“Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21-22. NRSV).
Saint Antony (or Anthony), is one of the great Desert Fathers. He had wealth, property and family. When he heard the words of the Gospel of Matthew quoted above, he immediately set aside all he had and entered into a very austere life of prayer and meditation. He was a great example of the word Monk as meaning “one” with God.
As time has moved forward, and dispersed Monastic Communities have been begun and flourished in which the members can be married, have jobs and live in their own homes; the question comes up about how we live into the words of Jesus that moved St. Antony. Very few of us today would close up our bank accounts, divorce our spouses and put our family members into another person’s hands to be left there never to be seen again. Does that necessarily mean that we are failing to live into the words of Jesus?
The answer at issue here, is not whether we have and/or make use of what God gives us. It is how much we allow these things to possess us to the point in which we separate them from our relationship with God and others around us. Most of us, including myself are glued to our phones, computers, jobs, seeking the applause of the crowds and wanting our false sense of self to feed our egos.
The message of Jesus, St. Antony and St. Benedict is simplistic, just not simple. Are we willing to contemplate in silence and solitude, so that we seek union with God through all of the things God gives us to be used (not possessed by us) to serve God and others? If you are like me, knowing that in my mind and living it from the heart are not simple by any measure. Jesus, St. Antony and St. Benedict are not saying it is simple; they are saying that it is possible. It is possible to live in relationship with God and others to find the mystical presence of the Holy in ourselves, others and the things we are loaned so that God is part of everything around and about us.
In the Prologue to the The Rule of Saint Benedict*, he wrote,
“This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord.”
At the end of the same Prologue, Saint Benedict* wrote,
“Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.”
How are you being challenged to give up what you value to follow Jesus more closely today?
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB
*The quotes from The Rule are taken from the RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English and Latin, Published by The Liturgical Press, pages 157 and 165