To be read: January 22, May 22, September 22
Do not desire to be called holy before you are; but be holy first, that you may be truly so called. 63Fulfill daily the commandments of God. 64Treasure chastity. 65Hate no one, 66and do not be jealous. 67Do nothing to entertain envy. 68Do not love quarreling. 69Do not be prideful. 70Honor the aged. 71Love the young. 72Pray for your enemies in the love of Christ. 73Make peace with an adversary before the setting of the sun. 74And never despair of God’s mercy.
“Do not aspire to be called holy before you really are…” for God alone is Holy. When we seek to be recognized as holy, we are seeking the place of God. It is the first temptation: “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…” (Gen. 3:5). To aspire to be called holy, is very different than to aspire to become holy in God’s grace. The prior is prideful, the latter is humble. And so to avoid such a stumbling block we must “be holy first…[and] fulfill daily the commandments of God.” From there Benedict gives us a list of Biblical commands in verses 64-73.
The fact is that we do all fall short of the glory of God, and it is easy to become frustrated and discouraged. But our father Benedict does not leave us comfortless. He ends this section with the hopeful exhortation to “never despair of God’s mercy.” As we aspire to holiness, God’s mercy is always available for “His mercy endures forever” (cf. Psalms 107, 118, 136, etc.). God knows our weaknesses, and the trials and tribulations we face day after day. He will, if we seek Him, strengthen us and provide for us every spiritual gift. And when (not if) we come up short in our aspiration for holiness, and when we outright fail to measure up, He will have mercy. Never despair. God loves you. God has forgiven you. God is not mad at you. And God will NEVER leave you nor forsake you. “His mercy endures forever.”