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Aug 25, 2021 202 Donna Marie Klein, USA
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You are Precious

Do you believe God is right here, right now?

“Keep guard at all times over the actions of your life, knowing for certain that God sees you everywhere.” This verse from chapter four of the Rule of Saint Benedict aptly characterizes one of the Rule’s foundational principles: awareness that we are always in God’s presence. This knowledge of God’s constant gaze upon us can be both our greatest source of strength in temptation and our most powerful reminder of God’s perfect love and care for us His creatures.

The certainty that no actions escape the notice of our Creator causes us to mind our behavior and curbs our natural inclination to excess or inaction, helping us instead to direct our intentions toward the glory of God. Under God’s watchful eyes, we are less likely to have that extra glass of wine or sleep in and skip morning prayers.  

Awe-Inspiring Proposal!

Our charitable acts are treasures worthy of Heaven, but sometimes they are tainted with our own self-seeking. Remember Jesus’ caution in Saint Matthew’s Gospel: “Take heed not to do your good before men, in order to be seen by them; otherwise, you shall have no reward with your Father in Heaven” (6:1). The Prologue of Benedict’s Rule teaches us how to purify our intentions: “Whenever you begin any good work, beg of [God] with most earnest prayer to perfect it.”  Praying before starting the smallest of tasks not only allows God to use our actions to accomplish His purposes but reminds us that God is with us in everything we do.

Benedict believed that “the Divine Presence is everywhere, and that the eyes of the Lord behold the good and the evil in every place” (Rule, Chapter 19). Since we are to always imagine ourselves in the company of our Creator, Benedict challenges us in the same chapter to “consider how we ought to behave in the presence of God.” What an awe-inspiring proposal!

Yet do we really believe that God is with us here and now?  The truth is likely that, though we believe through faith that God is omnipresent, we easily forget it, especially when we are caught up in the daily grind. It is easy to be struck by an acute sense of God’s presence when gazing at a breathtaking sunset, but much harder to realize His power and presence when we take out the trash.

Practice Makes Perfect

God’s omnipresence is not just a theological concept to accept, but a habit that requires cultivation.  Constant awareness of and responsiveness to God’s Presence, known as ‘recollection,’ is an acquired disposition that has taken many a saint—perhaps even Saint Benedict!—years of practice. 

One method of fostering such recollection is to ask ourselves each day how God has manifested His love for us that day. As we recall the myriad ways God showed us His tender care and mercy, our hearts will spontaneously fill with thanks and praise, which in turn cultivate in our minds and hearts a deep love of God.  Ultimately, glorifying Our Maker in thoughts, words, and actions becomes second nature.

Inevitably, even the most recollected among us can lose sight of God during the storms and stresses of life. But the reality is that during times of fear and confusion when God seems far away, He is actually nearer than ever, “trying us by fire” to turn us closer to Him. Thus, Saint James exhorts us to “count it pure joy when you are involved in every sort of trial. Realize that when your faith is tested this makes for endurance” (1:2-3).  Though we may not feel particularly joyful in the moment, there is tremendous value in attempting to be present to whatever crisis is confronting us, having faith that God is with us and will provide a measure of relief. 

Wedded Bliss

Indeed, Sacred Scripture tells us beyond a shadow of a doubt that God never leaves us alone, especially in times of trouble.  In Psalm 91, God assures us through the psalmist that when we call, He will answer:  “I am with you. I will save [you] in distress and give [you] glory” (15).

Who can forget Jesus’s poignant words quoted from Psalm 22 as He hung on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (2). Yet that same psalm closes with a hopeful closing passage that many have never heard: “For He has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out” (25). Indeed, the last third of the psalm is an invitation to praise God!

A few hours before His arrest, Jesus predicted to His disciples that they would abandon Him yet declared, “I can never be alone; the Father is with me” (John 16:32). And before ascending to His Father, Jesus promised us, “Know that I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). 

Sorrows, labors, anxieties, irritations, weaknesses, oppositions, rebukes, humiliations—all can be borne patiently and even accepted when we fix our eyes on Jesus, who is Emmanuel, God-with-us (Matthew 1:23).  

 When the One we love is all around us—ahead of us, behind us, above us, below us, beside us—past regrets and future worries are rendered powerless. Under the approving, all-seeing eyes of the Almighty Father, life with Jesus in the present moment is wedded bliss. 

 “Now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

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Donna Marie Klein

Donna Marie Klein is a freelance writer. She is an oblate of St. Benedict (St. Anselm’s Abbey, Washington, D.C.).

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