Three Steps Toward Union with God
The Scripture readings for the Solemnity of St. Benedict’s Passing give us three steps toward union with God that we also find in St. Benedict’s Rule: Seek Christ; be Christ; follow Christ.
In the Book of Proverbs and elsewhere in the Scriptures, the reader is urged to “seek [wisdom] like silver, and like hidden treasures seek her out: then will you understand the fear of the Lord; the knowledge of God you will find; for the Lord gives wisdom.” The Wisdom of God is God’s Word, through whom God created all that exists. God’s Word, St. John tells us, is Jesus Christ. To seek wisdom is to seek Christ. That desire is planted in each of us by God and pushes us out of our self-centeredness and complacency to know the Father, whom the Son alone shows us. The first step toward union with God is to seek wisdom, which is to seek Christ.
The second step is to “be Christ.” It is not enough to seek Christ in our hearts, we have to live as though He has found us. How? By “putting on Christ,” as St. Paul says in Colossians: “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.” “Putting on Christ” means being Christ to one another. St. Benedict says, “If we wish to dwell in the tent of [God’s] kingdom, we will never arrive unless we run there by doing good deeds” (RB Prol. 22). “Putting on Christ,” with His compassion, humility, and forgiveness, is the second step to union with God.
The third step is to follow Christ. But, as Peter says in the Gospel, following Christ comes after giving up everything. Throughout the Gospel, Jesus connects following Him with selling all one has to give to the poor, taking up one’s cross, and dying with Him to rise with Him. What we receive when we follow Him is 100 times more valuable than anything we may have given up, and we inherit eternal life, which is union with God. St. Benedict says it this way: “Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may He bring us all together to everlasting life” (RB 72: 11-12).
The way to eternal life with God, is to seek Christ above all things, be Christ to others, and follow Christ by sharing in his sufferings that we may also deserve to share in His kingdom (RB Prol. 50).
— Abbot Benedict Neenan, OSB
Homily from the Transitus of St. Benedict
*Scriptures: Proverbs 2:1-9; Colossians 3:12-17; Matthew 19:27-29