Fridays with Benedict: Chapter 72, The Good Zeal

We are close to the end of The Rule of St. Benedict. We are in Chapter 72, the next to last chapter of The Rule. So Benedict is in summing up mode, giving his last admonitions. In this chapter he points to a "good zeal"--a righteous and holy passion--that leads us to God:
1Just as there is a wicked zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, 2so there is a good zeal which separates from evil and leads to God and everlasting life.
So what is this "good zeal" that leads to God and eternal life? Benedict gives his answer:
3This, then, is the good zeal which monks must foster with fervent love: 4They should each try to be the first to show respect to the other (Rom. 12:10), 5supporting with the greatest patience one another's weaknesses of body and behavior, 6and earnestly competing in obedience to one another.7No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else.
This is one of my favorite passages from The Rule. So many great things packed together.
This is the holy passion we must nurture with love:

Be the first to show respect.

Support each other with great patience.

Patience for the weaknesses of our bodies. And patience for the psychological and moral weaknesses that manifest in our behaviors.

Compete in obedience to see who is quicker to respond to the needs of others.

Do not pursue what is best for yourself but what is best for others.
Goodness gracious, what would the church look like if we put everything else aside and worked on "the good zeal"?

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3 thoughts on “Fridays with Benedict: Chapter 72, The Good Zeal”

  1. I have enjoyed the series with Benedict very much. Haven't had anything to add to discuss, but I do appreciate this!

  2. Thanks Ann! One more week with Benedict. Then I'm going to try something different on Friday. We'll see how the new experiment goes.

  3. "Compete in obedience to see who is quicker to respond to the needs of others." Wow! What a concept! Just think what would happen in our communities if we were all competing at this level. Probably, some folks would start keeping score, and that would ruin it. Recently, I've been emphasizing the need to perceive every social situation as a faith test and make this a way of life. Who is it in this group/congregation/meeting/party/any gathering who needs some brotherly kindness and friendliness due to their being different in some way or having experienced some trouble/loss/disappointment/defeat/embarrassment, etc.? And then proceed to offer the words/acts that help to heal/reassure/encourage/welcome. A Thanksgiving gathering started me on this when family members could invite someone else to come and share the day and meal with us. Our daughter brought in an African American (who had two tours in Iraq and in the Gulf War). When this happened some other family members went in the opposite direction for fear they might have to meet and greet him. When something like this occurs, it crushes my spirit, and I wonder what kind of message they are hearing at church.

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