Memorial of Saint Benedict, Abbot
July 11, 2022
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Alleluia Verse repeats one of the treasured yet challenging Beatitudes:
Blessed are they who are persecuted
for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Sometimes, the word “righteous” can fall harshly on the mind. Over the years, it has acquired a tinge of Bible-banging fundamentalism. Even in secular culture, a “self-righteous” person is repellent.
But the “righteousness” which is our heritage from both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures is a caring and dynamic discernment born of Wisdom and Mercy. It is a virtue the disciple seeks in imitation of the Beloved.
From Walter Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament:
Israel’s characteristic grammar in speaking of Yahweh, governed by active verbs, regularly insisted that Yahweh is a major player in Israel’s life and in the life of the world. Yahweh’s characteristic presentation in Israel’s rhetoric is that Yahweh acts powerfully, decisively, and transformatively. Yahweh is morally serious and demanding, so that Yahweh is endlessly attentive to distinctions of good and evil, justice and injustice. Indeed, it is palpable power and moral seriousness that distinguish Yahweh from all rival gods, who have no power to act decisively and no capacity for moral distinctions.
In our first reading, we meet this righteous God who is fed up with the people’s dissembling.
When you come in to visit me,Isaiah 1: 12-13
who asks these things of you?
Trample my courts no more!
Bring no more worthless offerings;
your incense is loathsome to me.
Instead, Isaiah’s God states clearly what makes one righteous:
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;Isaiah 1: 16-17
cease doing evil; learn to do good.
Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,
hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.
Jesus tells us that it’s not easy to be such a person. You’re going to suffer for your acts of justice and mercy because we live in a world that honors vengeance and oppression instead. You’re going to be insulted, mocked and ostracized for your righteousness – for your desire to “right-balance” life for all human beings.
Brueggemann tells us that, nevertheless, this is our call:
The purpose of human life, a life of vocation, fellowship, and witness is to attest the truth of God’s solidarity with is, that is in justice, righteousness, compassion, steadfast love, and faithfulness.
Poetry: A Psalm of Life – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Anyone with a little interest in English poetry, must have had this poem etched into memory; hence no guesses about Longfellow’s best poem. Such is its evocative eloquence, such is its superior effect on every person regardless of class, religion and nationality that it transcends the boundaries of a mere song, and in the right sense, transforms into a psalm – a path to be followed for glorified and righteous life. Recited at Senate meetings, public gatherings and even at churches, this poem is sometimes speculated to have inspired Longfellow after he had come across a board in a German graveyard. Certainly his greatest, ‘Psalm of Life’ seems to have varied ideas where each quatrain is a guideline in itself. (from classical poets.org)
A Psalm of Life – (1839)
What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
Music: I just had to offer a beautiful song from the Righteous Brothers on this “righteous” day. 🙂
I believe for every drop of rain that falls
A flower grows
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night
A candle glows
I believe for everyone who goes astray
Someone will come
To show the way
I believe, I believe
I believe above a storm the smallest prayer
Can still be heard
I believe that someone in the great somewhere
Hears every word
Every time I hear a new born baby cry
Or touch a leaf or see the sky
Then I know why, I believe