Homily (Reflection) for the Memorial of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Abb. D., (20th August, 2016) on the Gospel and the Memorial

Ezek 43:1-7;
Ps 84:9-14. (R. cf. v. 10);
Matt 23:1-12.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 20th August, 1153) was born of noble parentage in Burgundy, France. His pious parents sent him at an early age to a college at Chatillon. Fearing the snares and temptations of the world, he embraced the Cistercian Order. He was sent by his superior with twelve other monks to found a new monastery at Clairvaux. Saint Bernard was appointed Abbot. He founded numerous monasteries, composed a number of works and undertook many journeys for the honour of God. He refused several Bishoprics offered to him. Popes were governed by his advice. He was commissioned by Pope Eugene III to preach the second Crusade. In obedience to the Sovereign Pontiff he travelled through France and Germany, and aroused the greatest enthusiasm for the holy war among the masses of the population. The failure of the expedition raised a great storm against the saint, but he attributed it to the sins of the Crusaders. St. Bernard was eminently endowed with the gift of miracles.[1]

Topic: Between duty and honour.

Jesus urged His listeners to do and to follow what the scribes and the Pharisees taught because they occupied Moses’ seat. However, they should not follow their example because they did not practice what they taught.

They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.

The sacred office the scribes and the Pharisees occupied meant nothing to them. Hence, Jesus often rebuked them.

Each of us also occupies sacred office. I do not mean few in the religious life. These offices mean nothing to many. Hence many hustle for other ones they consider higher. Some mothers do not consider themselves fully mothers because they have not been termed ‘Life members,’ Mother of this or that, even when there is nothing to justify any. Fathers and youths are not different. Even priests are not fulfilled because they have not been made pastors, monsignori, bishops, and so on. All these are geared towards either real or imagined honour and very far from the duties.

Many Bishoprics were offered to Saint Bernard but he rejected them all. Yet today, he is both a saint and a doctor of the Church. We must be very careful. Jesus concludes, “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” True honour comes after labour/duties.

Bible Reading: 1Pt 5:1-11.

Thought for today: You occupy a sacred office.

Let us pray: Lord, help us to realise how sacred our positions are and also give us the graces necessary to fulfil their demands – Amen.

Saint Bernard – Pray for us.

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