Friday, May 2, 2014

CHAPTER 36: Sick Monks


Before and above all things, we must care for the sick, so that truly they may be served as Christ is served, for he has said, "I was sick and you visited Me" (Mt 25:36). And "As long as you did it to one of my least brethren, you did it to Me" (Mt 25:40). But let the sick themselves also consider that they are served for the honor of God, and let them not grieve their brethren who serve them by unnecessary demands. These must, however, be patiently endured, because from such as these a more bountiful reward is gained. Let the abbot's greatest concern, therefore, be that the sick suffer no neglect. 

      Saint Benedict shares Christ’s concern for the weak and sick.  He recognizes that within any given community, these ‘little ones’ will always be in need of attention, and that the community may well be tempted to ignore them.  Instead, says Saint Benedict, we should look after them first.
     In any community, but particularly among younger folk, there is a tendency to shun those who stand out as weak or strange.  It goes back, I’m sure, to that ‘pack instinct’ that kept us humans alive for so many thousands of years.  Weak members slow down the herd and make it vulnerable to predators…survival of the fittest and all that.
     But get this: we aren’t animals.  We not only look after the weak; we love, protect, and honor them as Christ’s special presence among us
     And so the sick aren’t merely to be tolerated they are to be preferred.  I've often wondered what it would be like to receive a letter like Saint Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians.  What do you think was their reaction when he kicked off his letter with "You're not too bright, and you don't have much class, but God loves you precisely because no one else does”?[1]  As a Corinthian, I’d have to question whether I really wanted to be part of this group.  After all, when you’re picking teammates, who ever starts with the smallest, weakest, and least experienced?  Yet this appears to be the way God Himself operates (think David and Goliath, Jacob and Esau, Israel and Egypt…).  So to be a good Christian, it actually helps to be classless, helpless, foolish, weak, and despised.  If none of those labels apply to you, then I guess you’re just unlucky.






[1] Literally, “Consider your own calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something,”(1 Corinthians 1:26-28).