Homily for the Memorial of St. Benedict
Our Gospel passage this morning follows Jesus’ interaction with the Rich Young Man. At the end of that interaction, we know that Jesus tells the young man to go and sell everything that he has so that he could be free be a true disciple of the Lord. The young man can’t give Jesus what He is asking. His heart isn’t open to giving everything to the Lord and so he goes away sad. Jesus says that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.
The disciples, who are witnessing this encounter, then ask the Lord how anyone can be saved? Jesus seeks to reassure them that it isn’t anything they do that can guarantee their salvation, but it’s what God can do. Only He can offer salvation. In the interaction that follows, and this is where we start our Gospel this morning, Peter asks an important question. He basically says: “What about us? What does this mean for those of us who are striving to follow you?”
The Apostles had given up so much to become followers of Jesus. They may have been wondering if it was really all worth it. If they weren’t guaranteed a place in Eternity, why strive to give the Lord everything? We may wonder the same from time to time. We may find ourselves looking at our lives, seeing all that we have done to try to follow the Lord, and still wonder, “Is this really worth it? Is it really worth the effort, this following of Jesus, this struggle to live by the values of the Gospel each and every day?” The answer of Jesus to Peter and to all of us is that, “Yes, it is worth the effort; it is worth the struggle.” Jesus promises us today and always that when we respond to His invitation to discipleship, when we give of ourselves for His sake, we will receive far more than we give.
Our saint today, St. Benedict, understood that well. Benedict left everything as a young man. He literally left everything in search of God. He abandoned his studies and his inheritance in order to devote himself entirely to the Lord. He embraced a way of life that included simplicity and asceticism in an effort be free from distractions of the world so that he could follow the Lord with his whole heart. Others were drawn to that way of life, so much so that Benedict then established monasteries and came up with a rule of life that these individuals could follow, a rule that is still practiced today.
St. Benedict is the exact opposite of what we see in the rich young man who went away sad. He gives us an example of how we are called to seek the Lord and strive to follow Him with all our hearts. His example reassures us that whenever we give generously, whenever we give the totality of our hearts to the Lord, we end up receiving so much more in the end. That striving for holiness gives a space for the Lord to work in a life-giving way in us and through us.
Today, let’s recommit ourselves to that endeavor. May we seek today to give our hearts totally and completely to the Lord.
St. Benedict, pray for us.
Image: St. Benedict of Nursia (sculpture), Jun Acullador. Used under Creative Commons license, Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0).