Memorial of Saint Bernard, abbot and doctor of the Church
(Ezekiel 24:15-23; Matthew 19:16-22)
In today’s gospel Jesus calls the rich young man to a rich spiritual life. He invites him to go beyond the basics of keeping the commandments. He wants him to be “’perfect as (his) heavenly father is perfect.’” The young man must dispossess himself of his riches and walk with the poor man Jesus. It may seem like a hard row to hoe, but the man has asked for the formula for eternal life!
St. Bernard not only lived this “body and soul” spirituality but, like Jesus, called others to it. As abbot he regularly warned monks about satiating the palate with delicacies and pampering the flesh with fur. But he also recognized that holiness is more a matter of sacrifice of spiritual excess than of material excess. Pride can be a greater temptation than gold. Sloth may prove a larger pitfall than “surf and turf.”
Jesus does not call all of us to religious observance but he does invite everyone to sanctity. We must deny ourselves in order to love God and neighbor. We cannot live for power, pleasure, or prestige. Rather we must sacrifice these ego-gratifying glories to serve others. Doing so, we will be beneficiaries of God’s eternal glory.