Monday, 8 September 2014
23rd Sunday (A) 2014 Mt. 18: 15-20 ‘Discourse on the Church’, ‘reconciliation with God and others’ Fr. Aelred
| St. Bernard, earlier portrait came to Nunraw 1946,
with the founders from Roscrea Abbey
inset Fr. Aelred
23rd Sunday (A)
Homily by Fr. Aelred.
- The 18th chapter of Mathew’s Gospel, from which today’s Gospel passage is taken, is often called the ‘Discourse on the Church’, because it collects together Jesus teachings that directly apply to the life of church communities. Today we have the teachings on fraternal correction and prayer in common; next Sunday, on the forgiveness of offences.
And today’s Responsorial Psalm, ‘O that you would listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts’, show the close connection between fraternal correction and forgiveness.
- In countries that experience long droughts, say in the Middle East or Africa, you see what the absence of rain does. The ground turns into desert. Sometimes when the rain eventually comes, the ground is so hard that it can’t penetrate, and so it runs away causing flash flooding. So it is with the human heart when ot becomes hard. To be heart-harded is the worst of all conditions. A hard heart is invulnerable to sorrow, but neither can it experience joy. It is a closed heart, so can’t receive. Hard heart is a barren heart.
3.Jesus came to purify our hearts, not to soften them, to make them more supple human. To sow the seed of God’s word in them, and to turn them from wastelands into fertile ground.
- In the Christian tradition many of the spiritual masters emphasise the role of the heart in attaining to a deeper prayer life and coming closer to God. To give one example, St. Bernard tells us when he was visited by the divine word: ‘As soon as he enters in, he awakens my slumbering soul; he stirs and soothes and pierces my heart, for before it was hard as stone. He begins to build up and to plan, to water dry places and illuminate dark ones; to open what is closed and to warm what was cold. To make crooked straight and rough places smooth. It was not by any of my senses that I perceived he had penetrated to the depths of my being. Only by the movement of my heart did I perceive his presence’.
- ‘O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts’. In these words God is calling us from the error of our ways into a closer relationship with him and with one another. And today’s Liturgy provides us with an opportunity to head them.
- Softened by the rain of God’s grace, and warmed by the sun of his love, the human heart can be turned from a desert into a garden. A place where reconciliation with God and others becomes possible.
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|The following introduction to and selection from St. Bernard’s Sermons on the Song of Songs was done by Prof. Katherine Gill for her courses at Yale Divinity School and Boston College. The page is reproduced here with permission.|
Bernard of Clairvaux
6. You ask then how I knew he was present, when his ways can in no way be traced? He is life and power, and as soon as he enters in, he awakens my slumbering soul; he stirs and soothes and pierces my heart, for before it was hard as stone, and diseased. So he has begun to pluck out and destroy, to build up and to plant, to water dry places and illuminate dark ones; to open what was closed and to warm what was cold; to make the crooked straight and the rough places smooth, so that my soul may bless the Lord, and all that is within me may praise his holy name. So when the Bridegroom/ the Word, came to me, he never made known his coming any signs, not by sight, not by sound, not by touch. It was not by any movement of his that I recognized his coming; it was not by any of MY senses that I perceived he had penetrated to the depth of my being. Only by the movement of my heart, as I have told did I perceive his presence; and I knew the power of his might cause my faults were put to flight and my human yearnings brought into subjection. I have marvelled at the depth of his wisdom when my secret faults have been revealed and made visible the very slightest amendment of my way of life I have experience his goodness and mercy; in the renewal and remaking of the spirit of my mind, that is of my inmost being, I have perceived the excellence of his glorious beauty, and when I contemplate all these things I am filled with awe and wonder at his manifold greatness.