In the fourth chapter of his rule, titled "What Are the Instruments of Good Works?," Benedict lists sixty-one tools a Benedictine must utilize to be a follower of Jesus. I think it's a great list for any Christian to consider. So over the following weeks, or perhaps the following months, I'm going to consider each of them in this blog.
"With the whole heart, the whole soul, the whole strength," despite growing up in a denomination that insisted that you a have a moment of conversion, I'm not sure I understood what this meant for quite awhile. As I've aged, I more and more identify this type of love with the love one has for a spouse. Some of us fall in love in an instant. For others, there's a relationship that grows and grows over time.
When I met my wife, I knew she was the one I wanted to marry. So I began to read about the things she liked and I spent hours talking to her about each other. My love for her began in an instant, but over time it's grown deeper and deeper.
In the denomination I grew up in, I answered many altar calls. But I never could figure out a moment when my love for God began. After our marriage, my wife literally dragged me into a Presbyterian Church because it had lots of other children for our children to be with. At the time I had no idea that I was being reeled in by the Holy Spirit. Six months after we joined, I was ordained as a Deacon. Eighteen months later I was ordained as a ruling Elder. During that last period our church was blessed with co-pastors who emphasized liturgical worship. It took awhile but that type or worship prepared me for a time when I met what seminarians often describe as the God with the baseball bat.
It was awhile before I admitted either, but that was the moment when I first acknowledged I was called to Pastoral ministry. It was also the moment when I realized I was in love with God. As I did when I met my wife I found I wanted to learn more about God from Scripture and other books. I also found I needed to spend time talking with God in prayer.
Over time I realized that I could never identify at which altar call that love began because my love for God had always been there. It just took God's drastic action to make me recognize it. But it had always been present.
I will never be perfect at loving my wife. I'm human and I screw up from time to time. Likewise I will never be perfect at loving God. Like any Benedictine, I fall and get up again, and fall and get up again. But my love for God, and for my wife continues to grow, with my whole heart, my whole soul, and my whole strength.
Thank you Father Benedict for putting this instrument of good works first on your list. Without it, none of the others would be possible.
Brother Oscar Romero