Toward the end of the Rule of St Benedict, there is a short chapter that can easily go unnoticed, but which
is a perfect application of the Gospel: Assignment of impossible tasks to a brother (RB 68). Benedict knew well that if we want to follow the Gospel, sooner or later, we will be confronted with the fact that we are asked to do something that feels impossible to us.
Do you what to know if you are really following Jesus and not a decaffeinated version of his message? You can ask yourself this question: does being faithful to your Christian calling feel impossible at times? If your answer is “yes,” you are on the right track because this is how it should feel—Peter trying to walk on water is a good example.
St Bernard puts it very simply, As long as a man is without experience in the spiritual combat, he thinks that what is asked of him is easy (Sermons on Conversion 8). What then? Are we called to be Christian superheroes? No, the path of the Gospel is for those who recognize their weakness and learn to trust in Another, just as St Paul says, For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:10). Being a Christian means learning to lean on Christ, and when we truly learn is when we do impossible things for and with him.
That’s the monastic approach to holiness: you have to make the effort, set out to climb the mountain; dare to do the impossible! But then you will truly experience that the Lord is with you. Lean on him, He can be trusted! ‘Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord?’ If anyone aspires to climb the summit of that mountain, that is the perfection of virtue, he will know how hard the climb is, and how the attempt is doomed to failure without the help of the Word. Happy the soul which causes the angels to look at her with joy and wonder and hears them saying, ‘Who is this coming up from the wilderness, rich in grace and beauty, leaning upon her beloved?’ (St Bernard, Sermons on the Song of Songs, 85.5).