August 2020 Oblate Reflections and Lectio Divina
Topic: Seek Peace and Pursue It, Rule of St. Benedict: Prologue 17
Sources: John 14:27 and John 16:29-33; Study Guide for The Rule of St. Benedict, pages 13-15, Maria-Thomas Beil, OSB
The questions that guided our discussion were: How can we remain peaceful despite the anxiety caused by the pandemic and political division? And in light of our Lectio Divina readings: What did Jesus mean by the gift of peace? Oblates of Christ the King Priory met in person at St. Benedict Center for our August meeting, respectfully following safety guidelines of physically distancing at least six feet apart and wearing face coverings. Those who were not able to make the drive had the option to Zoom in. All are encouraged to follow the 11th Commandment:
We started with the Divine Office and this morning prayer:
Loving God, we come to you full of anxiety about what may happen in the coming days and weeks. Shower us with the peace Jesus promised to his disciples, and make us into steady pillars for those around us. In this time of uncertainty and epidemic, wake us up to the reminder that we are not alone.
Even as we are asked to keep our distance from others, help us to find ways to reach out to those who need our support. We pray especially for those whose incomes and livelihoods are threatened. For the children who will miss meals due to school closures. For those already isolated, lonely and scared. Loving God, give them your peace, and through our hands ensure they have what they need.
Sustain, strengthen and protect all caregivers. Bless them as they offer compassionate care and show selfless courage in the face of risk.
Remind us, each time we wash our hands, that in our baptism you call us to let go of our fears and live in joy, peace, and hope. Amen.
Lectio Divina: We read John 14:27 and John 16:29-33 and reflect on words and/or phrases that resonate.
The words and phrases that Oblates identified became the heart of our discussion:
Peace I leave with you—I am going away and coming back—Take courage, I have conquered the world—I am not alone—The ruler of the world is coming—Have peace in me—I love the Father—You may believe—Not as the world gives—We believe—The Father is with me—In the world you will have trouble—My peace I give.
The peace we desire is a deeper peace than the world can give. Inner peace is hope and trust in our relationship with Christ regardless of what is happening in the world or our lives. It is a conscious decision, a seeking of Christ that brings stability of emotion, not a roller coaster of highs and lows. Inner peace is not a response, but an assurance that Christ is present and within us. We choose peace, by choosing to live according to the will of God.
I am not alone—there is a comfort that Christ is within and our friendships connect us to the Body of Christ. When we are supported and uplifted by others, prayed for, and remembered, then we are not alone. By extending love and concern for others, we are being Christ to others. If one feels alone, it can be a desperate situation, an unbearable silence that can turn to violence, either inward or outward. Knowing that we are not alone can literally save our lives—and we can only learn this on the cross, in our own suffering. Thomas comes to peace by entering Jesus’ wound, physically, and Jesus brings us peace by entering our wounds. We are not alone when our hearts long for peace.
Inner peace extends beyond our selves towards neighbors and nature. Peace comes by getting beyond our narcissism. Peace comes with confidence that we are loved, that God can be trusted, that there is a healing presence that is working within to ease tensions—but it does require conscious striving. St. Benedict instructs his monks—Seek peace and pursue it. Peace is much deeper than avoiding conflict. With inner peace comes the ability to let go of bitterness, and to focus on helping others and sharing goodness.
“This kind of deep peace, of walking with God, is difficult for the unspiritual mind to grasp. It was not a promise to preserve the disciples from hardships and even suffering, but a pledge that God would bring them through all trouble to eternal life. The peace Jesus was offering to his followers was the confidence of being loved, the assurance that God can be relied upon and trusted in hard times. This kind of peace flows into our lives when we open our hearts and allow God’s healing presence to work within us. God’s strength is a powerful help to ease the tension and restlessness of life’s difficulties which can easily afflict our minds and our souls. But the peace that Jesus offers is not simply present in our lives – it comes from consciously striving to live according to the known will of God…
The basis of peace is God. The secret of peace is trust, but the soul of peace is love which comes from love of God and expresses itself in our love of others.”— Rev. Michael P. Lang
The fruit of Benedictine spirituality is peace. St. Benedict advises that we can have something of everything, but not too much of anything. We cannot expect life to be perfect, yet we can experience peace when every part of our world is attended to in a sacramental way. Peace comes from not needing to control everything, not needing to know everything, not needing everyone to be like me.
Practicing silence brings peace. The more one is silent with God, the more the edge between people blur and God becomes “bigger than the boogie man,” as the Veggie Tales song declares. God encompasses all, is bigger than all. When we feel God more, this world can bring a peace that is not just perfect circumstances, but a God-peace. Yes, the world can bring a feeling of peace, but it is not the gift-of-God kind-of-peace.
“Were it possible,
we might look beyond the reach of our knowing. . . .
Then perhaps we would endure our griefs
with even greater trust than our joys.
For they are the moments
when something new has entered into us,
something unfamiliar. . . .
Everything within us steps back;
a silence ensues,
and something new . . .
stands in the center
and is silent.”
-Rainer Maria Rilke, excerpt from “The Question That Never Goes Away”
Humility can also bring peace—asking ourselves “would you rather be right or have peace?” Being able to give up winning an argument or defending our beliefs can bring peace, but it can also be humbling to set our ego aside. Peace is overcoming hatred, not succumbing to it. Peace is a softening of our hearts through the practice of gratitude. Practicing peace requires listening, the first word in The Rule, trying not to quarrel, and respecting others.
We are to prefer nothing to the love of Christ, St. Benedict instructed. Christ IS the peace; the gift of love comes through Christ. The gift is offered, but we must seek it. The essential message of Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict is that inner peace must begin in our hearts and in our own lives.
Oblate reminder: Our annual Oblate retreat will be October 9-11, 2020 at St. Benedict Center. Our retreat will be led by Fr. Michael Patella, OSB, a monk of Saint John’s Abbey. Our theme is “The Christian Mission and The Saint John’s Bible” Description: By virtue of their baptism, all Christians are called to spread the Gospel. The best way to do so is by the example of our lives, lives grounded in a relationship with Christ. Building on images from The Saint John’s Bible, this retreat will explore the role of beauty as a means of strengthening our relationship with Christ, for if our lives are receptive to beauty of the divine, our Christian mission will reflect that beauty to others.
Please contact St. Benedict Center to reserve your space.
A personal recommendation: a mindful meditation from Sanctuary, an album of recorded music, chant, and spoken word by songwriter Alana Levandoski and James Finley.
There is a peace that can be found that does not depend on the conditions of peace.
For a letter from Abbot Primate Gregory Polan click here >> 2020 July Cirular Letter-ENG (1) Abbot Primate letter.