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Again and again, learning the art of love

by davesandel on January 1st, 2013

Again and again, learning the art of love

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Eighth Day of Christmas

The First Day of 2013

New Year’s Day

Numbers 6:24-26

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you.  The Lord  lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

God’s words, spoken through his priests, calm my soul.  When I heard Pastor Neitzel speak those words in the Lutheran church of my childhood, when he lifted his hands and made the sign of the cross, he invited me into the peaceful place where God reigned, and we were happy.

Pastor Neitzel smiled, occasionally, and then in a rustle of robes, he was off.  The service was over, and we regained our roles in life.  There was a clutter of sounds as the congregation stood and turned and smiled at one another.  Far above me, the adults shook hands and talked while I, essentially lost in the shuffle, waited for whatever came next.  Usually, it was lunch at my grandma and grandpa’s house on Omaha Avenue, a small house on a short street in Lincoln, Illinois.

New Year resolutions were as popular then as they are now.  This chance to begin again is not to be taken lightly; we need as many chances like that as we can get.  We need to learn how to love and be loved, to be loved and to love.  (Which does come first: the chicken, or the egg?)

In the famous chapter 31 of his Rule, the wise St. Benedict says the cellarer (keeper of the goods) must “perform the duties of the office calmly, without any pride or delay, lest the others be led astray.”

Sister Joan Chittister writes most eloquently about this rule: “It is not right, in other words, to tax other people’s nervous systems, to try other people’s virtues, to burden other people’s already weary lives in order to satisfy our own need to be important.  We don’t need to keep them waiting, we don’t need to argue their requests, we don’t need to count out every weight to the ounce, every bag to the gram, every dollar to the penny.”

This is a choice I make countless times every day, in relations with my wife, my kids, my grandkids, my clients, my friends, my neighbors, the other drivers on the road, the clerks in stores and salespeople on the phone, and those with whom I correspond via telephone or text, letter or email.

I don’t need to be a jerk, even if I’m in a bad mood.  Right?  Sister Joan says, “We can give freedom and joy with every gift we give or we can give guilt and frugality.”

She claims her “birthright” but her words apply to all of us, Benedictine or Lutheran or whatever we call ourselves: “The person with a Benedictine tenor learns here to err on the side of largesse of spirit.”

Teach us your ways of generosity and gentleness, Lord, so that we can share largesse of spirit even when we have little or nothing else to share.  You are good, and you fill all our hands with manna every day.  Today as we begin anew, hold us and carry us and move us toward all the promise of your life inside us.  Thank you!

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