This very obedience, however, will be acceptable to God and agreeable to people only if compliance with what is commanded is not cringing or sluggish or half-hearted, but free from any grumbling or any reaction of unwillingness. For the obedience shown to an abbot or prioress is given to God, who has said: “Whoever listens to you, listens to me” (Luke 10:16). Furthermore, the disciple’s obedience must be given gladly, for “God loves a cheerful giver” (2Cor. 9:7). If disciples obey grudgingly and grumble, not only aloud but also in their hearts, then, even though the order is carried out, their actions will not be accepted with favour by God, who sees that they are grumbling in their hearts. These disciples will have no reward for service of this kind; on the contrary, they will incur punishment for grumbling, unless they change for the better and make amends.
Here Benedict presents us with the vision of a full, willing, and open yes. This vision, this ideal, is not something to beat ourselves up with. Compassion and gentleness underpin the whole Rule. There is a mystery here to move towards with growing faith, growing acceptance, growing love. Benedict is teaching us that whole-heartedness means that we are simply being ourselves. He is showing us that a trait of human and spiritual maturity is the open expression of our deeper selves, regardless of circumstance.
With practiced obedience, any distinctions between being and doing fade. Rather than grumbling and resisting, that is, having our doing driven to some extent by the ego, in the contemplative (meditating) community this resistance fades. Then we might discover ourselves, simply and consciously, expressing our being in what we do. The goal of obedience in a loving community is to simply and freely be ourselves in all action.
On this journey into wholeness, or non-duality, we practice free and open acceptance straight away before we become aware of any inner grumbling and division. This does not mean that we suppress our awareness of grumbling and dividedness. We do both: we act as if we are whole-hearted and we grow in the awareness of what gets in the way of being whole-hearted. Whole-heartedness is non-duality. Non-duality is the expression of being.
In community we explore the nuances around suggestion and requirement, around what we need and what we want. We discover our motivations for living, our inner reasons and excuses for doing and not doing.
In all this we are asked to live into the present moment. If I am half-hearted or somehow unwilling, am I there? Am I attending to now, becoming conscious (without thought) of the extent and flavour of my motivation now? Am I ambivalent and so avoiding the honest present moment?
Not growing in this whole-heartedness has its own penalty: a half-hearted commitment ensures that we live half a life. Perhaps a perennial question in any commitment is what stops whole-heartedness.
Let love be without any pretence. Avoid what is evil; stick to what is good. In brotherly [or mutual] love let your feelings of deep affection for one another come to expression and regard others as more important than yourself. In the service of the Lord, work not half-heartedly but with conscientiousness and an eager spirit. Be joyful in hope, persevere in hardship; keep praying regularly; share with any of God’s holy people who are in need; look for opportunities to be hospitable. (Rom 12:9-13, NJB).