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If only I could tell you with confidence that following God in the way of Jesus would prevent sadness and tears in your life.  But I can’t.  The human condition in the world shows us again and again that we are going to have to endure trials of all sorts.  The promise of a life lived in relationship to God is the ultimate ordering of all things in God’s purposes.  If any portion of Scripture is a mantra to that promise it might be these:

Psalm 126:6-7

Those who sowed with tears *
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, *
will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

These are the last two verses of the psalm appointed for today in the Lection of Lesser Feasts and Fasts, remembering the Martyrs of New Guinea.  Your trials may not include the physical martyrdom endured by these Missionaries remembered this day, but the fact of the matter is that every life lived in faith and discipleship is going to require a death of one sort or another.

In Sunday’s gospel from Matthew (16:21-28) Jesus makes clear that dying to self is a requirement of discipleship.  Jesus makes clear that surrender and emptying of self, abandonment of personal agendas and a radical trust on God in times of severe trial and bad news is the narrow way to living the life of Holy Union with God in Christ that we are all invited to tread.

For today (and face it that’s all we can face right now), I choose to believe that every road of sorrows I’ve traveled with weeping in my heart and tears on my cheeks, will be overshadowed by the marvelous homecoming bathed in unbridled joy which the Psalmist speaks of here.

May all our tears be followed by the songs of joy that come only from God, the creator of all.  The one which is in all and is the hope of our salvation.

This text from Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 39:11 concluded the Hebrew Scripture reading for the Feast of Bernard of Clairvaux, celebrated today throughout Christendom.

If he lives long, he will leave a name greater than a thousand, and if he goes to rest, it is enough for him.

Bernard is in many ways one of the fathers of modern monasticism. Born to privilege he abandoned it all in order to spend his considerable gifts in the passionate pursuit of establishing truly Christian communities. Though few of us today in full-time pastoral ministry are setting out to establish monasteries we are engaged in very similar endeavor to that of Bernard.

Bernard’s passion (often at the expense of sleep and other frivolous activities) for building the Kingdom through the establishment of praying communities ought to be what the leader of every congregation would do well to imitate. Bernard sensed that the traditions of Jesus and The Way were threatened by an increasingly hostile or at least indifferent secular reality. If we’re honest with ourselves, we live in a similar age, asking for the same kind of compulsive, passionate and thorough proclamation by the Gospel by communities of praying, serving, studying and compassionate followers of Jesus.

We may, none of us, live long enough or cast as long a shadow as Bernard to remembered more than a thousand, but should we spend even a few days chasing as passionately  the life of discipleship for ourselves and those whom we pastor as did Brother Bernard—that will be enough.

Thanks be to God for Bernard.

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August 2020

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