Listen

"The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few" (Matt 9 38).

Author's Note:   In my  reflection posted for Monday, July 10, I inadvertently focused on the Genesis reading assigned to Tuesday, July 11, the Feast of St Benedict. My apologies.  I will try to get back on track by Wednesday.  

The first words of the Benedictine Rule are simply "Listen."  Benedict echoes the great Jewish Sh-ma, which also begins with the words, "Hear, O Israel."  As the founder of western monasticism in the world coming apart with the fall of the Roman empire, Benedict knew it was time to start over, begin again.  The foundation of all human order and and spiritual grounding is not a matter of proposing a new idea or system, but to listen. God speaks to us first of all in the reality of creation, in our dependent status as creatures.  The way to be at peace with God's gift of reality is to first to listen. 

Jacob had to start over after a life of deception, of both tricking others and being tricked himself. During his night encounter, God wrestles him back into the divine plan. He is blessed as the continuation of the promise made to his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac. From Jacob will proceed the twelve tribes of Israel and the great narrative of salvation that produces Jesus. 

Listening to God is possible only when we stop listening to all the competing voices in our lives. Who among us does not know the cacophony of desire and deception that permeates our agendas and the seductions of the world.  Do this, do that, come here, go there, happiness awaits if only you have this, obey that.  Prayer is the discipline of clearing out all the noise until we hear only the whisper of God telling us the truth about ourselves and the world. 

Benedict established a life of work and prayer, structures that centered his monks and nuns in God's time and seasons, in cycles of praise and habits of gratitude.  Those of us who are not living in monasteries can still practice simple routines of regular prayer, or by dedicating our work as  an expression of praise to God. 

Happy Feast Day to all the Benedictines, whose commitment and stability has been a corner stone for so many of us in our education and in strong parishes, in our appreciation of the liturgy as the center and source of Christian formation and spirituality.