There is a lot of truth here, though I don’t agree with the idea that people of faith should enter monastic life in order to escape or flee from the world. (The abbot doesn’t seem to be pushing that notion here.) The fear of man brings a snare, even when the fear is that others’ sins and my own inner weakness will prevent me from following God while living in a system that opposes Him. The monastic concept, while a comforting thought to someone like me who has trouble socially and feels forever out-of-place, seems wholly contrary to the teaching of Jesus, who told us we are salt and light and a lot of other things which are summarized nicely in the Scripture referenced here.
Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” – John 13:10
When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He showed us the pattern to address the very real issue raised by this brother, Petroniu Tanase.
We are affected by the filth of our environment. As we trod the paths of this world in obedience to God, our feet get dirty. There is no point in insisting they don’t. It’s not that we are unwise, not fleeing from temptation or knowingly putting ourselves in harm’s way. Of course we must have sense and watchfulness. But while our hearts belong to Him we often discover, through no obvious fault or sin of ours, that we are agitated by the realm of sinful existence, by things we see and hear and experience in this broken reality. We cannot walk through this world without being affected, without filth clinging to us from the dusty wilderness roads.
What Jesus seemed to be saying when He washed the disciples’ feet is that we bear a burden — a service — toward other believers, of helping them to remain clean, refreshing them, of bringing them back to a point of communion and spiritual stasis so they may “grow in favor with God and man.” Jesus’ answer to my “soul’s clinging to the dust” is the fellowship of the saints, the Church.
It seems the Lord intends His Church to be the place where pilgrims obedient to His will may find refreshment and cleansing from the sticky dust of these parched earthly environs. A believer has a well spring of living water, which is intended to be channeled into the lives of others.
The problem is that I am so focused on my own needs and concerns, my failures and opinions and ego, I rarely think myself capable of helping someone else, of being the servant of all.