Today the Church celebrates the life and work of St. Bernard, an abbot of the Cistercian order and a Doctor of the Church.
St. Bernard was part of the great flowering of Christian civilization that occurred in the period known to historians as the “middle ages.” This was the time when the great cathedrals of Europe were built and Christianity exercised tremendous influence over the cultures of Europe.
St. Bernard was one of the greatest preachers of his day, and as an accomplished theological writer, his spiritual advice was sought by peasants and kings, monks and popes. He practiced his relationship with the Lord Jesus by living in community and taking vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
His recurring message concerned the love of God. Love, for St. Bernard, was the spiritual path Christians were called to follow.
The Scriptures for this morning provide the “thick description” for the love of which St. Bernard speaks. God’s love for us demands our total attention and is meant to order all that we are and all that we do. If we do not respect this rapport, we fall into idolatry, displace God, and give what properly belongs to him to something else.
Jesus’ invitation in today’s Gospel teaches us that we cannot truly appreciate God’s love with divided hearts. The spiritual medicine that heals a divided heart is detachment from worldly things and generosity to the needy. Much of the spiritual sadness suffered by so many occurs because of a failure to love God by cultivating detachment from our possessions, or from a refusal, an inability to serve God as he reveals himself to us in the poverty of our brothers and sisters.
May St. Bernard’s spiritual path of love be our path, and may we walk this way through acts of detachment and generosity.