Homily for Solemnity of St. Benedict
March 21, 2012
March 21, 2012
1 Kings 19:16, 19-21
1 John 5:1-5
As a kid growing up on a farm, I was 15 years old when my
father took me out into the field and taught me how to plow for the
first time. He sat in the driver's seat of the tractor, and I was
next to him. The plow, of course, was hooked up behind the tractor.
Without me noticing what he was doing, he lined the tractor up with
a tree way on the other side of the field.
He stood up, and had me sit in the driver's seat. He then
proceeded to point out the tree on the other side of the field. He
said: "If you want to make a straight line in a field, you must
first find an object on the other side of the field and drive
straight at that object."
As any nervous 15-year-old, I slowly put the tractor in gear.
I put the plow down into the ground and proceeded to move forward.
Of course, I immediately turned around to see what was behind me
and, in doing so, I turned the steering wheel of the tractor. My
father grabbed the steering wheel and reminded me to keep my eyes
on the tree so as to make a straight line.
I took my eyes off the tree in the field because I was
worried about what was happening at that present moment, that is,
what was happening behind me. The tree seemed so far off, and it
seemed as though taking my eyes off the tree even for a second
would not make that big of a difference.
It is so easy for us to become bored with our lives to the
point that we become nonchalant as we cross the fields of our
lives. We begin to watch the birds in the sky or what another
farmer is doing in his own field. We forget about Christ. We forget
that our journey in this life is to get to live with Him in the
The Gospel tells us that "No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God."
As in farming, we have landmarks in our own life toward which we
focus to keep us in line. In life we are to follow Christ. We are
to fix our gaze on Him who is the Tree of Life, and not turn our
eyes away from him.
The stained glass window in the northwest corner of the Abbey
Church has the tree of life growing up into the cross upon which
Jesus Christ hung. We, as Christians, find our life and our
salvation through the Paschal Mystery. The problem is that we can
so easily become distracted with the things of the world and take
our eyes off Christ.
St. Benedict started his journey in life by going to study in
Rome. He put his plow in the ground and found that he could not fix
his gaze on Christ with all the distractions and sin around him. So
he left the city of Rome and climbed a mountain just outside of
Subiaco. He stayed in a cave for three years with his eyes fixed on
With his eyes fixed on Christ, he was able to write a Rule
for monks that would be a guide for them to fix their gaze on
Christ. He says in the Prologue: "Do not be daunted immediately by
fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is
bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in this way of
life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God's commandments,
our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love"
St. Benedict knows that the outset of our spiritual journey
will be narrow. He knows that we are going to be the young kid who
is compelled to turn away from God. St. Benedict also knows that if
we follow God's commands, we will be able to RUN, to run with
We may be asking ourselves how this can be done; it is done
by an act of faith that we put the plow into the ground and move
forward. Blessed Guerric of Igny says: "Brethren, if we push God
behind our backs as if we had no faith, so that putting aside fear
of him we fix our attention rather on empty things; in what way do
we think he will look on us? He will look on us, but with what sort
of gaze?" (Sermon 25:6).
My brothers and sisters, as we till the soil of our own
hearts, are we focused on Christ or are we focused on the things of
the world? Have we cast God aside or have we fixed our gaze on Him?
As we continue on our Lenten journey, may we fix our gaze on
Christ, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate with great joy the
holy season of Easter.