Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 4:1-19

To be read: January 17, May 17, September 17

First you must love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole strength…2and your neighbor as yourself(cf Mt 22:37-39; Mk 12:30-31; Lk 10:27). 3Then, you are not to kill4not to commit adultery5not to steal6not to covet(cf Rom 13:9). 7You are not to bear false witness(cf Mt 19:18; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20). 8You are to honor all men(cf 1 Pt 2:17). 9And what you would not have done to yourself, do not do to another(cf Tob 4:16; Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31). 10Deny yourself in order to follow Christ(cf Mt 16:24; Lk 9:23).11Discipline your body(cf 1 Cor 9:27). 12Do not to seek after pleasures, 13but love fasting. 14You are to relieve the poor. 15Clothe the naked16visit the sick(cf Mt 25:36). 17and bury the dead. 18Help those in trouble, 19and console the sorrowing. 

Chapter 4 is the extensive list of more than 70 tools for good works.  As previously stated, the Rule of St. Benedict is a practical guide for how to live the Gospel, and this chapter is, as it were, the tool chest for practical application.  He begins his list with our Lord’s Summary of the Law—the Great Commandments.  Then in verses 3-7 he lists the 6th to the 10th commandments from the Ten Commandments.  These latter are the commandments focused on relating to others, and Benedict sees them as foundational for living in community.  Though we do not live in an enclosed community, these are tools that every Christian must employ in order to represent Christ.  Jesus said that we are to “love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).  If we are going to be effective in living the Gospel in the world, we must utilize these tools to do the work of Christ.

Verses 10-19 are transitional between the commandments of the opening and Benedict’s challenge to be different from the world (tomorrow’s meditation).  To make that kind of transition and to open ourselves to the transforming work of Christ, we must first utilize the tools of self-denial and self-discipline.  “You are to honor all men…Deny yourself in order to follow Christ…Discipline your body…Relieve the poor, clothe the naked, visit the sick, help those in trouble, and console the sorrowing.”  This work that we are called to do is the work of the Kingdom, and each of us is given, by grace, specific tools to use for the building up of His Kingdom. 

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