Memorial of Saint Bernard, abbot and doctor of the Church
(Ezekiel 36:23-28; Matthew 22: 1-14)
Ezekiel describes a hopeful outcome for Jews in exile. They will be gathered together and returned to their native land. There, in Judah, they will be regenerated. They will be given a heart made for loving, not for fighting, and a Spirit of virtue, not mischief. Christians do not see this prophecy fulfilled with Jesus’ resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples. The gospel peeks at the outcome of the Christian blessing.
Jesus is speaking in guarded language to the leaders of Israel. No doubt, some bystanders heard his parable as a typical melodrama with the wicked being punished and the poor being rewarded. However, Jesus’ intention is beyond that. He is signaling to the corrupt aristocrats of Jerusalem that their vice has been discovered and their rule is ending. Christians from various nations, classes, and degrees of virtue will enjoy the celestial banquet. But they cannot enter without assuming the ways of their Lord. Hence the rebel without the wedding garment is shown the door.
Today the Church celebrates St. Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the greatest men of the Middle Ages. His life followed the pattern of the readings. As a youth, he was frivolous. With the death of his mother, however, he accepted the grace of the Holy Spirit. He entered a monastery, became an abbot, and then an advisor to the courts of Europe.