July 20, 2007

‘What’s in it for me?’ Eternal life, Archabbot Justin tells musicians

Archabbot Justin DuVall, O.S.B., presides at Mass on July 11 at the National Pastoral Musicians Convention in Indianapolis.

Archabbot Justin DuVall, O.S.B., presides at Mass on July 11 at the National Pastoral Musicians Convention in Indianapolis.

By Mike Krokos

Like St. Peter in the Gospel of Matthew, disciples of Jesus Christ today may sometimes catch themselves thinking, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” (Mt 19:27).

And like St. Peter, St. Benedict and so many others who have gone before us, Jesus offers us the same answer:

“Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life” (Mt 19:29).

That message was shared by Benedictine Archabbot Justin DuVall of Saint Meinrad Archabbey during the homily at a July 11 Mass—the feast day of St. Benedict—celebrated for the 3,000 people attending the National Association of Pastoral Musicians convention in Indianapolis. The convention’s theme was “That all may be one” (Jn 17:21). (READ HOMILY HERE)

“For every Christian, the heartfelt desire to follow Jesus Christ means that he is to have first place in whatever we do, in word or in deed,” Archabbot Justin said.

Though we know this to be true, the little voice in the dark corner of our heart continues to whisper, “What’s in it for me?” he noted.

“It’s only natural to wonder what we will get for what we’ve given up,” Archabbot Justin noted. “Peter wondered the same thing when he put his question to Jesus, and Jesus had an answer for Peter: ‘A hundred times more—and eternal life to boot.’ The promise of something better—that’s what a disciple gets.”

Getting to that point does not come without sacrifice because every choice in life closes off options, he said.

“Some here have given up possibilities for the future when they married because they fell in love with another person without whom the future itself seemed impossible,” Archabbot Justin said. “Others have chosen to set the course of their freedom down the path of obedience to a life of service in the Church. And still others among us have walked away from a lifestyle that no longer brought a sense of satisfaction. …”

Whatever disciples may have traded in, they did it because they believed there was something better to be gained, he added.

“Part of the ‘hundred times more’ of Jesus’ promise is growth in a wisdom that understands those dimensions of life hidden from mere bargain hunters,” Archabbot Justin said. “Our continued trust in the Lord’s promise gives us a share in that wisdom that comes from God, a wisdom that the author of Proverbs promised would allow us to understand righteousness and justice, and honesty, and every good path.”

Growing in wisdom allows us to know the love of God for us in Christ, and in turn to love one another in Christ, no matter what we have given up in exchange, the archabbot said.

But there are days—even for disciples—when Jesus’ promise begins to fade away, he said.

“Opportunities of the moment press in on us, luring us to lust for some tangible trade-in for what we’ve given up. Human nature never fades away from us,” he said. “In our struggle to be faithful disciples, we all discover little ways of ‘recouping’ our losses, even if on a small scale. If we wish to follow Jesus, then we’d better have a good grasp of what it is we’re really up against. We face the wayward desires of the human heart because we remain wounded even in our love for God.”

We are not alone in those struggles, the archabbot said.

“United in the love of Christ, we draw our strength from the Lord, and from his mighty power. And we need it,” he said. “Even as good Christians, our wounded human nature remains.”

Like St. Peter, the other disciples and St. Benedict, we must allow the power of the Gospel to touch us at the core of our being, the archabbot said.

To illustrate his point, Archabbot Justin recounted a famous incident in the life of St. Benedict. One night during his customary vigil in his room in a tower of the monastery, he stood at the window and a brightness that outshone the light of the sun shattered the deep darkness of the room.

“Benedict himself later reported that during this vision he saw the whole of creation gathered up into a single ray of the sun. It wasn’t a pantheistic vision in which he saw God diffused in all of creation; rather, he saw all of creation unified in God,” he said. “In a single instant, time collapsed into eternity, and in a single-hearted vision both the source and the goal of the whole of creation was downloaded into his own soul. The promise of the Gospel was delivered in all its splendor.”

The archabbot encouraged all at the Mass to learn from the wisdom of St. Benedict.

“Like all of us, he, too, strove to live the paradox of the Gospel, that in giving our life away, we gain it,” he said. “For his monks—and for all of us as well this evening—his words about Christ reflect the wisdom of an undivided heart: ‘Never swerving from [the Lord’s] instructions, then, but faithfully observing his teaching … until death, we shall through patience share in the sufferings of Christ that we may also deserve to share in his Kingdom’ ”

(Rule of Benedict, Prol. 49-50).

Jerome Pascua, a cantor and handbell choir director at Ascension Parish in Louisville, Ky., called the liturgy “an awesome experience.”

“Sharing the Eucharist with everybody—and hearing the music as it should be performed,” he said, “it was just a beautiful, moving experience.” †

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