The love of Christ must come before all else. (RB 4)
This short sentence found among the ‘Instruments of Good Works’ sums up all of Benedict’s teaching. From the outset Benedict points to Christ. The gospel is central to everything . He invites us to meet Christ in community prayer, meditation, and silence; to see Christ in one another, the sick, the guests, and especially the poor and needy. Benedict gently leads us away from self to embrace Christ in every situation, every person, and every event. If we truly take this message to heart, we will experience peace of heart, even in the face of difficulties and suffering.
Although Benedict places before us such high ideals, he is also aware of our human weaknesses and struggles. John Main describes the Rule as ‘an extraordinarily human document: Everywhere (we find) compassion and understanding of human limitation and human weakness. At the same time he looks to Benedict’s goal for us all: Equally the Rule is totally clear-sighted in proclaiming the vision of what Christian life is in the establishment of the Kingdom. So, for example, St. Benedict includes the tools of good works in Chapter Four of the Rule where you will read, ‘Let the monk prefer nothing to Christ’. (Community of Love. P. 47)
Can we even begin to glimpse at what the love of Christ really is? In one of his hymns Father Faber writes: ‘The love of Jesus, what it is: none but his lovers know’. Julian of Norwich continually reassures us that we are always ‘enfolded in love’. (Revelations of Divine Love) Gertrude of Helfta speaks of ‘the priceless gift of intimate union with Christ’ (The Herald of God’s Loving Kindness) These and and many other mystics have shared the fruit of their visions with us and encouraged us to open our hearts to experience the love of Christ in our daily lives.
Each one of us is invited as they were, to enter into a love relationship with Jesus. It is the call of the Gospel and is extended to every human person. All we have to do is open our hearts to God and make him the centre of our lives.