Monday, August 20, 2012

Treasure hunt

Today's saint and today's readings: another one of those remarkably divine coincidences. Exekiel sets us up for it with his experience of losing "by a sudden blow" the "delight of his eyes," his beloved wife. Being a prophet, you see, wasn't just a matter of relaying messages like some sort of human telegraph; the prophet underwent the message--as if sharing God's own experience--and that was how he prophesied. So Ezekiel, the exiled Jewish priest, had to bury his dear departed without even expressing his grief with the usual signs, as a way of telling the community of exiles that while they went about their everyday business in Babylon, the Temple of Jerusalem (the "stronghold of their pride, the delight of their eyes") was being desecrated. They had lost their earthly treasure. Would the Lord God be enough?

In the Gospel, a certain young man comes to Jesus, full of enthusiasm. "What do I need to do in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?" Interestingly, Jesus doesn't give him a "to do" list: he gives him a "don't do" list, and it's very familiar (You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal..."). The only positive commands in the whole list are "honor your father and mother" and "love your neighbor as yourself," and those are just as familiar as the "shalt nots"! But then Jesus adds an option: "If you wish to be perfect..." And it's all about the Kingdom of Heaven.

And so we come to today's saint, the "mellifluous Doctor," St Bernard of Clairvaux. The story goes that young Bernard's brothers came to him in a group. "We're leaving home, Bernard. You get to inherit everything. We're off to the monastery. Have a good life."

Bernard was indignant. "What?! You are choosing Heaven and leave me the earth?!"

And in short order, the already-influential adolescent rounded up some twenty friends. All together, they went, sold all that they had and gave it to the poor (securing their treasure in Heaven) and showed up at the monastery door to follow Jesus.

Unlike the "rich young man" of the Gospel, Bernard accepted the challenge and changed history! Now it's our turn.

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