Homily on the Song of Solomon

By Saint Bernard, Abbott

Where can the weak find a place of firm security and peace, except in the wounds of the Savior? Indeed, the more secure is my place there, the more he can do to help me. The world rages, the flesh is heavy, and the devil lays his snares, but I do not fall, for my feet are planted on firm rock. I may have sinned gravely. My conscience would be distressed, but it would not be in turmoil, for I would recall the wounds of the Lord: he was wounded for our iniquities. What sin is there so deadly that it cannot be pardoned by the death of Christ? And so if I bear in mind this strong, effective remedy, I can never again be terrified by the malignancy of sin.

Surely the man who said: My sin is too great to merit pardon, was wrong. He was speaking as though he were not a member of Christ and had no share in his merits, so that he could claim them as his own, as a member of the body can claim what belongs to the head. As for me, what can I appropriate that I lack from the heart of the Lord who abounds in mercy? They pierced his hands and feet and opened his side with a spear. Through the openings of these wounds I may drink honey from the rock and oil from the hardest stone: that is, 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, that I may see the good will of the Lord. 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 weaknesses.

Through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of his heart, the great mystery of love, the sincerity of his mercy with which he visited us from on high. 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 that he lay down his life for those who are doomed to death.

My merit comes from his mercy; for I do not lack merit so long as he does not lack pity. And if the Lord’s mercies are many, then I am rich in merits. For even if I am aware of many sins, what does it matter? Where sin abounded grace has overflowed. And if the Lord’s mercies are from all ages for ever, I too will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever. Will I not sing of my own righteousness? No, Lord, I shall be mindful only of your justice. Yet that too is my own; for God has made you my righteousness.

[Source: Liturgy of the Hours | Office of Readings | Wednesday, 3rd Week of Ordinary Time]

God Believes in Us Before We Believe in Ourselves

Have you ever wished you could have an extreme makeover?

Extreme-makeover television shows are very popular these days, probably because people enjoy seeing how a plain-looking person or a run-down old house can be transformed into a stunning display of poise and beauty. These shows always end with the “big reveal” of the newly transformed person or home, to the breathless adulation of the people witnessing it. Who wouldn’t be impressed? Something average has been turned into something outstanding!

Perhaps this is why the story of Jonah is so popular. The city of Nineveh was one of the largest and most powerful cities of its time. As capital of the Assyrian empire, it was also known as one of the meanest cities. Gobbling up land and overthrowing kingdoms throughout the Fertile Crescent, the Ninevites were ruthless in the way they waged war and tortured their captives.

So when God first sent Jonah to tell the people of Nineveh to repent, Jonah balked. Converting all those darkened violent hearts? Impossible. All he could see was their brutality. But God saw something more. He saw their potential.

As the story unfolds, we see that Jonah was wrong; Nineveh underwent an extreme makeover of biblical proportions! But even that wasn’t enough for God. He went out of his way to soften Jonah’s hardened heart and show him just how deep his mercy runs.

God believed in the people of Nineveh and Jonah even before they believed in themselves. In the same way, God believes in our potential, even when we don’t understand it or we don’t believe it ourselves. He knows that he can do great things with us. He never loses faith in what we can become or what we can do.

Today, remember that God has an extreme makeover ready for you. No matter how weak or flawed you may think you are, he sees something beautiful and valuable: a person created in his own image and likeness. He can work with that and turn you into something outstanding.

Prayer: “Lord, thank you for seeing such potential in me. Help me to see myself—and the people around me—through your eyes.”

Readings for the day:

Jonah 4:1-11
Psalm 86:3-6, 9-10
Luke 11:1-4

[Originally posted on Word Among Us, 10/07/2015 (paywall)]

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