Here is a little prediction for you. Everyone who goes to Mass this morning will listen to the Parable of the Good Samaritan and resolve to be a better neighbour to others — more kindly, more compassionate, more generous. But come Monday morning, with its prospect of another day at the office or a mound of dirty laundry to be washed or even (whisper it not) a complicated and lengthy office of Vigils to celebrate St Benedict, and the milk of human kindness will quickly turn to yoghurt in our veins. We want to be good; we want to be all the things the gospel asks of us; but wishing and wanting don’t make things happen. We may have an impulse of kindness and generosity now and then, but to make them habitual requires hard work and many failures. That tends to put people off, rather like trying a new diet and slipping back into old habits once the initial enthusiasm has worn off. Why bother trying? Why not just accept that we can’t?
Perseverance is a very unshowy quality, but also very important in monastic life and indeed the Christian life in general. It means getting up again as soon as one has fallen, plodding on when one cannot run, trying one’s best even though one is doubtful of the outcome. It is a grace and, as such, one we can pray for, must pray for if we are to follow the teaching of Christ. Most of us are not Good Samaritans most of the time. We are not even priests or levites passing by. We are, though we may be reluctant to admit it, lying bruised and bloodied by the wayside, needing the Good Samaritan’s help. Learning to accept graciously is as important as learning to give graciously, but in many ways we find it harder because, of course, it takes us from being centre stage, from active to passive. If our resolve to be kinder, more compassionate, more generous doesn’t last into Monday, maybe our readiness to accept the kindness, compassion and generopsity of others can. Sometimes it is only experiencing the goodness of others that can lead us to become good in our turn.