Memorial of Saint Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church

Jgs 6:11-24; Ps 85:9-14; Mt 19:23-30

Saint Bernard listened deeply and struggled to hear what God proclaims.  Like every holy person Saint Bernard felt unworthy of the Lord’s call. The judge of Israel, Gideon, son of Joash the Abiezrite, felt unworthy of his call from an angel of the Lord. In fact, he questioned the identity of the angel and challenged the content of his message.  The Lord Jesus encountered confusion and doubt when he told the small parable about the large beast of burden.  When he told his disciples that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved, they cried out, “Who then can be saved?”  The Lord Jesus looked at his disciples back then the same way he looks at us today and speaks with authority to all our anxiety and confusion with the same response. “For men this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”


Hesitancy is not a new response to the Lord’s call.  The prophet Moses was hesitant to take the message of the Lord to the lord of Egypt. Prophets later in Israel’s history are also hesitant to speak a word to a people who do not want to heart the word of the Lord.  Gideon is the model of those who hesitate.  Even in this first encounter with an angel of the Lord, Gideon has some very demanding questions.  If the Lord is with us, why has He delivered us up into the power of Midian?  If the Lord is calling me, why am I the most insignificant in my father’s house?  If I find favor with you, what sign will you give?  The angel of the Lord does not grow impatient or angry with Gideon.  As the dialogue unfolds this messenger from on high, affirms the doubter and speaks nothing but affirmation.  “The LORD is with you, O champion!”  “Save Israel from the power of Midian.”  “I shall be with you, and you will cut down Midian to the last man.”  All of this good news overwhelms Gideon and he seeks recourse in a more familiar human-divine discourse, sacrifice.  Even this more domesticated dialogue explodes in flames of awe and wonder, and the angel of the Lord has to cry out: “Be calm, do not fear.  You shall not die.”  Finally, Gideon builds an altar and calls it The Lord-The Peace.  Yet, as the story continues to unfold, lingering doubts erupt into further challenges and more wondrous affirmations of the unworthy servant-judge Gideon.


Even when Saint Peter tries to find himself and his fellow apostles worthy to enter the Kingdom of God and serve the true King, Jesus; even when he cries out asking, what will we receive, we who have given up everything to follow you our Lord and King; even then does the Lord Jesus keeps this pride of belonging, this self proclaimed worthiness, in careful check.  He points out that even wealthy, successful, and powerful men in this world have about as much a chance to enter the Kingdom of God as camels have to squeeze through the eye of a needle.  Their worldly wisdom about the blessing of riches as a sign of God’s favor is completely shattered.  Their disciple wisdom about being heroic for having given up everything for the King and the Kingdom is totally crushed.  All glory, honor and praise belong to the LORD and his worthy Servant Jesus!  Just when we think we are wealthier than the rich of this world, or we think we are first in the Kingdom of God, at that moment we learn what every good shepherd must learn.  For God, all things are possible, and many who are first will be last and the last will be first.  The wisdom of the King and the wealth of his Kingdom are quite beyond our control and our imagination.  In this simple feast of Body and Blood, we already receive all we could ever want.