January 12, May 13, September 12
Chapter 2: What Kind of Person the Abbess Ought to Be
Let her make no distinction of persons in the monastery.
Let her not love one more than another,
unless it be one whom she finds better
in good works or in obedience.
Let her not advance one of noble birth
ahead of one who was formerly a slave,
unless there be some other reasonable ground for it.
But if the Abbess for just reason think fit to do so,
let her advance one of any rank whatever.
Otherwise let them keep their due places;
because, whether slaves or free, we are all one in Christ (Gal. 3:28)
and bear in equal burden of service
in the army of the same Lord.
For with God there is no respect of persons (Rom. 2:11).
Only for one reason are we preferred in His sight:
if we be found better than others in good works and humility.
Therefore let the Abbess show equal love to all
and impose the same discipline on all
according to their deserts.
Today’s reading provokes some questions. Is it true that God prefers those who are found better in good works and humility? This seems like a contradiction of God being impartial.
So the lines “Let her not love one more than another unless it be one whom she finds better in good works or in obedience” puzzle me for the same reason. Bible teaching seems to make clear that it’s not our good works that win us ‘Brownie points’, and that God loves us totally and unconditionally regardless of how hard we do or don’t work.
When Peter denied Jesus and they met after the resurrection on the shores of Lake Galilee, Jesus did not put the emphasis on whether He still loved Peter – that much was obvious. Instead, He wanted to find out and wanted Peter to be sure, whether Peter loved Him. Hence the same question three times over.
Jesus looked at the rich young ruler and loved him – even when that young ruler turned aside rather than give away all his wealth – and He didn’t love him because of the good deeds that young ruler had done; He loved him just for himself.
I’ve always understood that we can’t ‘win’ God’s love by doing good deeds – we already have God’s love. And if we love God in return, then we will do good works as a natural consequence of that love, because it’s our way of responding to it, a way of showing that we love God and want to delight him, not because we want to earn special favor…
So what exactly did St Benedict mean by these passages? His Rule is so scriptural that I feel I must be misreading or misunderstanding something here!