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Hence also the Lord saith in the Gospel: “He that heareth these words of Mine, and doeth them, is like a wise man who built his house upon a rock: the floods came, the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not, because it was founded upon a rock.” And the Lord in fulfilment of these His words is waiting daily for us to respond by our deeds to His holy admonitions. Therefore are the days of our life lengthened for the amendment of our evil ways, as saith the Apostle: “Knowest thou not that the patience of God is leading thee to repentance?” For the merciful Lord saith: “I will not the death of a sinner, but that he should be converted and live.”
Yesterday’s section of the Prologue ended with the words of Saint Paul : “Only, by God’s grace, I am what I am, and the grace he has shewn me has not been without fruit” (1 Corinthians 15:10) and “He that glorieth, may glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31). Today’s section from the Prologue begins with the word, “He that heareth these words of Mine, and doeth them, is like a wise man who built his house upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24). Saint Benedict would have his monk be utterly reliant upon grace. He would have his monk take to heart — and build his life on — the words of Jesus to Saint Paul: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for power is made perfect in infirmity.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
When I look at my own life, and when I review the history of this monastery since our arrival here six years ago, in the very beginning of 2012, I am obliged to confess that all has been grace or, if you will, that the story that is being written here is a daily illustration of the all–sufficient grace of Christ, a showing–forth of His power deployed in infirmity.
Every time a man experiences his infirmity, it is an invitation to run to Christ. Or, if you are too weak and too weary to run to Him, or to walk to Him, or even to crawl to Him, you have only to call upon His name, and He will run to you, saying as He did to Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, Quid tibi vis faciam? “What wouldst thou have me do for thee?” (Mark 10:51). Every time one goes before Our Lord with confidence, not dissimulating one’s misery but, rather, owning it and displaying it, Our Lord says, Quid tibi vis faciam?
Quid tibi vis faciam? These words, in some way, sum up all that Our Lord would say to us who come to Him, as Saint Thomas Aquinas says, “as a sick man to the Physician of life, as one defiled to the Fountain of mercy, as one blind to the Light of the eternal splendor, as one poor and needy to the Lord of Heaven and earth”. Blessed Abbot Marmion, in particular, would have us understand that the whole Benedictine edifice is built upon confidence in Christ: confidence in the grace of Christ, in the merits of Christ, in the goodness of Christ, in the mercy of Christ.
Believe this, and no matter what your weaknesses are, no matter what sins have come to weigh upon your past, no matter what temptations surround you at present, no matter what the future holds, you will be “like a wise man who built his house upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24). One must expect floods, and wind, and rain, and storms. All of these adversities are either willed by God or permitted by God in view of a greater good. After flooding, the soil is more fertile. After great winds, the atmosphere is purer. After rains, there is an increase of growth. After storms, there comes peace.
A right understanding of adversity in the Christian life is essential to the Benedictine virtue and vow of stability. The unstable man, the man who has not built his house upon the rock that is Christ, is confused, disconcerted, and defeated when adversity comes his way. He reasons thus, “Since I am suffering this trial, this storm, this darkness; since I feel so shaken; since I am assaulted by temptations from every side; this must be a sign that I am to disassemble my house, move to another place, and rebuild elsewhere”. The temptation against the virtue and vow of stability is a classic one. There are men — even would–be monks — who, faced with a series of adversities, constantly move from one place to another, never building upon the rock, but always laying a shallow foundation. Such men fail to recognise temptations against the virtue and vow of stability for what they are; at bottom, all such temptations are a want of confidence in Christ.
Saint Benedict uses a very compelling image; he says that Our Lord, after having spoken to us, waits for our response. Our Lord waits for a response not in words, but in deeds. “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). It is a beautiful and mysterious thing: this image of the Lord waiting for us. Think of it: God who condescends to wait for man! We can perceive in the real presence of Our Lord in the tabernacle this mystery of God who, in silence and hiddenness, waits for man
The time of God’s waiting is given us for our conversion. “Knowest thou not that the patience of God is leading thee to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). The time of God’s waiting is not an indulgent tolerance of sin. It is the mystery of God who, having spoken, humbly and patiently waits for His creature, His son, His beloved, to respond.