April 30, August 30, December 30
Chapter 72: On the Good Zeal Which They Ought to Have
Just as there is an evil zeal of bitterness
which separates from God and leads to hell,
so there is a good zeal
which separates from vices and leads to God
and to life everlasting.
This zeal, therefore, the sisters should practice
with the most fervent love.
Thus they should anticipate one another in honor (Rom. 12:10);
most patiently endure one another's infirmities,
whether of body or of character;
vie in paying obedience one to another --
no one following what she considers useful for herself,
but rather what benefits another;
tender the charity of sisterhood chastely;
fear God in love;
love their Abbess with a sincere and humble charity;
prefer nothing whatever to Christ.
And may He bring us all together to life everlasting!
This chapter is one of my favorites. I
mentioned yesterday that Two Ways was a genre of literature in the
ancient world and here we see it again reflected in today's passage.
The choices Benedict sets out are the zeal of bitterness and good
zeal. One can readily understand why Benedict would warn against the
evil zeal of bitterness. How many times have we seen the harm
bitterness leads to? Or the way people hold onto it?
In contrast, Benedict tells about good zeal which actively practiced
means we turn away from bad things. How hard this is to do in a world
which condones so much sin as normative and expected. How easy it is
to begin to think that as long as no one else finds out about it, it's
ok. How easy it is to slip into the sort of thinking that says as
long as I see no one coming it's ok to run the stop signs or the red
lights, for instance. Unfortunately for people who think this way, God
sees everything, not only our deeds, but our motivations and intents.
What I read today in Benedict's rule are the people I want to know and
whose lives I want to be a part of, people who have let go of ego and
sought to have love of God and love of neighbor be the central things
in their lives.
"Prefer nothing whatever to Christ." If I ever thought I'd have a
gravestone or any other marker that says I was here on earth for a
brief time, I would want it to say "She preferred nothing to Christ."
But I fear that it would be untrue because I see every day the many
things that I prefer to Christ. There are millions of examples, all
those mundane petty details of living in 21st century America. I have
to hope that it is true for me, as was with the cads and
scroundrels of the Hebrew Scriptures, that what is really important is that
I love God.