Sirach 6:5-17 “…A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth. A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds; for he who fears God behaves accordingly, and his friend will be like himself.”
Psalm 119: 12-16, 18, 27, 34, 35 “…Give me discernment, that I may observe your law and keep it with all my heart...”
Mark 10: 1-12 “…‘They replied, ‘Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.’ But Jesus told them, ‘Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment.’...”
St. Bernardine of Siena – 1444 A.D. Known as the greatest preacher of his time, he journeyed across Italy and attracted crowds by the thousands. He was compared to St. Paul by the Pope in this regard. It was said that he had a keen intuition of the needs of the time. He was also known for his devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus and he devised the symbol, IHS on a blazing sun; these are the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek. He was a General for his order the Friars of the Strict Observance, a branch of the Franciscan Order, when he began there were 300 friars, when he died there were 4,000.
Today’s readings along with being introduced to today’s Saint felt like an answered prayer. My anxiety about the exercise melted away, and I became grateful once again for the opportunity to sit with the Word and ponder its meaning.
These are the best of times, and these are the worst of times. For many of us, the Pope’s passing was a first ever experience. With advances in communication we were able to live the experience in a real time mode. With the rest of the world we watched each day unfold as the clergy and the faithful mourned the passing of Pope John Paul II. Touched by his great works we all felt connected despite living in a big world; not just Catholic, but all people were living the experience. Then we waited for the Holy Spirit to lead the Cardinals to choose our next world Catholic Leader. All this while, many prayers were being offered asking God to be involved in both parts of this drama. Our prayers united us with the One who could receive our Beloved Pope in and on to his just reward; and our prayers drew us into the process of choosing the next successor to St. Peter. We shed many tears but we were also hopeful. The feeling of unity was wonderful and oh so powerful; there was nary a bad comment made about the man for whom we mourned. But our unity was shook a little as the Spirit led the Cardinals to choose St. Peter’s next successor; a man that Pope John Paul II had loved.
Today’s Gospel reminds me of how hard it is to hear what God sometimes wants us to hear. In Mark 10, Jesus tells the Pharisees, that yes Moses gave their ancestors permission to divorce their spouse, but that he only did that because of their (our) hardness of hearts. In the same reading the disciples ask Jesus again about the subject of divorce and He says “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12)
In reading about today’s saint, I found another connection to our experience today. St. Bernardine of Siena began asking God to direct his life after taking care of a sick Aunt. He also spent time helping other people in the hospital of his home town, while a plague claimed many lives. After spending 12 years in solitude, his prayer life led him to a life of preaching, of which they say he followed St. Francis’s admonition to preach about “vice and virtue, punishment and glory.” The crowds were said to number as many as 30,000. He fought rampant paganism, how easily would they have wanted to listen to his message? His order grew more than 13 fold from when he entered to when he died.
So, we may not always want to listen, but the Spirit has spoken, and we can remain hopeful, that this man, Pope Benedict the XVI is capable of leading the Faithful where God wants us to go today. It may not be the easiest route, but with a life of prayer, we will be more certain of God’s Will for His people. Let us reunite in prayer again each day and ask that we become more open to the Spirit, to be able to discern God’s Will for this day. The Psalm reading says “Give me discernment, that I may observe your law and keep it with all my heart.” (Psalms 119:34) From Sirach’s reading let us also be in prayer, about all those people we call friends. I pray especially for teenagers, who feel the most influence from their friends. Find a friend who fears (respects, loves) God, and that friend will be life saving to you.
St. Bernardine, intercede to the Father on our behalf, ask him to help us know His voice, so that we may do His Will. Amen.
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