The Readings today give us a glimpse of God. In the First Reading, Isaiah shows us he is the Three Times Holy God, whom seraphs serve. At his appearance the Temple shook. This vision of God inspires fear and also a realization that one is a sinner compared to a Holy God. It also inspires Isaiah to repent and step forward, ready to be sent by God. The Gospel Reading shows us a picture of God who is with us, who tells us not to be afraid, three times:
- Have no fear of [those who persecute you]. What is secret will be known. What Jesus tells us in the dark, we speak in the light; what we hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Jesus tells us not to fear because he is with us. Even in the darkness, Jesus is with us, he is so close, he whispers to us.
- Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. The only person we need to fear is God himself. People can hurt us physically, they can kill us, but we know physical sufferings are nothing compared to what God has in store for us.
- So, do not be afraid, you are of more value than many sparrows. God cares about sparrows who are sold two for a penny. How much more will he care for us.
Jesus tells us, in the midst of persecution, we should not be afraid, because he is in the midst of it. But what can God do in the midst of suffering and persecution. The Psalm tells us he is girded in strength. He established the world and it shall never be moved. When God defends us, nothing can move us! Our confidence should be in God alone and no one else, because only God has the power to help us. Those who love us, may have that desire to help, but they do not have the power to do anything, except be there for us. But God, not only wants to help us. He has the power to do something for us. Which is why Jesus tells us not to be afraid. We move on, following where God leads us. While Martyrdom or dying for Jesus is the ultimate proof of fidelity to God, God also calls us to serve him in a non-bloody manner. We do this by doing what God wants us to do.
We celebrate St Benedict. Benedict lived in the 5th and 6th century as the Roman Empire was collapsing. Monasteries already existed at that time. He was asked to be an abbot of the monastery close to his cave but the monks of that monastery tried to poison him twice because they did not like what he was doing to their monastery. He left and founded other monasteries, giving them his rule which defined how his monks were to live. Benedict did not intend to live like a hermit. He did not intend to found monasteries. He wanted to do what God wanted and he was open to the movements of God in his life, that he is now considered the Father of Western Monasticism. The monasteries he founded became centers of cities and as the world around them collapsed. The monks meticulously copied whatever books existed at that time and became the stewards of knowledge in the dark ages. St Benedict and his sons did these, not because they had a plan to do what they did, but they did what they could do at that time.
This is how we grow in holiness: by doing what God tells us to do. We do not need to plan to do great things for God. God is the One who makes his plans and fulfills them. We just need to do what he tells us to do. In Benedict’s Rule, obedience without delay is mentioned as the first degree of humility. We cannot be holy if we will not obey God. The reason why Satan fell from heaven is because he will not obey God. Adam was drive out of the garden because he would not obey God. Disobedience rejects God while obedience unlocks the power of God.
A Benedictine once told me, monks have three vows: Poverty, celibacy and obedience (Benedictines have a fourth vow of stability). He then said, “for lay people, these can be translated as simplicity, chastity and humility”. We cannot obey God if we do not have a simple life. We cannot obey God if we are not chaste. We will not obey God if we are not humble before him. Obey God without delay and see what he will do for you and through you.
Lord, teach me to live a simple, chaste and humble life, because it is only in this kind of life that I can obey you. I want to be holy as you are holy. Show me your will, so I can obey you with haste. St Benedict, pray that I may respond to God’s call and obey him without delay.