Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How to be a monk: Lesson Two – The Journey

Do you ever wonder what the purpose of your life is, where you are going?  At the beginning of Benedict’s Rule (his guidebook for monks) he uses the phrase: “let us set out on this way with the Gospel for our guide.”  In that brief phrase he captures a tremendous amount of wisdom.

We are all on a journey.  Many, perhaps most of us, spend a lot of time blithely putting one foot in front of the other without any real thought of destination beyond the next meal, paycheck, crisis or other immediate, concrete goal.  But often there comes a point in life when something hits us upside the head and we start to wonder about the deeper meaning and point to our life.  We wonder what life is really all about, whether there is a meaning that we have neglected to consider or that we have been oblivious to.

These are precisely the questions that Benedict answers in his Rule.  He is writing for Christians who want to follow the Gospel as a way of life, people who want their faith to inform all aspects of their life, who want their faith to be more than abstract belief or ethical behavior.  Benedict writes a guidebook for people who want the Gospel to permeate all aspects of their lives, who want to listen to what Benedict calls “God’s delightful voice.”

So what is the nature of this journey?  First we have to consciously begin, to set out.  This sounds simple enough but it is a radical step.  To set out on the spiritual journey means that we can no longer take our faith for granted, it can no longer be something that we dabble in or think about once in a while.  The journey is a journey to consciousness.  We seek to become aware of God’s presence in our life at all times and in all ways.  When we set out on this journey we can no longer compartmentalize our faith, putting it in a box that is separate from work, family, leisure and the many concerns of our life.  When we decide to set out on this way we have to look at every aspect of life from the perspective of the Gospel.

But fortunately we have support on this journey.  Benedict assumes that we don’t do this alone, we will be with others and as community we will make the journey together.  We have a road map, Benedict’s Rule, guidebook, is eminently practical and inspiring.  We don’t have to blaze our own trail we read a map that has been used by many generations.  And we walk in the company of the monks who have gone before us and shown us that the journey is possible.

Perhaps it is time: are you ready to set out on this way, the Gospel for your guide?

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