Good Zeal

The Work of God

Monastic Community gathered for the Liturgy of the HoursThe woman sat straight in her chair in the ICU waiting room, flanked by her two adult daughters. Her hair was in a grey bun. She wore no makeup or jewelry, only a homemade gingham dress. Her appearance sharply contrasted the smartly-suited medical specialist who came in to speak to her. His tone was kind and his message brief, “Your husband’s kidneys and heart have failed, there is nothing else that can be done.” She nodded in response, then he left. The daughters broke into hysterical crying, but she remained serene. “Now girls,” she said, “There’s worse things that can happen to a person than dying.” Then she added, “Your Daddy chose Jesus as his Savior when he was just a boy, now Jesus is coming to bring him home.”
On the Tuesday of the Octave of Easter this year, Father Joel, OSB, gave a brief homily at our Community Mass. It centered on the idea that we often think of ourselves as choosing our commitment to God when, in reality, it is God who chooses us. In the Gospel of the day (Jn 20:11-18), Mary Magdalene encounters the Risen Jesus near the empty tomb. Father Joel pointed out that Jesus, in choosing his followers, selected persons with questionable pasts. Mary Magdalene is described earlier in the Gospel as, “one from whom he drove out seven devils.” Also, there is Matthew the tax collector and Peter, a fisherman with bombastic manners. Given the reputation of these individuals, there is hope for all of us, too, as Jesus chooses us and we try to respond.

St. Benedict writes in his Rule: “Let them prefer nothing to Christ and may He bring us all together to everlasting life.” (RB 72). The Rule of Benedict refers to the monastery as a “little school” wherein the members learn and live the way of Christian discipleship—the way that leads to everlasting life.

In my life as a Benedictine, I have learned the importance of the “Opus Dei,” literally translated as “Work of God.” This is what St. Benedict in his Rule called the communal praying of the Liturgy of the Hours. It is also commonly known as the Divine Office. I have come to understand that nothing should be put before the Opus Dei. It takes primacy over other forms of work. Until recently, I always considered praying the Liturgy of the Hours as work that we do for God.

During Lent, the book chosen for our table reading, St. Benedict’s Wisdom-Monastic Spirituality and the Life of the Church by Luigi Gioia, OSB (Liturgical Press, 2022), gave me a new perspective to consider. Gioia writes: “Therefore, the Opus Dei is what God works in us. The Rule’s “nihil operi Dei praeponatur” doesn’t mean “put nothing before the works that we must do for God,” but rather “put nothing before welcoming and celebrating what GOD does for us, that is God’s work of salvation in us—the covenant, reconciliation, communion with God.” (p.127) It is God’s Work that we recall and celebrate in the Liturgy of the Hours. It is welcoming and participating in the ongoing process of God working on and in us.

So, as we approach our daily living of the Christian life, we can be assured that that the one who calls us also will be at work with us and within us, bringing us all together to everlasting life.

By Sister Eileen Gallagher, OSB

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