June 2018 Oblate Lectio Divina and Discussion
We continued our discussion on Community from the Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 72 using 1 Corinthians 12: 12-30 for Lectio Divina.
Words and phrases that resonated with oblates became the springboard for our discussion—
- seem to be weaker are all the more necessary
- God placed the parts…as he intended
- if one part suffers, all parts suffer with it
- baptized in one body
- there may be no division in the body
- all given to drink of one spirit
- now you are Christ’s body and individually parts of it
- many are one body
- our less presentable parts are treated w/ greater propriety
- eye to hand—I do not need you
- if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy
From the very first book of the Bible, we hear it is not good for us to live alone. One of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt not kill” could be understood metaphorically—that when we cut someone out of our community, we are killing that person’s role. There is a loss when we don’t honor each person in the community—we need all the parts.
When we judge that someone (a part) is unimportant and exclude them, we miss part of our body. Consider the marginalized in our society—the elderly, the poor, and the immigrant, among others—who are seen as less honorable or less presentable to the group. With our own perception and judgment, we kill off segments of the population that are the body of Christ.
Each of us has a special place in the body for our own community. But, still, we ask ourselves, in frustration—do I really need others? Do they really need me? But, yes, we are made to live together; no man is an island. We need others to realize our own weaknesses and strengths. For example, each of us in our oblate group has a role. We complement each other with our individual talents—we cannot all be the arm; we need the whole body to work together. Our group grows in relationship when we honor the talents of others and work together.
The desire to belong is natural, but it takes effort to “get along.” Some communities we are born into. We have little choice about our belonging—our family, our country, our neighborhood. Other communities we choose to belong because of interests or other connections. Whether by choice or not, we might question how we fit into a community, but simply being who I am is a contribution. Each person can touch our lives and when part of the body dies, it can leave an emptiness. The recent suicides of well-known Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have left a hole in our greater community, and remind us of others that we have lost. The whole body is in pain if someone is hurting. This is a good reminder that we need to listen to each other, a core Benedictine value. We need to give and receive, and assume the responsibility of reaching out to others who may be in pain. So often it is impossible for some to ask for help.
Being part of a community can be complicated—there can be fear of rejection or being left out, jealousy, or self-inflicted blocks to forming or improving relationships—but it’s through a commitment of stability and the Benedictine model of community from which many blessings flow. We think we must be independent and able to stand on our own feet, but we must learn, to practice giving and receiving emotional, physical and spiritual support. “A community that cherishes the little details of love, whose members care for one another and create an open and evangelizing environment, is a place where the risen Lord is present, sanctifying it in accordance with the Father’s plan. There are times when, by a gift of the Lord’s love, we are granted, amid these little details, consoling experiences of God.” (Gaudete Et Exsultate)
We also must hear what others are saying to us. If we do not have someone to admonish us—we can become our own God. We need others to be “fashioned and tried.” (St. John of the Cross) Joan Chittister writes, “We don’t join groups to lose ourselves but to become our best selves…Community is the only antidote for narcissism.”
There is unity in diversity if we choose to recognize it—there is a reason we are all different but living in one community. Each of us plays our part. The Holy Trinity is our exemplar of perfect community—each part of the Trinity is individual and unique, yet acts in perfect harmony. “The common life, whether in the family, the parish, the religious community or any other, is made up of small everyday things. This was true of the holy community formed by Jesus, Mary and Joseph, which reflected in an exemplary way the beauty of the Trinitarian communion. It was also true of the life that Jesus shared with his disciples and with ordinary people.” (Gaudete Et Exsultate)
May this be our prayer as we grow spiritually through the communities that we belong to. Consider the groups that have helped form your life and have influenced you—either positively or negatively. How have you given and received God’s love in a community?
Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 72
New American Bible, 1 Corinthians 12:12-30
Wisdom Distilled in the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today, Joan Chittister
Study Guide for the Rule of St. Benedict with Reflections for Oblates and All Who Seek God, Maria-Thomas Beil, OSB
Gaudete Et Exsultate, Pope Francis