Locusts and Wild Honey Part 4: ANCESTRAL ALIBI Luke 3:8
During Lent 2021, we offered a spiritual journey through Lent in Germany for members of the Order, their youth and its Relief Service. It was entitled "Locusts and Wild Honey" (Mt 3:4) - Fasting with John the Baptist. Through Emilie Verbeken, these weekly impulses also found their way to Belgium. Thus the idea was born to offer and publish the Lenten meditations on John the Baptist also for interested people in other countries. I thank Emelie Verbeken and Florentine Haeusgen warmly for the idea and its realization - especially for the translation from German into French and English. It would be nice if in this way our patron could help us to have a fruitful time of conversion.
To all of you a blessed Lent and renewal of soul and body,
Fra' Georg Lengerke
As a student, I once helped an uncle, a Benedictine monk, sort through a drawer of all sorts of papers. At some point we both stood pensively in front of a list of ancestors. It ranged from St Hedwig of Silesia (+1243) to his parents and my grandparents. 23 generations.
Mysteriously, the story of the passing on of life from epoch to epoch, generation to generation and life story to life story stood before us. There was a peculiar mixture of greatness and heaviness in it.
At some point the uncle remarked soberly: "Well, probably half the convent is descended from St Hedwig. Only they can't prove it." With that, the matter was settled and the paper disappeared into one of the newly created folders.
John the Baptist preempts any possible excuse with his blunt call to repentance: " Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham." (Luke 3:8)
Don't even start! Your ancestors, your family history, your origins are not an excuse. It is about yourselves. It is you yourselves whose conversion is to be fruitful.
There are two ways in which our ancestors can become an alibi: Either because we credit ourselves with their merits or by excusing ourselves with their guilt.
It is true that both come down to us from our ancestors: on the one hand, a certain tradition and culture, an attitude towards God and people; on the other hand, the imprint of what our ancestors suffered or did wrong.
We should ask about both, we must face up to both, and we must first accept both. For the one we have to give thanks, appropriate it and develop it further - and in view of the other we have to ask for solution, healing and forgiveness.
But one day we will not be judged by what has come down to us through our ancestors. But by how we have dealt with this heritage of ours.
The question of the crowds upon hearing the verdict of the Baptist sounds puzzled: " What should we do then?" John is not asking for anything big - or rather, in small things, for something big. It is simply a matter of doing the obvious good and refraining from evil: He commands all to share what they have. The tax collectors are not to take more than they are entitled to, and the soldiers are not to mistreat or blackmail anyone and be content with their pay (Lk 3:10-14).
I had to think of this the other day when reading the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-17), that we are to do the seemingly small things in faithfulness: Give space to God. To recognise and love our neighbour with him. Honour those to whom honour is due. Face the truth, give it honour and no longer lie to ourselves and others. And to generously give our neighbour what is due instead of envying him.
This also applies to our ancestors and their heritage. With God's help, we can face our heritage - for good and for evil. We may entrust the ancestors to God's mercy. We are to give an account for our own lives.
The fruit that grows from this will be great....
Fra' Georg Lengerke.
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