Memorial of Saint Bernard, abbot and doctor of the Church
(Judges 11:29-39a; Matthew 22:1-14)
Today’s readings illustrate two seriously defective ways of living the faith. Rigorism and laxity are extremes that are to be shunned.
In the first reading the warrior Jephthah makes a vow. He asks the Lord’s help in battle and promises to sacrifice to Him whatever he meets when he returns to his homestead. No doubt, he has a farm animal in mind. But when his daughter greets him, he rigorously considers himself obliged to keep the vow. He does not waver despite the fact that the Law explicitly forbids human sacrifice.
In the gospel a man enters the king’s wedding feast without a proper garment. All he has to do is to know that he is out of place to look around. Everyone else is wearing formal dress. Ignoring the fact, he laxly carries on until the king confronts him. He should have realized from the beginning that an invitation to a wedding feast requires some preparation. It is like the invitation to participate in the Eucharist. All are invited, but people have to prepare themselves for it by being baptized and properly disposed.
Virtue is said to lie in the middle between two extremes. If we desire to live excellently (what it means to be virtuous), we must keep ourselves well within the boundaries of rigorism and laxity.