Memorial of Saint Bernard, Doctor of the Church – August 20th
Saint Bernard was born in 1090. Early in life, he studied Scripture and was well-versed in it. He sought admission into a religious order which we know as the Cistercians today, and eventually established an Abbey in Clairvaux. The abbey struggled initially but eventually men entered in numbers. Saint Bernard was instrumental in addressing issues between local royalty and Church affairs, by defending the rights of the Church. In 1130, a schism occurred and during that time two popes (Innocent II and Anacletus II) were elected; and Saint Bernard was selected by King Louis de Gros with consent of the bishops to be a judge of the rivalry between the popes. He was in favor of Innocent II, which caused him to be recognized by all the great Catholic powers, and went to Italy with Innocent II, and later returned to France to further progress of resolution of the conflict which led to the schism. While still in France, another schism took place due to William X, and Saint Bernard was able to resolve this conflict by inviting William to the Mass which he celebrated in the Church of La Couldre. At the moment of the Communion, placing the Sacred Host upon the paten, he went to the door of the church where William was, and pointing to the Host, he adjured the Duke not to despise God as he did His servants. William yielded and the schism ended. Saint Bernard then travelled to Italy to face more tension within the local church, and then finally returned to Clairvaux where he spent time in his cloister to compose many important writings which led him to be declared a Doctor of the Church. Because of conflict and turmoil in the East, Saint Bernard was sent to preach a new Crusade which failed. Bernard died in the sixty-third year of his age, after forty years spent in the cloister. He founded one hundred and sixty-three monasteries in different parts of Europe; at his death they numbered three hundred and forty-three. He was the first Cistercian monk placed on the calendar of saints and was canonized by Alexander III, 18 January 1174. Pope Pius VIII bestowed on him the title of Doctor of the Church. The Cistercians honor him as only the founders of orders are honored, because of the wonderful and widespread activity which he gave to the Order of Citeux.
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and the elders of the people in parables saying, “The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then the king said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.”.
This Gospel reading is a very challenging one to digest. The parable which Jesus is presenting to the people is about preparedness for entering the Kingdom of Heaven. I would say that the majority of Christians approach this from the viewpoint of what is considered moral versus what is considered as immoral. But I will not go down that path. In the parable, Jesus is using the King to represent God, and that God has invited humanity to the reward of heaven.
“Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.”
In this passage from the reading, Jesus is trying to explain that God will put people in their place because of their actions which go against what God wants of humanity, as much as they believe they are doing what God wants. The parable goes onto tell that the king has kept the invitation open even though some do not show up, but many do show up. When the person who does not show up fully prepared due to not being appropriately dressed, he is cast out and not allowed into the feast.
I am challenging you to look at the message in a different way other than from the perspective of morality. I am challenging all of us to think about how we treat others; whether we help those in need when possible, or if we just avoid the situation; if we spend time with God in prayer; and if we are self-absorbed. Being prepared pertains to every aspect of our lives. Are we doing what we need to in order to be prepared?
Do we pray? Do we read and study our Bibles. Do we spend time in Christian fellowship? I challenge to you spend a period of time in honest self-reflection, in honest self-evaluation, and then, with all haste, make yourselves prepared for the wedding feast. Amen.