PEACE AND PROSPERITY IN RIGHTEOUSNESS
READ: Psalm 72:1-7
“O God, endow the king with Thy own justice, and give Thy righteousness to a king’s son, that he may judge Thy people rightly and deal out justice to the poor and suffering. May the hills and mountains afford Thy people peace and prosperity in righteousness. He shall give judgment for the suffering and help those who are needy; he shall bring down the oppressor. He shall live as long as the sun endures, long as the moon, age after age. He shall be like rain falling on early crops, like showers watering the earth. In his days righteousness shall flourish, prosperity abound until the moon is no more.” – Psalm 72:1-7
‘Tis a grey, rainy day here at Greyfriars’. The water is falling off the roof of my hermitage in a gentle cascade; Barnabas the raven has taken shelter beneath the bench on the porch, and Jazz the Abbey cat is looking wistfully out the window. It has been a soft yet steady rain, not so much a storm but a life nourishing rain that I am sure will deepen the green of this early Spring. And as is God’s way, one of my five Psalms for my reading this morning was Psalm 72, a prayer for righteous wisdom for those in power. A righteous, just king is like “rain falling on early crops, like showers watering the earth.” And it also brought to mind the words of Christ, “God causes it to rain upon both the rich and the poor alike.”
The Psalmist declares, “may the King judge God’s people rightly … and deal out justice … to the poor and the suffering.” All throughout Scripture, justice is concerned with the needs of the poor and the suffering. A righteous King is to be vigilant in making sure that His realm is fair to the poor and is caring for those who suffer. It is the Biblical standard for justice … the well-being of those in society most vulnerable and least powerful. When Israel was just, fair and compassionate with the least among them, the nation prospered; when Israel was concerned with the demands of the rich and powerful, the nation declined. It is a strong Biblical emphasis that has somehow been neglected in recent years.
I cherish the Benedictine emphases of community and humility. The Benedictine monasteries, especially in medieval times, but to a degree in our modern time, placed and still places a strong emphasis on being an egalitarian community. In monastic life, the Brothers and the Sisters came and still come from a wide variety of economic backgrounds. Some of the Brothers and Sisters came and do come from well-to-do families, some from high-paying careers. Yet others of the Brothers and Sisters came and do come to the monastery from the poorest of the poor and from the laboring class, some even from life on the streets as homeless. But in the monastic community, all are regarded with equal worth. Benedictines measure prosperity not in terms of the individual but in terms of the community. How we treat our frail; how we treat our needy; how we protect the vulnerable and how we provide for the poor, is the measure we use to define our prosperity. To be sure, there is authority and obedience in this way of life, but both the authority and the obedience is always servant to humility.
Brother Stephen is a good example, I believe, for this spirit of community and humility. Brother Stephen, in his earlier days, was a top executive at one of the big-name Wall Street financial institutions. He held a prestigious position and I assume was well-compensated for his executive skills. After a divorce, Brother Stephen went through a life-transforming encounter with the Lord. He eventually left behind his Manhattan apartment, his home in the Hamptons, his stock-portfolio, his private jet, converting it all to charity, and then to enter into monastic life. One day, he shared with me his reasons why he left all that behind. He said to me – and I suspect he has said also to others – “I had too much of everything that I didn’t really need and far too little of that which I really needed. In the ways that matter, now I am wealthy when back then, I was poor.”
My own pilgrimage into Greyfriars’ has made one thing very clear for me … today, we have far too much of what we do not need and far too little of what we do need. It is a matter of values clarification … to reconsider our definition of prosperity and make it more in line with God’s definition of prosperity..
Brother Anthony of the Cross
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