“Son of man, I have appointed you as sentry to the House of Israel..” ..a sentry, a watchman trusted to stay awake & to protect the crown jewels, the priceless gems.. & crown jewels of this House of Israel, this family home of the divine presence?..our crown jewels are the broken wounded & most vulnerable..priceless irreplaceable..& true?.. let us call to mind & admit to the misbehaviour & neglect that has left each of us in need of the watchful loving protectiveness of our divine sentry..
“O that today you would listen to his voice..” & still we don’t listen.. ; Lord have mercy “..harden not your hearts..”..& still we do it hard or half heartedly ; Christ have mercy “..when they [ we ] tried me though they [ we ] saw my works..” ..try his patience & truth ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
“what’s one of the hardest thing about living as a monk?”..question put to me by young student disciples on retreat, wanting the truth not lip gloss..”getting on with other monks I find difficult & at times impossible” “if your brother does something wrong, go & have it out with him” Our Lords own wisdom of living in community/family is to address issue & to attempt to heal wound in relationship..& as ever Matthew the strict Jew puts the defensive accusative language of court room onto lips of Jesus..evidence, witnesses, charges reports & eventual disqualification & disownment..in contrast St Benedict shapes his wise counsel on dealing with the defiant disobedient proud & murmurer on grounding of Jesus’ practical experience & teaching..no lip gloss..the quiet word one to one..if that doesn’t work then a gentle word from a wise senior..followed by severe rebuke before whole community..then, for those who can’t or won‘t, the Benedictine core values are not listed statemented, but implemented digested, cultured from within..rule book & charge sheet are shredded..listen to Ch 27 from RSB..“every possible care & concern should be shown to those who have been excommunicated by the superior, who are themselves to remember that it is not the healthy who need the doctor but the sick. They should follow the loving example of the Good Shepherd who left ninety nine of his flock on mountains & went off to look for the one sheep who had strayed, lifting it onto his shoulders & carrying it back to the rest of the flock.”..& if there is an individual brother or sister who, in spite of frequent reproof have not reformed, St Benedict encourages the Abbot & community to follow the practice not of a high court judge or panel of arbritation in a tribunal, but of an experienced doctor. In Ch 28 “after applying the dressings & the ointment of exhortation & the medicine of divine scripture, & proceeding to the extreme resource of cauterisation by excommunication, & if even then the superior sees that no such efforts are of any avail, yet another remedy must be brought to bear, which is still more powerful, namely the personal prayer of the superior & of all the community that the Lord, who can do all things, may himself bring healing to the delinquent.”..what beautifully gentle caring consideration for the health & wellbeing of the most important individual in my community, in your family, & in this parish; the weakest link..they, the making of us, & without them, the breaking of us..so so different to the strict observance of life under Matthews’ Jesus..& to reinforce gently Benedicts framework for the life of his monks being ground zeroed on the gospels, our gospel concludes on the importance of prayer “ I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you agree to ask for anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.” ..game set & match to the power of prayer.“..is every prayer answered?” our young student disciples ask me..knowing full well the real answer..yes indeed, but not necessarily in the way you might have asked for, but in the way God you & the intention needs it to be..look back in 9months time & tell me then your prayer wasn’t answered..& the realism of the gospels & our daily life experiences confirm, St Benedicts wisdom & realism is writ large in the ending of Ch 28..when the prayer of the whole community doesn’t apparently work “ if even such prayer does not bring healing, the superior must turn to the knife of amputation to banish evil from their midst “if the unfaithful one wishes to go, let him go, lest one diseased sheep corrupt the whole flock” ..for me one of most exciting prospects in the gospels, & in our reliving of gospels on an ongoing daily basis, is to realise every gospel is left with an open ending..for you & I to live out & then write in our own real true ending..so how do we..you & I..keep in touch with the excommunicated the diseased sheep once they have been shown the door?..ever one of us, always belonging, in a lifetime of reformation & growth..until eventually they & us re united in the one sheepfold..”loved needed & never to be lived without”..monk, family member, parishioner..kept in touch & in loving relationship through prayer..& isn’t your reluctance hesitation to pray for them itself a prayer? [23rdSunYrAMt18;15-20] .