|Memorial of St. Bernard,
Doctor and Abbott
Psalm 21: 2-3, 4-5, 6-7
Today we celebrate the Memorial of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Abbot
and Doctor of the Church. As a young man, he responded to his call
to monastic life, inviting friends and family members to join him. He
was later commissioned to begin new monasteries; however, it was a learning
process to develop his leadership abilities which would empower rather than
discourage his monks in their work for God. Reluctantly, he obeyed Pope
Eugene III’s command to preach the Second Crusade, which resulted in disaster.
Bernard’s enthusiasm to preach the message of God sometimes clouded his ability
to temper his over zealous and righteous responses to those who opposed him.
Bernard was an ordinary human who responded to God’s call through others’
prompting. He wasn’t super-human, infused with an automatic sense of
how best to respond to his own call to share his vision and call with others.
This is very much what it is like for each of us.
We know that God is inviting/urging us to tap into our gifts and talents,
to evolve into the whole/holy person each of us is called to be. However,
the road is not clearly marked…we know that our God is with us, but deciphering
between our agenda and God’s ways can be a challenge.
In Judges today, the people of Shechem and Beth-millo needed a leader
after Gideon died. The people were swayed by the fact that Abimelech
was one of them and therefore made him their king. However, Jotham
(the only surviving son of Gideon) questioned the people’s intention.
Was it in good faith in God that they chose Abimelech (who had killed all
of Gideon’s sons except Jotham) or were they furthering their own agendas?
Jotham warns the people that if the decision was not made in good faith, God
would not be with them. (The parable, Jdgs 9:8-15, presents an
intriguing piece for reflection.)
How do we recognize and raise up leaders in our midst? Is it because
we see talents and gifts which can truly lead – guide – direct – and show
the way to our community as a whole? Or do we choose them in less than
good faith, hoping to further our agenda, perhaps to the detriment of the
greater community? In the United States we continuously have the
opportunity to raise up, support and elect our leaders. With what kind
of discerning do we weigh our choices?
Perhaps one way to discern the leadership abilities of potential leaders
is to consider the Gospel today. The vineyard’s owner hires laborers
at various hours of the day… encouraging them to use their ability to work.
He empowers anyone who wishes to respond to his invitation. At
day’s end, the workers are paid, not according to a measured amount per hour
of work, but for an honest effort to work. Each and every laborer receives
a day’s wages. For some, this approach may not work in our economics
today, but I think that the owner represents God’s presence to each of us.
We are invited to use our time and talents. God holds us accountable
to respond to the call to be all that we are created to be rather than measuring
each of us according to how much we accomplish.
Do our leaders (and do we) serve as guides/inspiration/show the way to others
so that all can use their gifts and talents to realize their vocations in
life? Or do we/our leaders get in the way of others by trying to put
personal agendas ahead of the needs of others – of the community as a whole?
I pray that we consider God’s call in today’s scripture to each of us and
to all of us as a country as we approach the time to select candidates for
leadership in the US.