Tuesday, June 15, 2010

St. Bernard's Sermon 61:3-5

This morning I was looking through some old files I used years ago for my CCD classes. I came upon this sermon written by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. He is considered the primary builder of the reforming Cistercian monastic order. At his death in 1153, he had founded 343 monasteries. This particular reading is full of confidence in the Lord, an understanding that suffering is redemptive, an understanding that no sin is too great that it can not be forgiven - and our duty to spread the Good News wherever we go. Today we need this confidence, especially in light of all the attacks upon Holy Mother Church, and the attacks upon the dignity of the human person, most importantly the global attack on our weakest neighbors, the unborn.

Where can the weak find a place of perfect security and peace except in the wounds of the Savior? There the measure of my security is his power to save. The world rages, the body weighs me down, the devil lays snares for me, but I do not fall because my feet are planted on firm rock I may have sinned gravely. My conscience would be troubled but I would not despair for I would call to mind the wounds of the Lord. He was wounded for our iniquities. What sin is so deadly that it cannot be pardoned by the death of Christ? If I remember this powerful and effective remedy the malignancy of sin can no longer terrify me. Surely the man was wrong who said: My sin is too great to be pardoned. He was speaking as though he were not a member of Christ and had no share in his merits. A member of Christ can claim Christ’s merits as his own, just as a member of the body can claim what belongs to the head. As for me, I confidently take all I lack from the heart of the Lord, for that heart overflows with mercy. It does not lack openings through which mercy may pour out for they pierced his hands and feet and opened his side with a spear. Through these clefts I may suck honey from the rock and oil from the hardest stone. In other words, I may taste and see that the Lord is sweet. He was thinking thoughts of peace and I did not know it, for who knows the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? But the piercing nail has become a key to unlock the door so that I may see the Lord’s will And what can I see as I look through the hole? Both the nail and the wound cry out that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. The sword pierced his soul and came close to his heart so that he might be able to feel compassion for me in my weakness. Through these sacred wounds the secret of his heart lies open, the great mystery of love is revealed, the tender mercy of our God which caused the Dayspring from on high to visit us is manifested. Where have your love, your mercy, your compassion shone out more luminously than in your wounds, sweet, gentle Lord of mercy? More mercy than this no one has than to lay down his life for those doomed to death.

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