In the reading from the letter to the Hebrews today, we can see shades from Chapter 72 of the Rule of St. Benedict. It says in Hebrews, “Strive for peace with everyone and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” I think part of that means if we don’t strive to live in a supernatural way we won’t see the Lord in each other. We have to be living on a supernatural level. We can’t be living on a natural level, because then everything will only be natural. We have to strive for holiness. It says, “See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God. That no bitter roots spring up and cause trouble through which many may become defiled.” You know we can pass on bitterness as well as we can pass on goodness. And what does bitterness come from? It comes from an expectation that isn’t met. We feel we have a right to something and when that doesn’t happen bitterness starts taking root. We then often start acting out on it and people see it! Often others will figure that something painful has happened.
Bitterness is often rooted in something that has had to be suffered through and that a person doesn’t understand. It is for this reason that we have to strive to live on a supernatural level. Without seeing things on a supernatural level we won’t understand our suffering, nor will be we be able to be healed of it. One has to go the extra step. That’s what St. Benedict expects when he speaks of the good zeal of the monk (chapter 72). Everyone has had to suffer something they didn’t expect. But if you are living on a supernatural level, you will be able to turn the suffering around into gratitude and you will be healed; and through that others will be healed. Bitterness, on the other hand, can open a door to evil around us. It creates an atmosphere that is not of God.
We all can look at our lives and ask if there is a bitterness we haven’t yet addressed, that’s taken root and we need to deal with. It’s a part of the healing process. If we look at Jesus in the Gospel today, we see our model. Jesus could have been very bitter at how the people treated Him. He didn’t let bitterness take root in Him. He may have mourned over the people’s hardness, but He didn’t turn it into an evil within. That’s what it means to live on a supernatural level.
Reflection by Mother Maria Michael on the Mass readings for Wednesday, February 6 (Hebrews 12:4-7. 11-15; Mark 6: 1-6).