Saturday, 20 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard of the words of the Scriptures speaking to us regarding the matter of how we should be following God with faith, committing ourselves humbly in His service, dedicating our time, effort and attention to do His will at all times. Each and every one of us should remember that we are merely the servants of God and therefore in all the things we say and do, we should not be concerned or be focused on our own desires and ambitions, our selfish aims and wants. Otherwise, if we allow those things to distract and tempt us, then we may end up falling deeper and deeper into the path of sin.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel regarding the vision of the Great Temple in Heaven, the Sanctuary of God and His Holy Presence. Through Ezekiel, God was showing His people Who it is that they were truly following, and He showed them of His might and everything that He would do for His people, as He would live forever among them. Not only that, but when the Lord mentioned that, He really meant it, as it was truly a prelude of what He would do for them, in sending them the greatest gift of all, the gift of His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Lord and Saviour.

In doing so, He willingly embraced our humanity, and His Divine Word being incarnate in the flesh, taking up our humble human existence, becoming manifest and tangible that now God is no longer distant from us, but approachable and reachable. He made Himself close to us, because He desires to be reunited with us and be reconciled with us. And that action is what God wants each one of us remember, how His love and commitment for us was so great that He willingly lowered and humbled Himself so that through it, each and every one of us may have hope and receive from Him the assurance of eternal life and salvation.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Himself spoke to His disciples and the people criticising the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their attitude, behaviour and way of living their faith, as they had preached loudly and boastfully of the Law of God and how they had piously followed the Lord, and yet, in truth, in their way of doing things, they actually had not truly obeyed the Lord wholeheartedly, and they were really hypocrites and those who levied and imposed very heavy expectations on the people with regards to how they ought to follow the vast extent of the rules and regulations they modified and preferred, but they themselves could not obey or follow.

Those same people prided themselves and boasted of their glory and greatness, their piety and faith before all, parading their achievement and greatness, thinking highly of themselves and not only that, but they also looked down on those whom they disapproved and disagreed with. This attitude is what the Lord disapproved of and criticised those leaders for, in their hypocrisy and in how they made it difficult for the people to come closer to God and find salvation in Him. Their pride, ego, arrogance and ambition became serious stumbling blocks in the path of their journey towards God, and in their discharge of their obligations and responsibilities as leaders of the people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to those words from the Scriptures, we are therefore reminded that we should humble ourselves before God and one another, as first of all, we are truly nothing without the grace and love of God, and it is thanks to God’s providence and mercy, His forgiveness and compassion that we even have hope for the future. His willingness to embrace us and to dwell among us, forgiving us our sins and in reassuring us of His guidance and help, showed us all that we are truly beloved and precious to Him, and because of that, we have gained much in this world.

But we often grew proud and haughty, ambitious and greedy, and we ended up abusing and misusing the opportunities, the gifts, abilities and other things that God had given to us. Instead of using them for the good of everyone, we ended up seeking our own personal glory and ambition, desiring to fulfil our own selfish wants and greed. This is why through today’s readings all of us are reminded to resist those temptations of greed and pride. We ought to restrain those and do our very best to return our focus once again towards the Lord, being truly faithful to Him and distancing ourselves from the path of sin.

Today, all of us can gain some inspiration from our holy predecessor, whose feast we are celebrating this day, namely that of St. Bernard the Abbot, also one of the great Doctors of the Church. St. Bernard was also known as St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and he was a Cistercian Abbot remembered for his role in the revitalisation of the Cistercian order and tradition, and the foundation of the famous Clairvaux Abbey. His dedication to the Lord and holy way of life inspired many others, which led to the rapid growth of the Clairvaux Abbey. More and more people, even St. Bernard’s own family came to join the abbey as well.

While St. Bernard had gained much success and gave a lot of inspiration to his contemporaries, at the same time he also suffered trials and challenges, not least from his own fellow monastic monks in the abbey, who resisted his leadership and criticised his way of promoting the Cistercian charism and way of life. Nonetheless, St. Bernard remained resolute in his efforts, and he was also deeply involved with other important Church matters at the time, being involved in the resolution of conflicts and reconciliation of various Church and even secular parties, through his efforts at negotiation and skilful diplomacy. Through his many writings and works, which made him later to be declared as one of the Doctors of the Church, St. Bernard continued to exert great influence and became inspiration for many throughout the many centuries after his passing and till this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the examples set by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, holy Abbot and Doctor of the Church, let us all realise that each one of us are called to follow the Lord and to dedicate ourselves to Him humbly in the way that St. Bernard had done. One of his motto and saying is that of ‘the three most important virtues are humility, humility and humility’ highlighting just how important it is for us to be humble and to be willing to listen to God and to allow Him to guide our path instead of us stubbornly trying to forge our own path in life. Let us reflect on this and see in what ways we can be ever better disciples and more devout followers of God.

May the Lord be with us always and may He continue to empower and strengthen each one of us so that we may live ever more closely attuned to God and follow Him in all things, and be dedicated to Him all the days of our lives. May God bless each one of us in our every good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

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