Saint Benedict, Abbot and Co-Patron of Europe – Readings

Commentary on Proverbs 2:1-9; Psalm 33; Matthew 19:27-29

Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew is taken from the verses following the story of the rich man. Recall that in that story, the rich man came to Jesus and asked what he should do to gain eternal life. When Jesus told to him to keep the Commandments, he asked which ones Jesus had in mind. Jesus then cited the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th commandments. The significant thing about all of them is that they are concerned with relations with other people. Commandments on relations with God are not mentioned. The man said that he had kept all these commandments since he was young. “What else was lacking?” he asked. Jesus told him:

If you want to be perfect, go, sell all you have and give to the poor, then you will be rich in God’s eyes. And then, come and be a follower of mine.

That was too much for the wealthy man. He went away deeply disappointed because he was very well-off and could not take that step.

When he had gone, Jesus told his disciples that it was more difficult for a person with wealth to be part of God’s Reign than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. The disciples, on hearing this, were astounded because, for them, as for the society of the time, wealth was a sign of God’s blessings. Their reaction was, if the rich could not be saved, who could be?

Peter, speaking in their name, said to Jesus:

We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?

And it is then that Jesus speaks the words of today’s Gospel. All those who are ready to leave family and property in order to follow the Way of Jesus will be rewarded many times over – and in this life.

This was all confirmed by Benedict and the way of life suggested by his Rule. Many people left their families and their material security to follow the monastic life. They entered a life of material simplicity, but also a life of loving security where everyone contributed to the well-being of everyone else.

Today’s First Reading from the Book of Proverbs speaks of another great characteristic of the Benedictine way, arising out of their way of life. His monasteries became centres of learning and wisdom which had a great influence on the knowledge and culture of Europe.

For the Lord gives wisdom, from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He has counsel in store for the upright, he is the shield of those who walk honestly, guarding the paths of justice, protecting the way of his holy ones.

These monasteries are a clear signal that a life of simplicity is not a barren life, but one that is deeply enriching not only for those who live there but for all those who come under their influence.

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