Laws of man

It is to me, however, that you have come for a rule of life in keeping with your avowed purpose, a rule you may hold fast to henceforward

Rule of St. Albert, No. 3


Rules, laws are made in order to serve man and not the other way around, but sometimes we get cooped up with the technicalities of the rules, laws, or policies that we tend to forget the primary aim of what we are doing.

When Jesus allowed his disciples to pick grain during the sabbath, many scholars of the Jewish law were offended, thinking that what they were doing was unlawful, because on sabbath no one is supposed to be lifting a finger and do anything. It is reserved for prayer and holy obligations. It is a day reserved for God.

In the Book of Maccabees (2:15-48) we find the story of zealous Jews who fled to the mountains rather than worship pagan idols as ordered by the king. The soldiers went after them and attacked them on a sabbath. Because it was a sabbath, “they did not retaliate; they neither threw stones, nor blocked up their secret refuges,” (v. 36), which resulted in the death of thousands of Jews.

In the end of the Rule of Life, St. Albert reminds us that in all that we do, we must make sure to use our common sense, because “common sense is the guide of the virtues.” (RA 24).

Rules, laws, and policies are our guide in living a life that is acceptable in our society, however, we should not be slaves to these rules, laws, and policies, always, our yardstick is the example of Christ and that is love – loving God, by loving our neighbor.

If the rules, laws, and policies of man would seek to destroy human dignity, then we should seek to remedy it.

Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17).

In the same way, human laws should not enslave us. Rather, we should endeavor to make laws fitting to the will of our Lord, giving glory to God, even those laws which we consider to be desperately misguided and contrary to human dignity.

How am I a slave to human laws, rules and policies?

Mark 2:23-28
As he was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain. At this the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry? How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat, and shared it with his companions?” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Prayer
Dearest Lord, please grant me an open and discerning heart, one that seeks to please you alone even in the midst of trials. Strengthen my conscience and guide me in observing the laws of man, that I may be able to use them to give glory to your name. Amen.

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The peace of Christ

Albert, called by God’s favour to be Patriarch of the Church of Jerusalem, bids health in the Lord and the blessing of the Holy Spirit to his beloved sons in Christ, B. and the other hermits under obedience to him, who live near the spring on Mount Carmel.

Rule of St. Albert, No. 1


How would you respond to a person who does not seem to want to receive the peace of Christ?

When I was in one of our mission areas in Bataan, I reminded one of the mothers that her daughter will be receiving for the first time the sacrament of the Eucharist that Sunday. But her response took me by surprise. She said, “I don’t know, brother, if I would let her join.”

How could a mother deny her daughter the very presence of Christ?

When Christ sent his disciples to preach the Good News to the people he reminded them to wish the house peace, but when the house does not deserve the peace, they are to take it back.

But who really deserves the peace of Christ?

Christ instituted the sacraments so that we have something to hold on that would strengthen our faith and deepen our love for Him.

The sacraments allow us to participate in his passion – his life, his suffering, his death, and his resurrection. But we will only take benefit from these wonderful gifts if we are willing to take it, to accept it. The gift is for all, but apparently not all are willing to accept them.

Are we willing to receive the peace of Christ in our lives?

Matthew 10:12-15
As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

Prayer
Lord, grant me a heart willing and excited to accept you and to allow you to enter into my life. Let your peace reign in my house. Amen.

In allegiance to Jesus Christ

Many and varied are the ways in which our saintly forefathers laid down how everyone, whatever his station or the kind of religious observance he has chosen, should live a life in allegiance to Jesus Christ – how, pure in heart and stout in conscience, he must be unswerving in the service of the Master.

Rule of St. Albert, No. 2


The world is full of issues.

It will never run out of issues, be it moral, political, or spiritual, because the ways of the world is different. It is tainted by human interests, human desires, human needs, and that is why Christ showed us the way to the Father. What it really means to be truly human.

And then there are those who try to live a righteous life, in allegiance to Jesus Christ, they say, but then end up judging others, becoming unmerciful, unloving, making people stumble, and sounding and acting in such self righteous ways that we would no longer recognize Christ or the Father in their lives. For them, to look and sound holy is the way to perfection.

But what does “to be in allegiance to Jesus Christ” really mean?

To be in allegiance to Christ is to follow Christ, and that means to take the path of love. To be able to sacrifice one’s self for the sake of the other and to bring others back to God, not by judging them but through love.

Christ came in a world that is sinful, not to judge but to love.

Why did Christ rebuke the Pharisees and the Sadducees? People of the law, whose life have been dedicated to God and in the strict following of the law of God? Where they sinners? Definitely not, but they were so concerned of the laws of men that they closed themselves up from the spirit.

And so we hear St. Paul say:

But now we are released from the law, dead to what held us captive, so that we may serve in the newness of the spirit and not under the obsolete letter. (Romans 7:6)

How are we living a life in allegiance to Jesus Christ?

Romans 7:1, 4-6

Are you unaware, brothers (for I am speaking to people who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over one as long as one lives?

In the same way, my brothers, you also were put to death to the law through the body of Christ, so that you might belong to another, to the one who was raised from the dead in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the flesh, our sinful passions, awakened by the law, worked in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, dead to what held us captive, so that we may serve in the newness of the spirit and not under the obsolete letter.

