Memorial of Saint Bernard, abbot and doctor of the Church
(Judges 6:11-24a; Matthew 19:23-30)
Religious life, much like secular life, is prone to excess. Monastic orders have taken the vow of poverty very seriously since antiquity. Yet, over time, members have grown accustomed to different comforts. Benedictines, whose motto is “to pray and to work,” began to abandon at least manual work in the early Middle Ages. A reform movement sprung up at the monastery of Citeaux in France. Its most famous representative is St. Bernard whose feast is celebrated today.
Bernard believed deeply in living poverty as a means to follow Christ. He understood implicitly Jesus’ comment in today’s gospel about the improbability of the rich entering the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom, he would say, belongs to those who trust in God and not in their material resources. He undoubtedly would lament today’s facility for checking one’s wealth as well as its meager concern for an evangelical lifestyle.
Wealth is not bad in itself, of course. But we should use it for the good of all, not selfishly spent on ourselves. Cruises, expensive sports events, costly entertainment all seem superfluous. But perhaps even these luxuries might be justified when occasional and purchased after we give due attention to the needy.