This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week’s archives. Here is the twentieth step:
(20) To hold one’s self aloof from worldly ways.
If you are like me, you can readily come up with a list of what “worldly ways” means, but too often this list have very little to do with what most spiritual masters mean when they use the term.
St. Benedict, again is writing these counsels for monks. Monks take a vow of obedience to an abbot. The abbot, a term that could be translated “father”, watches over the monks and assigns them various tasks for the good of the monastery.
About a year ago, I visited a monastery where the abbot invited me to join the monks for dinner. During the meal taken in silence, while a monk read from one of the Fathers of the Church, several monks had to kneel in front of the abbot’s table. They were being punished for some infraction of the rule that they had committed during the day (one monk told me that he had forgotten to put his napkin back in its holder).
As I sat there, in my forties, and witnessed the grown men who were around sixty years old, I momentarily thought of the ways of the world and how foolish this all seemed. But then, I remembered the counsel of Our Lord, “Unless you become like a child, you can not enter the Kingdom of God.”
All of us must be like children in God’s kingdom. Worldly ways might best be defined as acting in a way of a “self made man.”
There is a story of a man’s employer coming to the man’s home for dinner one night. The employer was brash, rude and made inappropriate comments throughout the meal. All the while the young son of the employee stared at the man. Finally, the boy spoke, “my dad says that you are a self-made man.”
The employer beaming, said, “Well, yes son I am.”
“Why did you make yourself so bad?” The young boy asked.
Keeping aloof of worldly ways, means leaving behind any notion that we are ultimately in charge of our lives. It requires total surrender to God.
Jesus lays out the best commentary for this counsel in Matthew’s Gospel, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and body more than clothing?…So I do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil, (Matthew 6:25, 31-34).”
I like to carry the image of those monks, all dressed in black, sitting and silently eating and drinking while they listen to someone proclaim the Kingdom of God to them, as I go about my dealings everyday–never allowing myself to be drawn away from our true purpose here.
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