The Greatness of the Soul is Measured by Its Love.
The Memorial of Saint Bernard, Abbot & Doctor of the Church.
Lessons from the primary feria for the Twentieth Tuesday of Ordinary Time, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Judges 6: 11-24.
• Psalm 85: 9, 11-14.
• Matthew 19: 23-30.
…or, from the proper:
• Sirach 15: 1-6.
• Psalm 119: 9-14.
• John 17: 20-26.
…or, any lessons from the common of Doctors of the Church, or the common of Holy Men & Women for Religious.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Bernard, Abbot & Doctor of the Church.
First lesson from the proper, the rest from the common "In médio…" of a Doctor, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Ecclesiasticus 39: 6-14.
• Psalm 36: 30-31.
• Matthew 5: 13-19.
10:30 AM 8/20/2019 — We celebrate today the Memorial of the Holy Abbot and Doctor of the Church, Bernard of Clairvaux, the celebration of which is paradoxical. The brief biography of him in the Roman Missal, as well as the extended one in the Roman Breviary, wax eloquent about his many treatises on theology, his love for the Mother of God, his fight against heresy and in defense of the unity of Holy Mother Church, his personal holiness; but, try as you might, you can't find a single reference to what is one of the most significant events in his life: the preaching of the Second Crusade. When I was a young priest on pilgrimage in France, I stood in the shadow of the Abbey of Citeaux, on top of the hill from which Saint Bernard blessed a thousand young men of noble birth, sending them forth to drive the Muslims from the Holy Land.
If Holy Mother Church decides that it's prudent to ignore certain aspects of a saint's life because they're politically incorrect, that's her business; but no one is permitted to ignore any part of the Holy Gospel; and, today’s lesson is a continuation of yesterday’s, in which our Lord invited a wealthy young man to join His company, but the young man refused because he wasn’t ready to give up his comfortable way of life and his many possessions. Today our Lord doubles down on how important it is not to let the things of this world get in the way, using the almost ridiculous analogy of a camel threading a needle; and, there have been many even more rediculous theories about what our Lord meant by that analogy, none of them very important.
When we hear our Lord speak this way we may think we’ve nothing much to worry about, since we don’t have much; but, even the poor can displace the love of God with material things, even without having them. Jealousy, envy, and the desire to have more than we do can be more damaging to our interior life than preserving what we already have. And it applies not just to things but to non-material distractions as well: reputation, success, ambition.
We are not monks, like Bernard of Clairvaux, so we have to live in the midst of this world without being enslaved by it; we have to have certain possessions to live our lives and take care of those we love, and that’s the challenge: to possess necessary things without being possessed by them. And I think we can do that by always remembering that our one and only reason for being on this earth is to work out our salvation, and bring along as many others as we can, starting with our own families and those who depend on us. And if we have our priorities right, then we won’t have to worry about riding a camel through a needle’s eye.
Remembering always that we are pilgrims on a journey, recognizing the transitory nature of this life as nothing more than a proving ground and a way-station on our way to somewhere else … that is the secret to keeping our heads clear, our souls pure, and our feet firmly set on the right path. Perhaps Saint Bernard said it better: "The greatness of each soul is judged by the measure of love that it has: he who has great love is great, he who has little love is little, while he who has no love at all is nothing."