Aug 20 – Memorial for St. Bernard, abbot, doctor
Bernard (1090-1153) founded and led a monastery which had over 700 monks and 160 daughter houses. He revised and reformed the Cistercians, and was advisor to, and admonisher of, King Louis the Fat and King Louis the Young, and spritual advisor to Pope Eugenius III, who had originally been one of his monks. Every morning Bernard would ask himself, “Why have I come here?”, and then remind himself of his main duty – to lead a holy life.
The angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah which belonged to Joash of Abiezer. Gideon his son was threshing wheat inside the winepress to keep it hidden from Midian, when the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘The Lord is with you, valiant warrior!’ Gideon answered him, ‘Forgive me, my lord, but if the Lord is with us, then why is it that all this is happening to us now? And where are all the wonders our ancestors tell us of when they say, “Did not the Lord bring us out of Egypt?” But now the Lord has deserted us; he has abandoned us to Midian.’
At this the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength now upholding you, and you will rescue Israel from the power of Midian. Do I not send you myself?’ Gideon answered him, ‘Forgive me, my lord, but how can I deliver Israel? My clan, you must know, is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least important in my family.’ the Lord answered him, ‘I will be with you and you shall crush Midian as though it were a single man.’ Gideon said to him, ‘If I have found favour in your sight, give me a sign that it is you who speak to me. I beg you, do not go away until I come back. I will bring you my offering and set it down before you.’ And he answered, ‘I will stay until you return.’
Gideon went away and prepared a young goat and made unleavened cakes with an ephah of flour. He put the meat into a basket and the broth into a pot, then brought it all to him under the terebinth. As he came near, the angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Take the meat and unleavened cakes, put them on this rock and pour the broth over them.’ Gideon did so. Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff in his hand and touched the meat and unleavened cakes. Fire sprang from the rock and consumed the meat and unleavened cakes, and the angel of the Lord vanished before his eyes. Then Gideon knew this was the angel of the Lord, and he said, ‘Alas, my Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!’ the Lord answered him, ‘Peace be with you; have no fear; you will not die.’ Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it The-Lord-is-Peace.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you solemnly, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.’ When the disciples heard this they were astonished. ‘Who can be saved, then?’ they said. Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he told them ‘this is impossible; for God everything is possible.’
Then Peter spoke. ‘What about us?’ he said to him ‘We have left everything and followed you. What are we to have, then?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I tell you solemnly, when all is made new and the Son of Man sits on his throne of glory, you will yourselves sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of my name will be repaid a hundred times over, and also inherit eternal life.
‘Many who are first will be last, and the last, first.’
…Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
Israel had endured seven years of Midianite oppression. Arriving from the east on hordes of camels, these invaders would terrorize the Israelites, destroy villages, ravage crops and steal livestock wherever they went. Their constant invasions left the Hebrew people impoverished, starved and driven to hiding. It was against this backdrop that we find Gideon, son of Joash, ‘threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites.’
A keen observer might find it odd that Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress. Wheat was usually threshed on a threshing floor. Threshing is the process of separating the grain from their husks by flipping, or ‘winnowing’ the wheat into the air for the wind to blow away the lighter chaff. As such, threshing floors were usually large flat rocks located on windier elevated grounds outside of the village.
A winepress, on the other hand, refers to a vat or pit dug into a vineyard for the purposes of pressing grapes to produce wine. Which begs the question, what on earth was Gideon doing threshing wheat in a wine press?
The answer is quite simple. Threshing wheat at the threshing floor would be more appropriate, but would leave Gideon dangerously exposed to an attack. A wine press, however, offered a more concealed location. So even though Gideon was not in the most ideal location, he knew he had to do something to keep his family from starving. Gideon did not wait for circumstances to be perfect. He needed to accomplish something for the good of others and was willing to make the best with what he had. Even if it meant breaking with convention and acting outside the norm.
Perhaps it was this ‘whatever-it-takes’ attitude that drew God to choose Gideon as Israel’s deliverer. An unlikely candidate by his own estimate, upon hearing the call to lead God’s people, Gideon promptly reminded the angel that he was the least important person in an undistinguished family, that came from the weakest clan in Israel. By conventional standards, Gideon was no hero material, with no pedigree and certainly not the right person for the job. But as Gideon’s own actions demonstrated, one need not have circumstances to be perfect before something can be accomplished. In the gospel, John the Baptist also thought himself to be unqualified to baptize Jesus. But there are times when the willingness to do what you are not qualified to do is what qualifies you.
God is not looking for perfect people to do his will. What God is looking for are those who would say ‘yes’ to God’s call, and are willing to become different from what they were at the moment of the calling. As he entrusted himself to the mighty hands of God, Gideon the farmer would become the mighty man of valor that the angel declared him to be.
We too are challenged to stop making excuses and stop procrastinating in the things God has called us to do. To not let desire for perfection keep us from making earnest attempts. That we would use the resources we have to do what God has called us to, even if the resources are not ideal. If we waited till we have all our ducks in a row, we might have to wait forever. There will always be challenges, doubts, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. Do what we can do and God will meet us along the way. After all, even though Gideon was at the ‘wrong place’, he was certainly at the right time in God’s eyes.
(Today’s Oxygen by Leonard Koh)
Prayer: Lord, You have called me to __________________ . Teach me to trust in You and have the courage to follow what I know to be right. Only let me know that You are with me.
Thanksgiving: I take heart that if Gideon could thresh wheat in a winepress, perhaps God can use me even in my mess.