Sunday, September 7, 2014

Loving Our Neighbor

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother." (Mt 18:15) 
This week’s gospel could be summed up easily – How to Live in Community.
Several years ago I stayed in a Benedictine monastery for about a month, attending spiritual direction school there. One of the first things my spiritual director told me in our first meeting was that monastery life was not as easy and peaceful as it might seem. “Let's face it, living in community is very difficult.”
So how do they get through it?
Prayer. Forgiveness. Love of neighbor.
So I guess if monks in a monastery have to struggle with community, then those of us in community at our churches and our neighborhoods and our families are going to struggle too.
And so how do we get through it?
Prayer. Forgiveness. Love of neighbor.
St. Benedict in his rule had a lot to say about how to live in community. Some of his (paraphrased) instructions include:

Show equal love to everyone.
Do not act in anger or nurse a grudge.
Express opinions with humility.
Welcome all guests as Christ.
I watched these monks during the month I was there and at subsequent visits. All of them, including the abbot, ate with us, waited on us, washed dishes, and when a flu virus spread throughout the community, they nursed each other and us as well.
If they were unhappy, we never saw it. I am sure it wasn’t easy and who knows what arguments and tension took place in the private monastic enclosure, but we experienced love not friction.
We saw humility not pride.
We saw Jesus.

Dear Lord, thank you for sending people into my life to show me your love and your presence. Please help me welcome all as Christ. Help me to do better in loving my neighbor. Teach me, Lord. Amen.

published 9/2011

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