Shake the Dust Off

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

“Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.”

Mark 6:11

I have to laugh when I imagine Jesus teaching His followers that they don’t have to fight people who don’t agree with them – they can just shake the dust from themselves (c.f. Mark 6:11).  Not everything that sticks to you is mud.  Most of the time it’s just dust.  And you have to know how to discern that.  Don’t see everything as big heavy weights.  It’s as if Jesus asks us, “They’ve been mean to you?  Shake the dust off!  Why worry about it?”  What a nice way to handle it.  Sometimes we have to physically do something to shake off the dust; when something is really painful or hurtful, if we don’t physically do something it can run around in our heads.  But a way to stop it is to physically do something.

I think hearing and understanding Jesus’ words tells us a little bit about how Jesus Himself had to handle things.  How He took things, so that it wasn’t so heavy for Him.  He didn’t let it become heavy.  It was a choice: He could be upset, mad, and let it run around; or He could just shake off the dust, turn around and go to the Father.  You don’t have to do it noticeably all the time; you can go into the inner corner of your heart and shake off the dust.  But I would suggest that you find something to do so that you don’t carry around the dust of the world on your shoulders.  Otherwise it just all collects.

One of the most helpful ways to shake the dust off is to turn to the Scriptures.  Through the Scriptures the Holy Spirit speaks loudly.  That’s so often how things are answered. 

Cherish the Scriptures.  Put love into reading them.  Pray them.  This should cause our hearts to love more.  It should cause us to want to do more.  It should teach us how to love more.  True prayer will make us love others more.  It won’t make us separate.  Although as nuns we may appear separated because we’re cloistered, for us, praying with the Scriptures makes us love more in a different way, in the sense of bringing people before the Lord in prayer, caring about their cares.  True prayer should bring us even more together.  It is a happiness, a joy, to be united to all those you love in the Spirit.  Let your prayer bring you to that place.  It should really root us together in that way, and then it won’t be a surprise in Heaven when we’re together, too.

You Are a Teacher

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

We hear in the Gospels about the schedule of Jesus.  What was on his work list was very simple: “Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness” (Matthew 9:35).  That was His work; that’s what He did.

I was thinking of the importance of teaching, and how according to the Rule of St. Benedict the Abbot does the teaching, but every one of you teaches as well.  Your actions teach.  Are you a good teacher?  What is your class?  What are you teaching?  These are important questions.  We hear from St. Benedict in his Rule what he would like to see in teaching:  

…Anyone who receives the name of abbot is to lead his disciples by a twofold teaching: he must point out to them all that is good and holy more by example than by words, proposing the commandments of the Lord to receptive disciples with words, but demonstrating God’s instructions to the stubborn and the dull by a living example. Again, if he teaches his disciples that something is not to be done, then neither must he do it. (RB 2.11-13)

We should all look at this in our lives.  What are we actually saying by our actions?  Are we saying one thing and doing another?  Are we expecting one thing and then not expecting it of ourselves?  Think if everyone acted like you all day, how would it look?  It might just be the most wonderful thing in the world, but it does help to ask that question.  This is a part of renewal and conversion.  I think in community it’s hard not to hold ourselves accountable.  Somehow whatever we do always comes back to us.  But even if this wasn’t the case, we hear from St. Benedict, “Hour by hour keep careful watch over all you do, aware that God’s gaze is upon you, wherever you may be” (RB 4.48-49).  So God too is watching.  What is the discipline in your life that helps you?

Remember how important your life is.  Whether you like it or not, you are sisters!*  You have an impact on your community.  You do.  What is that impact?  This is for you to think of.  Remember that everything God made is very good, so you have no excuse by saying you were made bad.  You are wonderful in the eyes of God.  Don’t put aside the impact you have.  Don’t belittle it and think you’re nothing or that nobody sees you.  That is completely untrue.  You are seen and you are loved.  Look honestly at your life, and if you’re looking honestly you will see the good as well as the not-so-good.  Capitalize on the good – invest in it!  Do all you can to be all the good you are; the rest will fade away.  I wish this for everybody.

*This meditation was addressed to the community of nuns at the Abbey, where only sisters were present.

“Catholic education is above all a question of communicating Christ, of helping to form Christ in the lives of others.”

Pope Saint John Paul II