Losing the Landloper
by Rev. Paul Scalia
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Jesus said to his disciples: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
In the Rule of St. Benedict, the founder of Western monasticism established a new and important vow: stability. When a man enters a Benedictine monastery , he vows stability of life – to remain with that particular community until death. By requiring this vow, St. Benedict sought to exclude the “landloper” – the monk who bounced from one monastery to another, “always roving and never settled.” Such instability was simply an avoidance of problems. Rather than allow a monastery to reveal his faults or challenge him, the landloper would pull up stakes and leave.
With this vow, St. Benedict addressed not only a matter of religious life but also a profoundly important spiritual principle for everyone. To go deep into conversion of life (another Benedictine vow), you must drop anchor and remain where you are for a good long time. You must learn stability. Of course, St. Bernard learned this principle from Our Lord. “Remain in me,” He says to the apostles, “as I remain in you” (Jn 15:4).
First: Remain. Some translations has this as, ”Abide.” It expresses an ongoing stable presence. And the basic command challenges our fundamental weakness of instability. There is a little bit of the landloper in each of us. The human heart is fickle and erratic. We make resolutions … and we make them again, because we quit so quickly. We fall away from good practices when they become too difficult or (more likely) too boring for us. Our culture may have more commitment phobia than others, but the desire to escape has always afflicted the human heart. Genuine change and growth can come only if we have stability, if we remain.
Second: Remain in me. Our Lord makes a personal summons. He does not command simple perseverance in a task or duty. He desires and calls us to make our abode in Him, to dwell within Him. This means to set our roots deep into our relationship with Him. Nor should we think that this is limited to times of prayer. We are to remain in Him in all tasks throughout the day, at every moment having a steadfast knowledge of our union with Him. In short, that we not allow any person, object or event to break our union with Him.
Finally – and most important – as I remain in you. St. John tells us, “In this is love; not that we have loved God, but that he loved us” (1 Jn 4:10). In a similar way, we are able to remain in Him because He first remains in us. By grace Jesus makes His abode within our souls. We should not fear, then, that the abiding He desires of us is somehow impossible or beyond us. He has placed Himself in our hearts first, granting to us already a sort of stability – His stability. The greater awareness we have of Him abiding in us, the more inspired we will be to abide in Him.
In God’s providence we hear these words during Easter …when, perhaps, we have become landlopers. The fervor of Lent has grown cold and resolutions once fervently made are now far removed. It is precisely now, when the rigor of Lent is no longer in our minds, that we need to hear this summons to remain, to stability. His dwelling within us is not seasonal. Neither should ours within Him. He is no landloper. Neither, then should we be.
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