Seek first the kingdom of God and His justice (II:7)

15 Jan. 16 May. 15 Sept.
Above all let him not, overlooking or under-valuing the salvation of the souls entrusted to him, be too solicitous for fleeting, earthly, and perishable things; but let him ever bear in mind that he hath undertaken the government of souls, of which he shall have to give an account. And that he may not complain for want of worldly substance, let him remember what is written: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” And again: “Nothing is wanting to them that fear Him.”

And let him know that he who hath undertaken the government of souls, must prepare himself to render an account of them. And whatever may be the number of the brethren under his care, let him be certainly assured that on the Day of Judgment he will have to give an account to the Lord of all these souls, as well as of his own. And thus, being ever fearful of the coming inquiry which the Shepherd will make into the state of the flock committed to him, while he is careful on other men’s account, he will be solicitous also on his own. And so, while correcting others by his admonitions, he will be himself cured of his own defects.

Our Father Saint Benedict knew well that an abbot, even with the best intentions, may find himself “too solicitous for fleeting, earthly, and perishable things” and distracted from “the salvation of the souls entrusted to him.” The Father Cellarer may suffer the same sort of temptations. The abbot and the cellarer both are to give to all the brethren an example of unwavering trust in Divine Providence. When the abbot and his closest collaborators are shaken in their confidence in Divine Providence, the whole community becomes insecure and suffers anxiety. Not for nothing do we pray the Litany of Divine Providence each day. The words of Lord in the Sermon on the Mount shine through today’s portion of the Holy Rule.

No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment? Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? And which of you by taking thought, can add to his stature one cubit? And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. And if the grass of the field, which is to day, and to morrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith? Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore solicitous for to morrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. (Matthew 6:24–34)

The abbot is to keep two words ever in mind. The first of these is Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you,” and the second is taken from the preferred Communion Psalm of the ancient Church, Psalm 33:

O taste, and see that the Lord is sweet: blessed is the man that hopeth in him. Fear the Lord, all ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. The rich have wanted, and have suffered hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good. (Psalm 33:9–11)

One cannot approach the altar, day after day, to receive the “Supersubstantial Bread” the Most Holy Eucharist, and the “Bread for Tomorrow,” that is, the Bread of Angels, the Bread of the Kingdom of Heaven, without trusting that the same Father who provides us with the “living bread come down from heaven” (John 6:51) will provide us also with bread for the daily table. Seek the former, and the latter will be given you besides. On January 19, 2010, that is, nine years ago, and two years before we came to Ireland, I wrote the following words in my notebook:

Come to Me with every question, doubt, and fear, and I will answer you out of the tenderness and wisdom of My Heart. This work will be done according to My design, for I have organized all things in My wisdom, and it remains only for My plan to unfold. You are but an instrument in My pierced hands. Allow Me to use you as I see fit. Above all, be faithful to the adoration I have asked of you. It is by adoration that My monastery will be built, and it is by adoration that I will cleanse and heal and sanctify My priests, the priests whom My Heart loves with an everlasting love.

You all know that I do not often quote from the notebooks in Chapter. All the same, it is striking that this particular passage so clearly says that “every question, doubt, and fear” is to be brought to Our Lord and, I would say, left at His feet. Our life of adoration is what is essential. If we are faithful to this, “preferring nothing to the Work of God,” as Saint Benedict says in Chapter XLIII, then will Our Lord do all the rest, even as He promised. I am astonished and humbled to the ground every time I open the notebooks and discover that things that were intimated to me in prayer ten, eleven, and twelve years ago have to come to pass just as written. Everything here, from the acquisition of the property, the growth of the monastery, and the spiritual hospitality offered to priests, attests to the faithfulness of Our Lord and to the bounties of His Providence.

When, as happened last evening, I find myself in the Oratory, before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, and I look around and see so many of you there in adoration, not by any compulsion, but spontaneously and  gratuitously, and in response to Our Lord’s requests for adoration and reparation, I marvel at all that He has done here in us and among us. Our monastery is so manifestly Our Lord’s work that to doubt of what He has done in the past and will surely do in days and years to would betray a want of faith and of gratitude. Our Lord could not have chosen weaker or more defective instruments, but He did this in order demonstrate to the eyes of all that what is happening here is entirely His work.

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