January 27, May 28, September 27
Chapter 7: On Humility
Let a man consider
that God is always looking at him from heaven,
that his actions are everywhere visible to the divine eyes
and are constantly being reported to God by the Angels.
This is what the Prophet shows us
when he represents God as ever present within our thoughts,
in the words “Searcher of minds and hearts is God” (Ps. 7:10)
and again in the words “The Lord knows the thoughts of men” (Ps. 93:11).
Again he says,
“You have read my thoughts from afar” (Ps. 138:3)
and “The thoughts of people will confess to You” (Ps. 75:11).
In order that he may be careful
about his wrongful thoughts, therefore,
let the faithful brother say constantly in his heart,
“Then shall I be spotless before Him,
if I have kept myself from my iniquity” (Ps. 17:24).
Benedict is still working in the first degree of humility, fear of God. There is nothing about our lives that is hidden from God, no matter how well we may hide it from ourselves. But Benedict doesn’t dwell on this. Instead, he talks about our thoughts. What does he say about thoughts? How many times does he mention thoughts in this short passage?
I am reminded of the bit in the Bible where it says that it is not what goes into a person which corrupts them, but what comes out of their mouths. Thoughts matter. And that is, in fact, the title of an excellent book by Sr Margaret FUNK, OSB, which I cannot recommend highly enough.
Benedict takes it for granted that a person will have wrongful thoughts, doesn’t he? What does he offer as an anecdote to them? I am comforted that I can take refuge in prayer. Benedict doesn’t ask me to cease to have wrongful thoughts, but only to occupy my mind with something else, with prayer, with the Psalms. Benedict knows we have no control really over our thoughts, instead, he would have us concentrate on something else so there would be no room for those bad, ugly thoughts.