August 20 – Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
He was born near Dijon, in France, in 1090, of a noble family. In 1112 he joined the new monastery at Cîteaux. This had been founded fourteen years before, in a bid to reject the laxity and riches of the Benedictine Order (as exemplified by great monasteries such as Cluny) and to return to a primitive poverty and austerity of life.
Bernard arrived at Cîteaux with four of his five brothers and two dozen friends. Within three years he had been sent out to found a new monastery at Clairvaux, in Champagne, where he remained abbot for the rest of his life. By the time of his death, the Cistercian Order had grown from one house to 343, of which 68 were daughter houses of Clairvaux itself.
Bernard was a man of great holiness and wisdom, and although he was often in very poor health, he was active in many of the great public debates of the time. He strongly opposed the luxurious lives of some of the clergy, and fought against the persecution of the Jews. He was also a prolific writer, of an inspiring rather than a technical kind.
The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, I am about to deprive you suddenly of the delight of your eyes. But you are not to lament, not to weep, not to let your tears run down. Groan in silence, do not go into mourning for the dead, knot your turban round your head, put your sandals on your feet, do not cover your beard, do not eat common bread.’ I told this to the people in the morning, and my wife died in the evening, and the next morning I did as I had been ordered.
The people then said to me, ‘Are you not going to explain what meaning these actions have for us?’
I replied, ‘The word of the Lord has been addressed to me as follows, “Say to the House of Israel: The Lord says this. I am about to profane my sanctuary, the pride of your strength, the delight of your eyes, the passion of your souls. Those of your sons and daughters whom you have left behind will fall by the sword. And you are to do as I have done; you must not cover your beards or eat common bread; you must keep your turbans on your heads and your sandals on your feet; you must not lament or weep. You shall waste away owing to your sins and groan among yourselves. Ezekiel is to be a sign for you. You are to do just as he has done. And when this happens, you will learn that I am the Lord.”’
There was a man who came to Jesus and asked, ‘Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is one alone who is good. But if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said, ‘Which?’ ‘These:’ Jesus replied ‘You must not kill. You must not commit adultery. You must not bring false witness. Honour your father and mother, and: you must love your neighbour as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these. What more do I need to do?’ Jesus said, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But when the young man heard these words he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.
…sell what you own, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.
I recently discovered Carousell and have started to list items for sale at very affordable prices. In case you misunderstand, I am not selling all of my possessions but rather, trying to clear up some of the clutter in my room; especially those unopened presents or door gifts from attending golf tournaments. Of course, I could easily have transported all the items to the Salvation Army but I just wanted to see how much some of these items could fetch.
While I can relate to the young man in today’s gospel, I wonder how much he possessed and whether he was sad at the prospect of selling everything or sad at the prospect of having to give what he collected to the poor. For me, the exhortation consists of two things: not only does Jesus ask the man to abandon his current lifestyle, He also asked him to give away all the money to the poor.
Brother and sisters, I for one would probably struggle, just as the young man did, to give all my possessions away. At this point, I think I have only reached the stage of abandoning my previous lifestyle (and not totally at that) in my walk with Christ, which alone can be a rather challenging affair. And while I have not much in terms of money to give, I try as far as possible to give of my time and effort in service within His vineyard. In other words, the ‘currency’ I am using is time rather than money.
So rather than focus on the material dimension, because not all of us are millionaires, perhaps we should all reflect on how much time we waste on the weekends window shopping, trawling the internet and just lazing the time away when we could be devoting ourselves to serving our Father in church, in a ministry or anywhere else that needs our time and effort.
What this means then is that our ‘treasure in heaven’ can be measured using time rather than riches. For what good is all the gold and precious gems on earth when we are going to be busy praising and worshipping the Lord in the heavenly kingdom?
(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: We pray for the grace to be mindful of every second in the day that we waste on trivial matters rather than focussing on your plan for us. And that we learn to spend more time in your vineyard toiling away so that others can produce the fruits of our labour.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the time spent with us in adoration and in prayer.