Saturday, September 6, 2008

A commentary for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time by Sr. Pamela Kay Doyle, OSB

Reflecting on today’s Gospel from Matthew, once again the verbs held my attention – tell, listen, bind, agree, pray, and gather. And then another word entered my heart – relationship. Nothing in this scriptural passage can be done in isolation, and everything in this Gospel passage relates to our relationships with one another, our relationship with Christ.

We know that St. Benedict took to heart these words from Matthew’s Gospel, as he chose to create an entire chapter based on these words – Excommunication of Faults – RB 23. And although the chapter title includes the word excommunication, again the chapter is about relationships. How do we handle things when someone wrongs us? How do we treat the person who wrongs us? Do we act from our heart or from our urgent feelings?

I will admit that on any level I am one of the world’s worst at maintaining good, solid relationships. I can become selfish, lazy, and demanding. While those may not be the best traits to bring to monastic community life, they are some of the very reasons why I am in a monastic community and why I stay in a monastic community. It is through my daily commitment to our vow of conversion, to the fidelity to the monastic way of life, that I can continue to build and maintain good, solid relationships with you, my sisters, and to those beyond our monastery walls.

We’ve all been wronged by another; and we’ve all wronged another. Some wrongs we are able to let go quickly, and some wrongs stay with us a long while. Some wrongs cut us to the core, and some wrongs can simply be waved off. And, why is this so? I can’t say that I have the exact answer, but I do believe that again it directly relates to our relationships with one another. We maintain a variety of relationships with varying degrees of mutuality.

When a connection or a relationship with another person has been established, that leaves the door open for both sides to come together, to come together with Christ in their midst; and when we prayerfully and mindfully have Christ in our midst, forgiveness and peace flourish.

In his book, Monastic Practices, Charles Cummings, OCSO, references explorer and anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl. In 1969 and 1970, Thor and his crew sailed from Africa to South America in a papyrus boat. It is said that this explorer’s greatest worry was not sailing on the tumultuous ocean waves or in the primitive vessel; he hoped that his crew of seven would get along during those four months at sea in their tiny boat, as they were from different countries with different religions, languages, and skill sets. Because they were all committed to the same goal, not only did they arrive safely but they arrived immersed in fellowship.

Cummings goes on to write, “A monastic community may be compared to Heyerdahl’s papyrus boat. In the monastery we are all in the same boat, fellow travelers in an enclosed structure that we cannot freely leave. The voyage can be a joyful one or it can become a hell of loneliness, bickering and suspicion that ends in shipwreck for all. The quality of our interpersonal relationships in the monastery is critical. If I freely choose to enter a cenobitic monastic community, I cannot seek God as if I were the only person ‘on board’. My way to holiness and to personal wholeness lies through and with my fellow travelers. I will be faithful to my vocation and will experience the living God because of them, not in spite of them. Shipmates help one another reach their destination by being attentive to common needs, and by affirming the contribution each makes to the general effort.” (Monastic Practices, Charles Cummings, OSCO: page 142)

As Christians, we journey together to Christ. As Sisters of St. Benedict, we are strengthened in that journey through our monastic practices that we might grow in relationship with one another and with Christ.

May Christ bless those times of telling another of faults; for it is Jesus who tells us, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

No comments: