September 26, 2011

Climbing the Ladder

Jacob's Ladder by Marc Chagal
Yesterday in our thrice yearly reading of the Holy Rule we began Chapter 7, the chapter on Humility.  It is one of my most favorite chapters in the entire Rule and St. Benedict gives us twelve steps to achieve genuine humility.  In a previous post I quoted the section of this chapter where Holy Father Benedict compares the journey of our ascent to heaven to Jacob's Ladder (Gen. 28).  He says "we descend by exaltation and ascend by humility." I won't go into detail, but during my many hours alone at home following my surgery last Monday, the Lord made it clear to me that I need a good dose of humility before I can get a good footing on that ladder.

This realization did not occur overnight and it does not come easy for me to accept. I had to pray through it and am still praying through it.  The first step of humility is to "keep the fear of God always before our eyes."  God sees all and knows all and we simply can't ignore that.  If I am to climb that ladder, I have to be constantly aware of God's presence, His very intimate presence in my life each and every day. I have to put Him above everything else, and that means going beyond my own comfort level and fear so that I am being all that God wants me to be. It is not easy for me.

In the story of Jacob's Ladder, God promises Jacob something that He repeats and repeats throughout the scriptures and still makes clear today,  "Know that I am with you." (Gen 28:15)  God chastises us, and makes clear to us our faults and the areas of our lives where we keep Him out.   Here we have a choice.  We can accept the fact that God is calling us to change and out of genuine "fear of the Lord," that is fear of offending Him who has given us life and calls us to live that life in union with Him, or we can remain as we are.  The latter is the easiest course, but the question to ponder is where does it lead us in the end? Will the course I choose to follow lead me up the ladder, or will I be stuck on a rung somewhere in between because the climb seems to difficult?  The funny thing about this "ladder" is that just when I think I am reaching the heights of my ascent God shows me that there is still a long long way to go. The higher I go, the ladder grows more rungs. Sometimes it seems an impossibility to continue. Can I hold on, do I have the strength, will I ever reach the top, will I be able to continue after I fall a few rungs, or God forbid tumble down to the bottom? It all comes back to the promise, "I will will never leave you until I have done what I promised you." (Gen 28:15) On my part, I just have to keep climbing.

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