Friday, March 30, 2007

St. Benedict on Lent, Part 11

"With the joy of spiritual longing, look forward to Holy Easter." (RB 49: 7b)

There is a joy proper to the sphere of the world, a natural joy that in itself is not evil but is also not sustainable and without proper reasons for hope. We often put our hopes in material things, in human beings, in our own plans for a better future. We lay up treasure in the field of the flesh. The joy that can come of a life that 'works out', however, is unreliable. Riches fail, persons let us down, our plans get interrupted by sickness, bad weather, unforeseen glitches.

Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be. The "joy of spiritual longing" as St. Benedict calls it, is this reliable source of hope and joy. God is faithful, and the joy of knowing that His faithfulness culminates in nothing less than the Resurrection of the Dead that we celebrate at Easter is something that can never be taken from us once we seize it with our whole heart.

God is faithful, but He does allow us to be tested, though not beyond our strength. St. Benedict is aware of this, and it is worth noting the context of his previous quote about joy, the "joy of the Holy Spirit." This quote comes from 1 Thessalonians 1: 6, in which Paul is relating to the Thessalonians his ill treatment at the hands of unbelievers in Thessalonica and Phillipi (see Acts 16-17). The same treatment no doubt awaits the Christians newly converted in Thessalonica. However, because they had learned from St. Paul to find their joy in the Spirit, they were able to stand firm in the face of suffering in the flesh.

This testing that God allows pushes us to joy in the Holy Spirit and away from hope in temporal things. Let us this Holy Week take the suffering with which we have been tried and join it to the Passion of our loving Lord, that He can redeem it and pour forth into our hearts the spiritual joy of His own Sacred Heart.

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