James Behrens

James Behrens

An elderly rabbi was speaking to his young grandson, offering him kernels of wisdom that he accrued over the years. The boy listened eagerly, as would any child to a loving and wise grandparent. He said to the boy, “Try to remember that everything you need to know is within you.”

The boy’s name was Robert Frank, who would grow up to be one of the best-known photographers in the world. One of the many things that were within him was recognition of the need for companionship. This one gift would lead him to friendships, some of which helped him to refine his craft. It would lead to marriage, children, a long span of years that would inspire him to continually take notice of this world. With his camera, he captured the joys, the sorrows, the loneliness and desperation of the many people he encountered all through his life.

The elderly rabbi was onto something. The words he spoke to his grandson bore fruit as the boy matured into adulthood. The gift that carried within itself, like a seed, matured as well, moving Robert Frank to better see life, watch it closely and further explore its mystery and wealth through the lens of a camera.

In chapter 10 of the Gospel of Luke, he recounts the scene where Jesus is in the home of Martha and Mary. Martha is busy preparing the meal and serving it and complains to Jesus that Mary should be helping her instead of listening at the feet of Jesus. Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her. Sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to his words is the better part, the only thing necessary. We do not know what words Jesus spoke to Mary. We are left with knowing that the one thing that was necessary was her listening to the words Jesus spoke, and taking them to heart.

Each of us was born into this world with the life of Christ within us, as our life and our hope. His presence is a living gift that unfolds through life, moving us to better love, better hope and better see. It is a gift that fosters within us the realization that we are one body and prompts us to see each other as brothers and sisters in and through Christ.

It is a Gift that will not be taken from us because it is within us. If we learn from it, follow its voice, it is really all we need to know because it will lead s to everything that is good and worth knowing. And I also think that an elderly rabbi would approve and perhaps rejoice in this gift that offers us life and the means to share it.

Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Highway 212 SW, Conyers. His e-mail address is james@trappist.net.


I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.