Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him...When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
- John 21.20-22
...the true tradition of praying is that the capacity of a man devoted to this work should be realized without wearying of his vow, whether the excellency of his capacity allows this, or whether his mental grasp or physical condition could allow it, considering his limitations, and that it should be realized as far as the zeal of each demands...
- Columbanus, Monks’ Rule, Irish, 7th century
The monastic rules of discipline developed by Celtic Christians were nearly always more demanding than anything practiced anywhere else in the Church.
It was this focused and austere discipline that enabled them to respond readily to calls to mission or service in dangerous and distant lands.
But if I understand Columbanus correctly, it appears there was no “one size fits all” approach to living by these rules. Men were expected to do the best they could in keeping the rule, according to their stage of growth in the Lord (zeal) and their strength and ability to perform what their vows required (capacity).
In other words, in the midst of these rigid, demanding disciplines there was room for individual expression and development.
Of course, each person needed to determine his own stage of submission to the rule, according to his zeal and capacity. He could not be concerned about others; his only concern was to advance in his own personal practice.
God has not called us to worry about what others may be doing with the Lord, or what He may be doing with them. We are only responsible for ourselves, and if we work hard to nurture our zeal and capacity in following the Lord, we will find that He uses us to encourage and strengthen others, even as we are growing in Him ourselves.
How would you describe your zeal and capacity for the Lord? What does your own practice of spiritual disciplines say about where you are in your walk with Him? What rule of discipline energizes your growth in the One Who says to each one of us, “You follow Me”?
My sense is that, if we will pray to the Lord for increased zeal, He will expand our capacity for obedience accordingly. When we’re truly zealous for the Lord we’ll go beyond ourselves in seeking to know and serve Him.
And that’s when His Spirit meets and stretches us – through zeal to obedience to increased capacity.
Psalm 51.10-13 (Passion Chorale: “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”)
Create in me a clean heart, renew me from within!
Take not Your Spirit from me because of all my sin.
Salvation’s joy restore, Lord, and keep me in Your hand.
Thus shall I tell Your strong Word to sinners in the land.
Lord, show me the best way to follow You every day. Are my disciplines what they should be? Are my zeal and capacity what You expect of me?
Today at The Fellowship of Ailbe
What does it mean to "believe" in Jesus? Is this the same as to "receive" Him? Check out today's ReVision column.
T. M. Moore, Principal