A Reflection on a Passage from the Gospel of Matthew 10:24-33 from the Memorial of Saint Benedict the Abbot
Jesus’ closing words in today’s Gospel hit me every single time. Here is what he says, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.” On several occasions these words have convicted me to be less timid about my beliefs and convictions, but at other times I wonder how to authentically live according to them. Despite what some people might claim, Christians in America don’t face systematic persecution. Sure, in some cultural circles, faith is socially ridiculed and condemned. However, when compared to parts of the world where people can be killed for living out the Gospel, this seems pretty benign. This absence of persecution can make the application of Christ’s admonishment difficult. This brings us to the Memorial of St. Benedict that we celebrate today.
St. Benedict lived in a time and place where admitting to Christianity no longer came with the risk of being cat food; lion sized cats that is. So like us, he had to discover what acknowledging and denying Christ meant in this new circumstance. His acknowledgement of the Lord led to his formulation of his Rule (a religious order’s way of life) and thus brings us to a practical take-away. Actions speak louder than words.
In a society where saying you are Christian is more likely to bring you boons than burdens, talk is cheap. But the way you live gives testimony to who you serve. Our schedules, choices, conversations, and even our expenses acknowledge or deny the Lord. My in-laws are a great testament to this acknowledgement. When I stay at their home I see everyone making time to sit down with the Word of God. Whether it is my father-in-law pouring over his Greek New Testament or my mother-in-law savoring her fresh cup of coffee as well as her daily devotional Bible, they acknowledge Christ by making this a foundational and fundamental part of their day.
So how can your daily life acknowledge Christ?
Here are some paraphrased ideas from St. Benedict’s Rule:
Engage your body, soul, and mind by working hard, praying devoutly, and always studying to foster the gifts God gave you (48). Willingly accept that growing in virtue can sometimes be a trying and irksome road, but you can walk it because you travel it with Christ (1).
And finally, this was specifically written for an abbot, but I think it applies well to any Christian, especially parents, business owners, managers, and leaders of any sort “Let [the Christian] reflect always on the weighty burden he has assumed and remember to whom he shall give an account of his stewardship. Let him understand too that he is to help others rather than command them…. He must hate vice but love the brethren. Even in his corrections he should act wisely lest while he too vigorously scrubs off the rust the vessel itself is shattered. He shall always bear in mind his own frailty and remember that the bruised reed must not be broken…. And he shall aim at being loved rather than feared…. Let him so temper all things that the strong may find scope for action and the weak be not intimidated (64).”