Wow, what a thought. Who would want to spend every day of their life being afraid of hell and knowing that you may be judged at any instant? Some people look at these words and think monks are those who literally hate themselves; that they are people who withdraw from the world in order to concentrate on their self-hatred. Nothing could be further from the truth. Benedictine communities have often been gifted with their share of grumpy people. But the monks I know are more often brimming with love and life.
Benedict's words simply remind us that we are broken. Sin is a natural state for us. You might even say that the doctrine of original sin simply points out that sin is not original. It is inherent in human beings. Reformed theology agrees with Benedict's point of view. The Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Confessions reminds us that we are all capable of ultimate depravity. But if that is so, how can we avoid God's condemnation?
There is an old story, one whose author has escaped me, about a man standing before the gates of heaven. St. Peter tells the man that a point system has been put in place. Each person must have earned one-hundred points in earthly life in order to get into heaven. "Well," the man said, " I was a minister for fifty years." "That's one point," St. Peter replied. "I went on countless mission trips to the third world," the man said. "That's very good," said St. Peter. "That's another point." "I sang in the church choir for all my career and even sang on key," the man desperately blurted. "Wonderful," said St. Peter. "That makes three points." In despair the man threw himself down before the gates and shouted, "only by the grace of God will I get in!" "That's one-hundred points," Peter replied.
In order to fully follow Jesus we must keep in mind our total dependence on God's grace. We do not earn salvation on our own. Only by the grace of God will we ever be allowed to approach the throne. But thanks be to God, that we have been gifted with God's grace.