Prayer

Lord, grant me a heart that is capable of loving others despite their failings. Allow me to love those I could not love, and to see them in their struggles knowing that they too are searching for the love that only you could give. Let me be an instrument of love. Amen.

Rules

It is to me, however, that you have come for a rule of life in keeping with your avowed purpose, a rule you may hold fast so henceforward; and therefore:

Rule of St. Albert, No. 3


When Pope St. John XXIII convened the Bishops of the world to make the church more responsive to the needs of the times through Vatican Council II, the changes were drastic and many opposed.

It was unimaginable for many that lay persons and brothers were now able to take the Holy Communion under both species – bread and wine – on a regular basis. Some priests would even refuse to drink from the same cup with the lay and brothers.

For Br. Gesuino Carbone, OCarm, however, he believed in the wisdom of the church fathers at the time, and as such, he said, “If that’s what the church allows, that’s what is good for me.”

But he was also respectful to the sensitivities of his brothers, and so when a brother seemed reluctant to drink from the same cup, he uses a silver spoon to receive the wine.

Sometimes we are not as accepting when it comes to rules and policies that would break the norm and take us out of our comfort zones. Reasons would not be of lack. There will be plenty of those.

When the hermits of Mt. Carmel decided to ask St. Albert of Jerusalem to craft a rule for them, they were anticipating a total change of their lifestyle, realizing that eventually they would need to leave Mt. Carmel.

They knew that they would have to give up something, but they also knew that if they wanted to recreate the Mt. Carmel that they loved, they would need each other, for each possesses a piece of that sacred mountain, and each piece is precious. But for them to be able to live a life in community, order must be established, and each one must learn to express his freedom in relation to each other.

That was the role of the rule, to keep these pilgrims and hermits together at a time when their way of life was being threatened, and the rule has helped them define themselves and mark their role in the Church as a whole.

When a rule seems to challenge your beliefs, what do you do?

Matthew 23:1-12
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,[a] and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Prayer
Lord grant me a heart that is ready to listen to the wisdom of the rules that you have set before me, not blindly accepting, but critically imbibing, looking for your hand in each event. Amen.

A pure heart

Many and varied are the ways in which our saintly forefathers laid down how everyone, whatever his station or the kind of religious observance he has chosen, should live a life in allegiance to Jesus Christ – how, pure in heart and stout in conscience, he must be unswerving in the service of the Master.

– Rule of St. Albert, No 2


A little girl once told her classmate that when she grows up she wanted to marry a foreigner because they have plenty of money. Children say the darndest things, and what they say reflects how they were raised by the adults around them, not just the parents but also the relatives and the community that a child has contact with.

A child’s heart is pure – untainted, devoid of bad intentions. A child is trusting, especially with people whom she has learned to depend on, believing fully that the intentions of these people are pure and for her good.

Her heart is like an empty vessel; very pure, so clean, allowing her to trust fully.

It is this purity of heart that Christ wants us to possess. Amidst the many dirt that has lodged in our hearts, Christ has showed us that it can be cleaned and he has already done that for us. All we have to do now is to fully put our faith in Him.

Like children, let us give ourselves fully to God, depending on Him for all our needs and trusting fully that he will provide.

Where did you last doubted God and relied on your own strength, knowledge, and skill? What happened?

Proverbs 3:5-7
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

Prayer
Lord, develop in me the heart of a child. Allow me to freely and fully put my trust, my faith in you, for my humanity, Lord, has limited my knowledge, skills, and abilities. But you, my God, is full of wisdom, power, and glory. Grant me a trusting heart, Lord. Amen.

Anonimity

Albert, called by God’s favour to be Patriarch of the Church of Jerusalem, bids health in the Lord and the blessing of the Holy Spirit to his beloved sons in Christ, B. and the other hermits under obedience to him, who live near the spring on Mount Carmel.

– Rule of St. Albert, No. 1


Christopher is a very quiet young man. He loves solitude. He also loves to be in church. He loves to be in front and at the altar, all dressed up and looking so saintly. He also has a beautiful voice which he has dedicated to God.

One time he was given the task to prepare the songs for mass, but the songs he chose were not familiar to the congregation. But they were beautiful and highlighted his powerful vocal cords.

After mass, the priest came to him and reminded him to choose songs familiar to the congregation; songs that would bring the congregation’s attention to God and not on him.

Our desire for approval and praise, no matter how subtle, is a door that welcomes pride. Humility is not just an outward expression of silence and solitude. It is expressed by anonymity, a conscious choice of not wanting recognition and praise, but at the same time grateful should such come. This choice is rooted from the understanding that everything one has is from and of God. God bestowed these blessings so that He will be glorified.

Since St. Albert of Avogrado penned his Rule of Life for the hermits living in the caves of Mt. Carmel, no one could definitely say who Brother B is because in all humility the founding fathers chose to be unknown, marginal, as Jesus was. A servant who’s lowliness glorifies God.

Have you been authentic in your humility today?

Philippians 2:2-4
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

Prayer
Lord, thank you for blessing me with skills and abilities. Grant me a humble heart, Lord. One that is enthusiastic to serve others, rather than be served; to remain unknown and nameless, and not to be carried away by prestige, praise, and recognition. After all, everything that I am today will be and is yours and from you. Amen.