6 June – Memorial for St. Norbert, bishop, religious founder
St. Norbert (1080-1134) had been born to the nobility and raised around the royal court. There he developed a very worldly view, taking holy orders as a career move when he joined the Benedictines. A narrow escape from death led him to a conversion experience, and taking his vows seriously.
He founded a community of Augustinian canons, starting a reform movement that swept through European monastic houses. St. Norbert also reformed the clergy in his see, using force when necessary. He worked with St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Hugh of Grenoble to heal the schism caused by the death of Pope Honorius II, and for heresy in Cambrai, France with the help of St. Waltmann. He is one of the patron saints of peace.
-Patron Saint Index
1 Kings 17:1-6
Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord lives, the God of Israel whom I serve, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years except at my order.’
The word of the Lord came to him, ‘Go away from here, go eastwards, and hide yourself in the wadi Cherith which lies east of Jordan. You can drink from the stream, and I have ordered the ravens to bring you food there.’ He did as the Lord had said; he went and stayed in the wadi Cherith which lies east of Jordan. The ravens brought him bread in the morning and meat in the evening, and he quenched his thirst at the stream.
Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:
‘How happy are the poor in spirit;
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven: this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.’
Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Yesterday we talked about conversion. Upon re-reading my entry, it occurred to me that I might have given the impression that conversions happen instantaneously. They do not. The saying, ‘All in God’s time’ really is true. Some conversions take years, with hard edges smoothed out like patient water on rock. And the process of change doesn’t begin to happen until we give ourselves over to God. That’s essentially the Beautitudes’ cornerstone message, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”.
What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”? Jesus doesn’t say that the poor are especially blessed, nor does he equate being ‘poor in spirit’ to material poverty. The first reading from 1 Kings 17 offers a dramatic visual. We see Elijah the prophet, humble in obedience, relying only on a stream and the pickings of ravens for his sustenance. Being ‘poor in spirit’ is an attitude, a state of mind where we acknowledge our dependence on Him, and relinquish control of our common sense, giving ourselves to God. Can one be wealthy and still be ‘poor in spirit’? Yes, if we can recognize that our wealth is impermanent, transient in its quality. Can we be comfortable and still ‘poor in spirit’? Probably not because being comfortable implies a lack of struggle, and without struggle, there is no finding God.
At this point, some of us will be saying ‘Yes, well you can’t take everything literally in the Bible. How can a man survive on grubs and worms brought to him by ravens? That makes no sense!’ We will never be able to prove with confidence that Elijah really survived on bird food, but while the Bible may not be all fact, it IS all truth. We will never be ‘poor in spirit’ until we give ourselves over to God and realize that we are nothing without Him. Recognizing that our efforts are futile, that our ambitions are worthless without His grace, is the first step. So is the ‘willing suspension of (our) disbelief’. The Beautitudes are an affront to modern sensibilities. And that’s just the thing. God wants us to suspend ourselves, our wills, our thoughts and like Elijah, give it all over to Him. Can we do it? “The Lord will guard your coming and your going, both now and forever” (Psalms 121:8).
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the awareness to recognize that not everything that happens needs to be about us. We pray for the humility to give ourselves over to God.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those whom He sends to aid us when we fully depend on Him. We give thanks for the opportunities that He provides us to do the same in return.