To be read: March 11, July 11, November 11
It is written, “Distribution was made to each as any had need” (Acts 4:35). 2We do not say by this that there should be favoritism (God forbid), but there should be regard for weaknesses. 3Whoever needs less should thank God and not be distressed, 4but whoever has need of more should humble himself because of his weakness, not becoming elated for the indulgence shown him. 5Thus all the members will be at peace. 6Above all, let there be no evil murmuring in word or behavior for any reason whatever. 7If anyone be found grumbling, let him be placed under very severe discipline.
In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis suggested that as Christians, in terms of charitable giving, we ought to strive “to give more than we can spare”. And he says, “if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common of those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little”. Living by this standard is a good witness to those who are of the world and cherish their possessions. Benedict says, “Whoever needs less should thank God and not be distressed.” By possessing only what we need rather than indulging our wants, we become freed from those possessions. Living according to that principle also gives us greater leeway to be more generous in our charitable giving, thus being freed to help others who may be less fortunate. In this way “all the members will be at peace.”
St. James reminds us of the power material goods can have over us. He says, “What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members?You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war” (James 4:1). Sometimes that war is simply within our own minds and hearts. Envy and covetousness can create battles within us if we do not call them into check. And if left unchecked then grumblings begin, and Benedict repeatedly warns us against this evil. He says, “Above all, let there be no evil murmuring in word or behavior for any reason whatever.” If we allow our covetousness to take root, and grumble when we cannot have those things we desire, then we create division within the Body, separating ourselves from others in community. We then quickly find that we are no longer living together in the love of Christ.
St. Benedict is essentially saying, “It’s not about you (what you want, what you think you need), and it’s not about me (what I think I deserve); it’s about the Kingdom (what’s best for the Whole Body!).” We want what will make us happy. God wants what will make us holy. In my lectio divina this morning the Lord had me meditating on Psalm 16:11: “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.” If we truly seek the holiness that God wants for us, we will experience the “fullness of joy”. And if we ask Him to rule our hearts, to govern our lives (which is what is meant by God’s “right hand”, His scepter hand), then we will know “pleasures for evermore”. It’s not about what we possess, it is about Who possesses us. When we all begin to accept His rule, “all the members will be at peace”.