Proverbs 2:1-9; Acts 2:42-47; Matthew 19:27-29
These words of Jesus we have just heard are the final conclusion to a much longer story. They are Jesus’ answer not only to Peter’s question, but first of all to the question posed by the rich young man who came to Jesus in great enthusiasm. “Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” But when Jesus answered him in words he did not want to hear, he turned and went away sad. He desired eternal life, yes. But the desire was only surface deep. Something else made more sense to him. Something else held his heart and his spirit. Something else stirred deep within him and following the itinerant preacher from Galilee was not it. For his part the dialogue was over.
But the apostles and Peter took up the dialogue. “If it is so hard for the rich to enter eternal life, who then can obtain it?” Jesus simply says: “Not by your own power, but by the power of God.” This is where today’s Gospel takes up the story with Peter’s impetuous declaration and question: “Lord, we have left all and followed you. What are we going to get?” And Jesus responds by describing what will happen to those who have followed him. They will receive what the rich young man originally sought: eternal life.
But the dialogue does not end there. We are part of it because Saint Benedict has initiated it with us. In the Prologue to his Rule he cries out: “Who desires life and yearns for good days?” “If it is you, then follow the words of the Scriptures. Run while you have the light of day…. Seek after peace and pursue it…. What can be sweeter, brothers, than the voice of the Lord calling to us and in his love showing us the way of life!… Let us set out on this way with the Gospel as our guide.” Let us continue in this dialogue, let us listen with astonished ears to the divine voice, let us open our eyes to the deifying light. Saint Benedict heaps Scripture upon Scripture, adjective upon adjective, verb upon verb in his attempt to get us off our keesters and into this wonderful conversation with the Lord.
Our life is this constant dialogue of listening and responding, being attentive to the whispers of the Lord in our hearts as well as the demands made upon us by our life of renunciation. We are never finished with this dialogue, for we are never finished with life, we are never finished with the relationship that this dialogue establishes.
Five years ago Brother Paul stood out here in the middle of choir, surrounded by friends and family and his monastic community and committed himself to this life-long dialogue. He was exhorted by Father Francis to forgot the things that are in the past and to strive forward with all his energy toward what lies ahead. He was of an age that he could have rested on his laurels. But instead he heard the call in his heart to bind himself further to the Lord who speaks in our hearts and he stood before us and said a new “Yes” in the dialogue. He had no idea what lay in the future. Certainly he wasn’t expecting to be guestmaster and principal caregiver for Father AJ in just a couple short years. But he did know something that supplied for this ignorance. He know he had to keep the dialogue with the Lord Jesus in the forefront. Jesus promises life to those who follow him, to those who desire him above all else. As Paul renews in his heart the commitment he made on this day in 2006, so let us renew our commitment to continue this dialogue that Saint Benedict urges on us.
Neither Jesus nor Saint Benedict said that this would be easy. It is a call to leave everything — houses, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, children, fields, everything — for the love of Jesus. This renunciation has to be reinterpreted continually. What was asked of us when we entered monastic life might not be what the Lord is asking of us today. The dialogue must continue. It is the only way our love of Christ can be constantly renewed.
Finally, our very name can be a help to keep this love fresh, the dialogue alive. How often must Saint Benedict have reflected on his name — Blessed One, bearer of the Blessing — to inspire himself to enter more deeply into the Lord’s call to him. Father Christian did this many years ago when he changed his name from Aidan to Christian. Anthony Maria did it just a month ago. For each one of us our name calls us to who we are in our depths. And so I wish to announce to you another name change.
Today marks the first anniversary of this brother’s clothing. As he approached that day last year he reflected on such a name change — as before him Vincent and Guerric and Placid and Hugh and Dismas had done. But it wasn’t time yet. He believes this anniversary of his clothing is the time. And what is the name he believes he is called by the Lord in the depths of his heart? It is a name with wonderful biblical resonances. It is the name of the recipient of Saint Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles: Lover of God, God-lover. May his new name truly be for him an expression of who he is and who he aspires to be.
May each of us strive to be who we are and who we are called to be in the never-ending dialogue of love to which the Lord Jesus invites us.