The Heart of a Monk Is…
When asked if the number of those saved would be few, Jesus refused to give a statistical answer and cut to the heart of the question by responding, “Strive to enter.” Then He went on to say, “For many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” (Lk. 13:23-25)
I believe that in this teaching Jesus is not referring to physical or even moral strength, but to the strength of our desire. Many people may “kind-of” want to go to heaven, but, as noted in the Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13), other desires and needs come first and so choke the desire for Heaven, preventing it from fully maturing and bearing fruit; thus the person never actually reaches Eternal Life.
The Heart of a Monk is the Desire for Heaven. By Heaven I mean not only the experience of bliss in the afterlife, but the state of being utterly united to God and His Will, so completely translucent to God’s Presence and Love within, that It must transforms and shines out within and through him. This Heaven begins now in this life and reaches consummation in the world to come. Since we only enter Heaven to the extent that we desire it, our monastic forbears rightly emphasize how absolutely crucial is the cultivation of an intense and burning desire for real, eternal life. In his Rule for monasteries, St. Benedict challenges his monks, “Are you in a hurry toward your Heavenly Homeland?” (RB 73) and among the Tools of Good Works (RB 4) exhorts the monks, “To desire everlasting life with all spiritual longing.”
So how does one go about cultivating a burning desire for Heaven?
1. In order to desire anything we must perceive it as a real good. In order to desire Heaven most of all we must train ourselves to value it at its true worth: The Greatest of All Goods. To do this we should meditate of the excellence of eternal life with God and the fleeting nature of life in this world and of all passing things.
2. We must examine ourselves and our lives to see if we are really living as if union with God and His Will are, in fact, our Greatest Value. This will be seen in how we choose to live.
3. We must pray frequently and fervently throughout the day for a real longing for God and Hope for Heaven. Ask and you shall receive.
In all these things we can be sure of the Help and Assistance of God, Who desires nothing more for us than our Greatest Good and Eternal Happiness with Him in Heaven.
Anyway, that is what I think. But what do you think?