Have you noticed that, as you seek to probe a parable it can be as exciting and intriguing as the challenge of a Father Brown, James Patterson or Jessica Fletcher fictionalized mystery story. Ah, there’s one big difference – a mystery may seem pretty far-fetched while Jesus’ parables deal with real-life issues. They are alike in this: both are filled with clues – though some may be quite subtle. Lectio helps us probe Jesus’ parables – like in a game of Clue – bit by bit gaining us information that will enrich our lives.
These past few weeks, we move ever closer to the end of the church year, the liturgy has been offering us clues about the meaning of the “last days.” In this parable, Jesus uses the “root of all evil” metaphor. It’s about more than our monthly pocket money. This is about life and our allotment of gifts, talents, and responsibilities. We can’t be reminded too often that our gifts, our talents, our donors’ contributions are given to us primarily for service to others. And, there is a promise coming: If we make the intended use of these gifts, we will be rewarded and entrusted with even more responsibilities. Sadly, some people deliberately fail at a job or chore they don’t like so they won’t get asked to do it again. What about us and our talents? Do we let dislike of a job, or a personality conflict with a co-worker or the threat of failure, or someone else’s critical eye hold us back from using a God-given talent? Or how about a more mundane question: We get an allowance each month – do we bury it, hoard it, save it for vacation or a rainy day? On the other hand, do we tithe a portion for the good of others so it keeps moving forward, good upon good?
Like the Master in this Gospel, St. Benedict teaches us “journey lessons.” He speaks most directly to and about those who are sent on the journey… He doesn’t say that the Prioress, upon her return, will ask for an accounting – She knows “when the Prioress is away, the mice will play.” And in all likelihood she will not (like the Master in this parable) distribute money to the members who well-tended the vineyard in her absence. [But Benedict’s instruction does not preclude the Prioress from bringing home trinkets / mementos for everyone.]
We can sense the journey motif from the opening words of Benedict’s Rule when he bids us: “Listen! The labor of obedience will bring you back (“coming back” requires a journey, doesn’t it?). “Let us get up then, at long last,” for the Scriptures rouse us when they say: “It is high time for us to arise from sleep…” (come from the land of your dreams) “while you have the light… go out to seek workers in the multitude of the people ….” Listen to Benedict: “Moving on in your journey of faith,” (and life in the monastery) “you will say, Here I am Lord.” And, then he tells us how to prepare for our journey: “Clothed with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel for our guide…. Be just in all your dealings, speak the truth from the heart and do not practice deceit or listen to slander.”
By the time Benedict wrote chapter 67 one can tell he’s had some experience with monks who journeyed afar from the home monastery. We know that Benedict, in his youth, had escaped “big city life.” So he wanted to protect his monks from the evils and temptations of the prevailing society. Those at home are to remember the absent ones in prayer … which means the gathered community may have “counted” noses,” not for the sake of taking roll call, but to pray for their confreres safety and protection from temptation.
I have to smile when I read what Benedict cautions next. He certainly knew human nature: “no one should presume to relate what was seen or heard outside the monastery.” Sounds to me like he’s familiar with the saying from Ecclesiastes: “Everything is wearisome beyond description.” In plain English this can be interpreted: “No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.” We need to be on guard to not be hungry/eager for a morsel of gossip to savor. Benedict didn’t want stories of the world to creep in and cause dissension or dissatisfaction to rankle or upset his community. Times haven’t changed much over the passing years – we still need to be on guard that we balance chartable interest in each other versus the drive to know every intimate detail about what was seen or heard by the other.
In line with his admonition to pray always, Benedict reminds his monks that on a journey to keep an eye on the sun … listen for the bells from neighboring abbeys announcing prayer times. … so, (Benedict reminds them) though at a distance too far to join the community, they should “observe the prescribed hours” as best they can. Thus, probably began the custom of the Angelus … the dialogue between Angel Gabriel and Mother Mary, a modified version of Sext (or Noon Prayer) that could be memorized so as not to neglect their “measure of service.”
The Rule closes with this journey-question: “Are you hastening toward your heavenly home? Then keep this little rule … as you set out for loftier summits of the teaching and virtues we’ve mentioned.” Benedict, in his own unique way, shares Paul’s message to the Philippians that we heard in Wednesday’s evening reading: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Benedict adds this promise: “under God’s protection” (together) “we will reach our heavenly home.” That’s the same promise Jesus makes to his trustworthy followers: Because “You were faithful in small matters … come, share your Master’s joy.”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
This Year’s Thanksgiving Outreach
This year, obviously, we will not be hosting our traditional Thanksgiving dinner. We plan to collaborate with Pastor Cheryl Duke and the people at Dade City Presbyterian Church to provide food baskets for the needy. We will be contributing any monetary donations, along with supermarket gift cards, to extend our mission to “feed the hungers of the people of God.” The Knights from nearby St. Mark’s Parish have donated $1520 in gifts cards and $1305 was contributed by the Benedictine Sisters’ from their monthly personal allowances.
We are grateful for all the years that Saint Anthony Women’s Club and parish staff have allowed – and assisted us – in providing a free meal to the local community on Thanksgiving Day.
Twenty-six years ago the Sisters began small, in their monastery dining room, to provide a holiday meal for a handful of Saint Leo College International Students. Within three years, the Sisters moved the event to Marmion Cafeteria and extended an invitation to the public to join them for dinner. They gathered a crew of volunteers that grew over the years. In 1998, the Sisters sold Marmion Cafeteria to Saint Leo and the Saint Anthony Women’s club jumped on the bandwagon and have continued for the intervening years to provide all the desserts for the dinner. Saint Anthony School children got involved in making table centerpieces and place mats. We will greatly miss the gathering this year and look forward to a future when we can once again welcome our guests to bow their heads over a holiday meal to give thanks to God for all the gifts He provides.