Today commemorates the Memorial of St. Benedict the abbot. The teachings and philosophy of St. Benedict are especially near and dear to me, because of our connection with the Benedictine high school and abbey in our area. It is a place where I have personally found much serenity and enjoyed many peaceful times. The Benedictine rule of work and pray is so evident there and encouraged for all who spend time there as well. During the writing phase of my dissertation, I was seeking a location to spend quiet, uninterrupted time to concentrate on the task. We were blessed that my husband was working as Superintendent on a major re-modeling project of the campus. Consequently, we were invited one Sunday for evening prayers/supper and one of the brothers gave us a wonderful tour of the campus. When I espied the small retreat house, I remembered that a friend had used it for “desert days” – where she prayed and reflected in relative solitude. I knew I had found my spot. I was able to stay at the house for two-three days at a time and use that relative solitude to be productive with my writing. An added blessing was attending daily mass each morning (where some even added my writing as a mass intention) as well as sharing noon and evening prayers and meals with the Benedictines. I saw first hand their devotion to the rules of St Benedict as these were shared daily in the readings. While my original intent was to “lock myself away” to write, a wise priest there reminded me that St. Benedict advocated for work and prayer. So, it became my daily routine there to very consciously weave the two together as both my mind and spirit benefitted from this special place.
The first reading from Hosea speaks to lack of gratitude on the part of the Israelites as they seemingly took the blessing they received for granted and turned away from the expectations of the Lord. They used their blessings to benefit themselves and built altars to idols instead of thanking God. I had to re-read this passage many times to fully understand the implications and then to realize how I may be guilty of some of the same behavior. It really forced me to think about how I show my gratitude for the multitude of blessings I have received and continue to receive. Such “forced” examination is always helpful for me to keep things in perspective. While I know that I am blessed and believe that I show gratitude in many ways, I can always find additional ways. One area that came to mind was the blessings of people in my life, not just family for whom I am usually quite conscious about thanking God, but rather all those others who touch or have touched my life. Have I let them know what they bring to my life? Do they realize that they have made me a better person just because of who they are and how they live their lives? Have I taken these blessings for granted, expecting that people will be there to “show me the way?”
The responsorial psalm encourages us to seek the face of the Lord. I certainly seem to spend my life in an on-going dialogue where I am seeking that connection. Yet, do I seek it in those around me? Do I seek the divine to be with me while failing to see the divine in all that is already around me? I easily see it in my beautiful flowers and spiritual music. But do I miss it in those who challenge me? Those who would force me to seek with more open eyes (and heart)?
Am I a lost lamb, listening but not hearing that “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand?”
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