Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Have a Nice Day

Have a good day!
And the Lord, seeking his laborer

in the multitude to whom He thus cries out,
says again,
"Who is the one who will have life,
and desires to see good days" (Ps. 33[34]:13)?
And if, hearing Him, you answer,
"I am the one,"
God says to you,
"If you will have true and everlasting life,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips that they speak no guile.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek after peace and pursue it" (Ps. 33[34]:14-15).
And when you have done these things,
My eyes shall be upon you
and My ears open to your prayers;
and before you call upon Me, I will say to you,
'Behold, here I am'" (Ps. 33[34]:16; Is. 65:24; 58:9). (From the Prologue to the Rule).

Most of us have a good idea of what it means to have a good day. Sometimes, it means that everything seemed to go our way; we had no major difficulties, the weather was great, our boss loved us, we had a day off, we won the lottery, whatever. But, it seems from this short section of the Rule, that’s not what Benedict thinks of when he asks us if we wish to “see good days.”

Benedict says that those who wish for good days will follow just a few simple rules:

1) Keep your tongue from evil;
2) Turn from evil and do good;
3) Seek peace and pursue it.

While Benedict may seem completely out of step with what most people would consider to be a good day, in fact, I think he’s on to something. What is Benedict talking about? I think Benedict is getting to the heart of the matter. If we truly seek “good days”, what we are seeking is something deeper than the experiences of any particular day. He’s trying to tell us how to have good days when everything we touch turns to ca-ca, the weather is lousy, our boss hates us, and we are down to our last dollar in the bank. He wants us to build the interior resources we need to look at every day we are given as a “good day.” I mean, just look around. Everywhere you turn, on the news, in the street, it seems no one is keeping their tongue from evil. It seems that’s all we hear. Conversations nowadays seem to rapidly degenerate to personal name calling and vituperation if any remotely controversial topic, such as Christian faith, comes up. And who is seeking peace? Is it peaceful to have a car pull up next to you with the stereo blasting so loud you can’t hear yourself think? Is there anywhere you can go that you’re not bombarded by someone trying to get their particular message through above all the surrounding din? Are these things really part of a good day?

My own experience has shown me that, when I do indeed guard my tongue, that alone makes things go a lot better. I don’t say negative things, which improves not only my own attitude, but the attitudes of those around me. It makes things much easier. I know that being around people who are always talking others down, or being negative makes the task at hand much harder. It makes social gatherings that much more uncomfortable. It’s just bad news.

I also know that there is much going on just in the media that I need to insulate myself from. It’s hard to turn on any program on TV without being confronted squarely with evil, and constant exposure to evil, even fictionalized evil, leads one to become inured to it. You become desensitized and it becomes much harder to detect the next time you see it. If you have any doubt, just watch a 1950’s sitcom and see if you can tell a difference in the tone of what is displayed.

The heart of what Benedict is saying is, “seek peace.” That’s what all these steps add up to. By focusing on the good in our thoughts and in our speech, by carrying out those thoughts in our actions, and by seeking times of silence and prayer, retreating to our “enclosure”, we are taking positive steps to ensure that all our days are good days.

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