God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgement, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (1 John 4:16b-21, NRSV).
I recently gained a whole new perspective about Monastic Obedience. In his book, The Universal Monk: The Way of the New Monastics John Michael Talbot writes about the point of obedience is to respond out of love as opposed to reacting out of fear. This certainly is what St. Benedict means in Chapter 5 of The Rule in verse 13. “Men [individuals] of this resolve unquestionably conform to the saying of the Lord, I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. (John 6:38).” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.30).
Yet, I know in my own heart that I am not yet totally free of that fear that is cast out by perfect love. I am influenced more than I realize by things around me such as music, poetry, images and uncensored news blogs full of junk. How am I to find my way to that obedience out of love and love my sisters and brothers authentically with transparency?
“The answer, of course is that the human is the only place we can can really be sure God is. It is easy to love the God we do not see but it is so much more sanctifying to serve the God we learn to see in others” (Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, p.69).
If I (or those reading this blog post) needed an example of what it means to be obedient to the will of others out of love, and know nothing but the love of God at all times, I believe I know where the greatest instance is found. The Cross.
Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB