Friday, December 08, 2006

But I Don't Wanna

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Psalm 98:1, 2-3AB, 3CD-4
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Luke 1:26-38

What struck me from this first reading from Genesis (besides the throwback once more to the Peaceable Kingdom from Tuesday) is how truly deep-seated our human inclination for blame really is. Even back then, barely a week into the world's existence, when humanity was a mere three or four days old, there's already this urge to hide, blame, pass the buck, or otherwise create excuses to take the attention off of our own wrong-doing.

But that's not the only use of our traditional blame- and excuse-making. Often, these tactics are also used to get us out of things. That, too, is a legacy that dates back to the early scriptures. Moses did it. Jeremiah did it. Heck, Jonah even got himself swallowed by a whale to avoid God's call. (All of which, I suppose, puts me in good company, but somehow I still don't see myself on the same level as these folks!) Yeah, sure, all these folks eventually did God's will, but it wasn't their first (or second or even third) choice.

But Mary .... she's different. True, it's not an immediate yes from her, but she only asks one question: How can this be? And, even without a logical answer to the question (because you can't tell me that the angel's answer makes immediate perfect sense once taken out of the scriptural context) ... Mary agrees. It's almost like an "Ummm.... I'm still not sure if I get it, but ..... OK. If you say so."

That immediate acceptance, that almost unquestioning agreement ... consent without hesitation, without having to run off and consult with this person, or "take some time to think about it" ... but just a full giving of self: Whatever you say, let it be done.

Now that's obedience. Saint Benedict, in his Rule, stresses the importance of obedience. In fact, "unhesitating obedience" is seen to be the "first step of humility" (another big important thing for Benedict): Almost at the same moment, then, as the master gives the instruction the disciple quickly puts it into practice in the fear of God; and both actions together are swiftly completed as one (RB 5:9). Fortunately for us, Benedict includes himself as one of the "slothful and negligent" (RB 73:7), and thus reminds us that much of what he teaches is the ideal for which we should strive, and that it will be a life-long journey to get us there.

But, considering Mary's unhesitating obedience on such a huge instruction as an out-of-wedlock pregnancy (which, at that time, was generally rewarded by having big huge rocks thrown at you until you died!) .... I suppose it's only fitting that we see her as such a model for us all. And, especially those of us Benedictines from Ferdinand, who make our home at Monastery Immaculate Conception .... this is our patronal feast; the Mary that we celebrate today is our special patron and our guide. May we learn from her the obedience that will lead us to God's will.

But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God's commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. Never swerving from his instructions, then, but faithfully observing his teaching in the monastery until death, we shall through patience share in the sufferings of Christ that we may deserve also to share in his kingdom. (RB Prologue 49-50)

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