August 20, 2020 (Thursday of Week 20, Year II: St Bernard Abbot)
Dear friends in Christ, today we celebrate the memorial of St Bernard Abbot. He founded and lived most of his life at Clairvaux where he was the abbot. He was a man of great holiness and wisdom. His poor health notwithstanding, he was active in many of the great public debates of the time and strongly opposed the luxurious lives of some clergy.
In our first reading today (Ezekiel 36:23-28) God promises a new heart to the people but not in the mode of a medical procedure. This new heart is a life changing experience, in which the people will return to obey the Lord. Ezekiel's message called to question the religious folly in which the people lived in the years leading to the exile. They erroneously believed that God will always defend the city of Jerusalem and the temple from the enemies--that God cannot afford to allow others trample on his holy place. Unfortunately, they were obstinate in their sins, and in their disobedience of the commandments of God--they refused to change their lives. God will however, prove his greatness and holiness by bringing the remnant back home, to their own land. God will gather them from all the nations where they have been scattered. "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."
In the gospel (Matthew 22:1-14) Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a king who planned a marriage banquet for his son, but was disappointed by those who were invited to the meal. Every attempt to get them to attend was rebuffed; worse still, was that his messengers were either maltreated or killed by these wicked people. His judgment was to burn their cities and destroy the murderers. He then asked his servants to call everyone to fill the hall. All who came except one person, had the wedding garment. The one who came in without the wedding garment, was thrown into the outer darkness.
The wedding feast here obviously, refers to the messianic age. It summarises the entire history of God's goodness and kindness to his people and their rejection of the invitation to live under his guidance. The open invitation to everyone, is the age in which the faith opens up to the rest of the world. Jesus asked his disciples to preach the message to the ends of the earth. We cannot live like those in the parable who preferred money, business and relationships to their invitation to the king’s banquet—the king who had the power to determine their lives. We all need the new heart promised by God through the prophet Ezekiel. It's a heart created through the waters of baptism, the clean water poured by God to cleanse the people of their sins. This is renewed afterwards, by the sacrament of reconciliation and nourished by the Holy Eucharist. We must use every opportunity to make the necessary changes in our lives.
Let us pray: Lord God, Create in me a pure heart and renew a right spirit within me. Amen. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.