January 2021 Lectio Divina and Oblate Reflections

Sources: Mark 1:7-11; Always We Begin Again: The Benedictine Way of Living by John McQuiston II (Preface-p. 14)

For our Lectio Divina practice, we read more deeply Mark 1:7-11, the baptism of Jesus.

Words and phrases that resonate with us, shared in our discussion:

It is with great humility that John proclaims there is one more powerful than I. In an area of rabid individualism, it is hard to turn things over, to admit that I am not the fount of all wisdom. Even if we feel called to speak truth to power, to share our faith or ideas that may differ from another, we must humble ourselves as John did. John admits he is not to untie the sandals of Jesus, and even stoops down to show his humility. Indeed, there is one more powerful than I.

Both John and Jesus show humility. By going down into the water, Jesus foreshadows going down into the tomb. It is a descent, a submission to the obedience of the will of God, and then a rising.  Jesus chose to be baptized; he did not have to be, but he chose to be weak, to become humble. This is the beginning of his service. He has been chosen to be Messiah. Jesus did not shy away from this service.

As part of Jesus’ baptism—the heavens were torn apart. Jesus’ identity was affirmed by the father; this is how we get our identity too. The heavens are torn apart for us as well. We live our lives in the balance of humility and knowing that we are made in the image of God.

Always We Begin Again—A new year, a new book.

We begin 2021 by reading the introduction and first section of Always We Begin Again: The Benedictine Way of Living by John McQuiston II (Preface through page 14.) The Rule of St. Benedict provided guidelines for monastic living by giving order to the monk’s day with a balance of prayer and work. Although it may be impossible to follow the Rule strictly while maintaining a life in the world, it is the longing of the Benedictine oblate to have a “creatively balanced framework for life.”

The introduction of routine in one’s prayer life does not need to be lengthy and should never involve neglecting one’s vocation or family. We need to treat ourselves with loving kindness in developing a prayer practice routine; we can do what we can.

“The Rule also decrees that all duties be performed cheerfully.”

Always We Begin Again, McQuiston

Joan Chittister, Benedictine sister and prolific author (Catching Fire: Being Transformed, Becoming Transforming) has asked her novices: Why do we pray? Her simple response is: Because the bell rings. The monks follow an established schedule—and it is also important for us to establish routine within our workday. We can be tempted to overschedule prayer and then feel guilty when we fall short, but guilt was not the intention of Benedict. The schedule should not bind but set us free. We can practice shorter prayers, a prayer of action, or a prayer of few words. Prayer does not have to be some weighty or mystical experience.

The Rule “is pragmatic and concrete—requiring tangible daily action and a continuing commitment to leading a balanced life. At the same time it is deeply idealistic—requiring persistent effort to transcend self-centered existence.”

Always We Begin Again, McQuiston

Christianity is a way of “being in the world. It should be a way of life, a way followed by being a person of loving kindness, compassion, caring relationship with one’s neighbor. It should never be mere belief.”

Discipline is what we need, not guilt. Balance is our goal—to have structure, but not severity. We are invited to create a schedule based on the order of our own day as a guide. “Regula” in Latin means “guide,” not law. Our “regula” requires a gentle balance. It is with humility that we surrender to a schedule, rather than relying on our own self-discipline to find time to pray each day. We know all to well what happens—but thank God, we can always begin again.

You are invited to follow the Oblates of Christ the King Priory’s reading schedule for the first half of 2021. We will post reflections here each month.

-Jodi Blazek Gehr