Hos 14:2-10 ; Ps 51:3-4, 8-9, 12-14,17; Mt 10:16-23
From the mouth of each Benedictine comes the antiphon, “Sustain me, O Lord, as you have promised that I may live and disappoint me not in my hope.” Saint Benedict knew that everyone serious about a prayer life had to be sustained by the LORD. Early on in the monastic life, or in the life of anyone who seeks the LORD, there is an insatiable desire to declare the praises of God. Early enthusiasm arises from the initial conversion experience; God, in his goodness and compassion has wiped out our offenses. The LORD has washed us from guilt and cleansed us of sin. What else can we do? Praise is as natural as breathing at this point. Yet, if we are to continue growing in holiness, a journey into the heart is essential. In our inmost being we must learn the wisdom of the ages. The Holy Rule of our Holy Father Saint Benedict provides a distillation of the wisdom from of old. He takes the Sacred Scriptures as his true teacher. His followers are exposed to that word hour after hour, and they use that word to pray through the day. Indeed, today’s responsorial Psalm is the first daily prayer of many monks. Each day the monks repent and seek purity of heart. This is a life-long adventure; seeking purity of heart is the center of all monastic prayer. Indeed, it is a willing spirit and the joy of salvation that opens our lips and enables our mouths to proclaim God’s praise. This steadfast spirit is not just the motivation for the initial joy of conversion. It is a spirit that renews the sincerity of heart. Cleansing better than hyssop, purifying more than fresh spring water, making us whiter than snow. Such is the power of the Holy Spirit who instructs our hearts in holy wisdom day in and day out. It is the Word of God made flesh in Christ Jesus that is now made flesh in us, his body and blood, so that we become a living sacrifice of praise to the glory of the Father. Indeed, Our Father is faithful to his promises and he does not disappoint us in our hope.
It is those who have been humbled by their sin and in their repentance that grow in wisdom and begin to understand the things of God. Indeed, these are the prudent that walk straight in the paths of the LORD. In the same paths the sinners stumble with confusion and the saints walk with confidence. Hosea the prophet speaks for the rejected Divine Spouse of Israel, the LORD God Almighty, who cries out, “Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt. Take with you words and return to the LORD.” Take the words of praise and words of promise and return to the LORD. Say no more to the work of your hands, “Our god.” No idol deserves our worship or our vows. The LORD alone loves us freely and heals our defection. Indeed, his wrath is turned away from us. The LORD is like the dew for us and he shall blossom like the lily. He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and he shall put forth his shoots upon the highest mountains. We shall be like the splendor of the olive tree, and our fragrance like the Lebanon cedar. We shall blossom like the vine, and our fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. This is the life promised by the One to whom we make promises. We vow, in baptism and renew in religious profession, to reject evil and grow in virtue. Holiness is the gift we receive from the Holy One. This sanctification we receive with joy day in and day out, unto the ages of ages. Each morning we return to the joy of our salvation because here we have life, life in abundance.
The promises of the Lord Jesus to his new Apostles extends to us, as well, who still wait for the coming of the Son of Man. In the mystery of faith we receive these promises without fear, only because the Lord is near. He sends us like sheep in the midst of wolves. So like those taught by Saint Benedict we must be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. Indeed, without wisdom we will not be able to stand up in any court or endure any scourging in any house of learning. Without the wisdom from on high we will not be able to speak the truth before governors and kings. Indeed, we have no worries when they hand us over to the enemy. We will speak with confidence the very words that the Father gives us through the Holy Spirit. Not only does the Lord Jesus promise us trials and struggles all through life, we are also promised that “brother will hand over brother, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death”. Indeed, we will be hated and persecuted from town to town. Such is the life of promise for the Apostles, and such is our life of promise. All for the glory of his name; all for the good of our sisters and brothers who depend upon the witness only we can give, each of us and all of us in his church. This is why the church needs the witness of monks and nuns and of all who have the wisdom to pray without ceasing.