“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” These words from today’s Gospel point to one of the most difficult things in monastic life: keeping a calm heart in all circumstances. Thankfully in his dialogue with his disciples, Jesus gives us a way to keep our hearts calm: it is to abide in his the truth, or perhaps better, in his word of truth. We must allow his word to lay bare our thoughts; to cleanse us continually; and to shine on us its mystical light.
Of Jesus’ three self-designations today – I am the way, the truth, and the life – the middle one, the truth, is perhaps the most important one for dealing with a troubled heart. Our hearts can become troubled for many reasons, but sometimes our imaginations just get away from us, or we are trying to protect ourselves, or we can’t face the truth. Our thoughts can become like an expanding balloon, and the only way to calm them is to puncture the balloon. That is what Jesus does with his word of truth. He lays bare the untruths and distortions that cause our anxiety by showing us the truth. We call this the grace of compunction. Even the disciples needed this grace. When in his zeal Philip thought he had the answer to all their troubles: “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us,” Jesus had to prick his self-confidence by pointing out that the Father was right in front of his eyes: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” The first fruit of truth, then, is the grace of compunction which helps us realize our blindness.
But this work of truth is not just a one-time thing. St. Benedict knew this, and he arranged for us to be immersed in the word throughout the day: seven times at the divine office; many more hours in lectio divina; and other times in silent and meditative prayer. We are called to be like Naaman the Syrian who was told to bathe seven times in the Jordan. And when he stomped off in indignation that Elisha didn’t simply wave his hand over the leprosy and be done with it, his servants had to come and calm him down. The same goes for us. We need to be cleansed by the word of truth not just seven times, but seventy-seven times, that is, continuously.
Finally, it is Jesus’ word of truth that, as St. Benedict says, opens “our eyes to the deifying light.” To take one example from today’s Gospel: Jesus says to Philip, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me?” Who could imagine the closeness of the Father and the Son without this word of truth? When our hearts are disturbed – when like Thomas we must know where Jesus is going; or where our community is going; or where our country is going, or where the world is going – what better way to regain our equilibrium than by turning our gaze on the unity of the Father and the Son and their indwelling in us by the Spirit? Then we will know the truth, and the truth will set our hearts free.
Brothers, the Eucharist is the word of truth par excellence. As the disciples gathered around Jesus to listen to his word, so the Eucharist has been placed at the center of our monastic life to gather us around Jesus and immerse us in his word of truth. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” he says. The Eucharist is the way, the truth and the life, Jesus himself. How consoling for a troubled heart!Photographs by Brother Brian. Today's homily by Father Vincent.