To be read: January 7, May 7, September 7
Brothers, now that we have asked the Lord who it is that shall dwell in His tabernacle, we have heard the conditions for dwelling there; and if we fulfill the duties of tenants, 40we shall be heirs of the kingdom of heaven. Our hearts and our bodies must, therefore, be ready to do battle in holy obedience to His instruction. 41And let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of His grace what is impossible to us by nature. 42If we desire to reach life everlasting, avoiding the pains of hell, 43then, while there is yet time, and we are still in the flesh, and are able during the present life to fulfill all these things by the Light of Life, 44we must run to do now what will profit us forever.
Yesterday’s reading challenged us to enter a truce with God through repentance. The idea that our relationship with Him might be construed as a potentially hostile one is fraught with concern, doubt, and a certain level of fear. Benedict follows that quickly with today’s reading which is packed with hope and promise, tempered with righteous challenge and caution. The balance between good works and grace is made explicit in verse 41: “And let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of His grace what is impossible to us by nature.” We are told to prepare “Our hearts and our bodies…to do battle in holy obedience to His instruction.” We cannot prepare for this battle without God’s loving grace. And Benedict declares that “we must run to do now what will profit us forever.” These latter two themes of obedience and running must be understood in light of the promise of help given in God’s grace.
To fulfill the duty of tenants in the tabernacle of the Kingdom, we must maintain our right relationship with Christ. For Jesus Himself commands His disciples to abide in Him. “I am the vine, you are the branches…apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We dwell in the Kingdom by living our lives in Christ, in the fellowship of His Body. Apart from the Body we wilt and wither. Within the fellowship of the Church we receive the nourishment of the sacraments, the encouragement and instruction of the Word, and the empowerment of the Spirit. We need the fellowship of His Body.
The Epistle to the Hebrews has sage advice for how we might best “run to do now what will profit us forever.” In chapter 10:23-25, the author of the epistle says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Though, we in the Fellowship of Saint Benedict do not live a cloistered life together, it is essential that we need to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” and not neglect our opportunities for fellowship “as is the habit of some”. Word, sacrament, fellowship, each is essential to the life of the believer that we may be “encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”