Perpetually unfinished

Daily Reading for March 5

The main reason that the Church is unfinished, of course, is that we humans are ourselves perpetually unfinished. We’ve all experienced the sense that there is always something more to learn, to accomplish, to become. It is this “incurable unfinishedness,” as one philosopher calls it, that sets us apart from other living things, because in trying to “finish” ourselves, we become creators. Our incurable unfinishedness keeps us childlike, capable of learning and growing. We may be trying to head toward perfection, but none of us will ever arrive there.

Benedict understands this, and is constantly making allowances for human weakness and frailty. For example, although he would prefer that the monks abstain from wine altogether, he admits that “monks of our day cannot be convinced of this” and so he allows for a certain amount of wine to be allotted each day. Similarly, after saying “a monk’s life ought to be a continual Lent” he concedes that “few have the virtue for this, so let us at least keep the forty days of Lent in a special way.”

Imperfections, setbacks, and sins, then, are all part of the striving; they’re all grist for the mill. They’re the place where we are destined to meet God—in the gap. Wherever there is that unfinishedness, there is the call to holiness: in the kitchen, the office, the hospital room, or the supermarket. Wherever there is that sense of striving, there is a saint in the making. From this point of view, then, there is no such thing as an “obstacle” to sainthood. Saints may be preoccupied with raising a family and balancing a checkbook; we may be struggling with our too-crowded daily schedule, our short temper, or our jealousy; we may have to live with a painful experience in the past or a physical disability. No matter what, it is through and in the experience of our imperfections that God wants to meet us.

From Pilgrim Road: A Benedictine Journey Through Lent by Albert Holtz, O.S.B. Copyright © 2006. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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