what I am’ (1Cor. 15:10) and ‘The person who boasts should boast in the Lord’ (2Cor. 10:17). That is why the Lord too says in the Gospel, ‘He who hears these words of mine and acts in accordance with them is like the wise man who built his house on the rock; the floods came, the winds blew and beat upon that house but it did not collapse for it was founded on rock’ (Matt. 7:24-5). Having made this pronouncement, the Lord every day expects that we should make our lives conform to this holy advice of his. And so the days of this life are lengthened and we are granted a truce during which to amend our bad ways, as the Apostle says, ‘Do you not know that God’s patience is leading you to penitence?’ (Rom. 2:4). For the Lord in his kindness says, ‘I do not want the death of a sinner but that he should be converted and live’ (Eze. 33:11).
Benedict does not quote the Gospels often. When he does we can take it as a reminder that the Rule serves the Gospel message: that a God of love and mercy has taken the initiative to be with us and all creation; to love us as we are in the hope that we can be loved into fullness of life.
The Divine life wants human life so open and responsive to God’s life given unconditionally so that each of us can simply be a unique expression of love on earth. This is what Jesus was and this is what he wants for his disciples today.
Paul knew this. He knew that trying to prove ourselves, to make ourselves worthy of love and attention, is a waste of energy. There is a fullness of Love here now and given for all: grace. Within and among us is grace. Being good enough is not necessary for this grace. Divine Love is constantly drawing us to the good that we are. Will we move with this grace? Will we turn from it? Paul’s witness to these questions sounds down the years:
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God with me. (1Cor 15:10).
‘I am what I am’. Benedict holds up to us Paul’s journey into humility and deep self-acceptance, and his openness to grace. Openness to grace is itself a grace. This journey into grace goes on our whole lives. Humility gives space for grace, for grace to be active in us.
Fullness of life is not about justifying ourselves to ourselves and each other through what we do and say. Living the Rule cleanses our motivations for living. Whom are we serving? As we grow in Love we forget ourselves and love each other. Slowly we convert and live.
At Meditatio House one of the best things that we can do is practice living more and more from our centre – that place of rock, of stability amid the rough and tumble of this cleansing. Meditation is central to this. We may not see the fruits of this cleansing as we live from day to day, but others will – even the others we live with. In this practice is the enriching of community and this attracts. All community is an event of cleansing and grounding in Love: families, couples, friends – all who are committed to each other and growing in Love.
But what do I do with the bits of me that I do not love? Keep them hidden, a secret? How long can this last? God may love all of me, the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘ugly’, but what will others do when what I see as ugly comes out? What will I do? It is vital that the community we are a part of has members mature enough in the life of grace; that they, like Paul, are humble and self-accepting enough to affect the communal life around them. A community is only as mature as its wisest members. Wisdom does not judge. Wisdom makes a safe space for vulnerability so that self-love can grow.
Amid all of this God waits patiently as we learn to let go and be in Love. Slowly we exhaust the agenda of the ego: that we might make ourselves good enough. As the patience of God becomes our patience ugliness becomes beautiful. We do our best and that is enough.
What we are waiting for, relying on his promises, is the new heavens and the new earth, where uprightness will be at home. So then, my dear friends, while you are waiting, do your best to live blameless and unsullied lives so that he will find you at peace. Think of our Lord’s patience as your opportunity to be saved; our brother Paul, who is so dear to us, told you this when he wrote to you with the wisdom that he was given. (1Peter 3:13-15).