Aug 20 – Memorial for St. Bernard, abbot, doctor
St. Bernard (1090-1153) founded and led a monastery which had over 700 monks and 160 daughter houses. He revised and reformed the Cistercians, and was advisor to, and admonisher of, King Louis the Fat and King Louis the Young, and spiritual advisor to Pope Eugenius III, who had originally been one of his monks. Every morning, Bernard would ask himself, “Why have I come here?”, and then remind himself of his main duty – to lead a holy life.
“I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead.”
A conversion is like a spiritual surgery where God literally operated and replaced the heart (of stone) with a new one (of flesh). I have never experienced a major surgery, but I would imagine it to be something like that when I had mine five years ago – I feel so alive having been given a new lease of life, a second chance.
Out with the old: my old heart, my past, along with the many sins I’ve committed. In with the new: my new heart that’s full of the love of God, my future that’s bright and hopeful, and my every day that’s brimming with gratefulness.
Before my conversion, I was very much your typical Sunday Catholic, minding my own business, and pretty much keeping to my introverted self. I was often conscious and worried about what other people would think of me, so I’d avoid anything that drew too much attention to myself. As I’m shy and timid, I’d much rather be the wallflower than leave the table to mingle and make conversation. Helping other people is just too difficult and exhausting. I’m also super impatient in everything I do, so much so that it often leaves me feeling flustered or frustrated with those around me. For those who are obnoxious and annoying, I’d just stay away.
“The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.” (Jer 18:4) clearly shows we are all a work in progress. But by divine intervention and through the intercessions of Mother Mary, I was drawn to the Lord. There began my love relationship with Christ. With every retreat that I attended over the years, I grew more and more in love with him. Having experienced God’s infinite mercy and love, my eyes and heart were opened and I began to feel an inner transformation. Although I am still very much the same me, with the same body, same likes and dislikes, it’s an improved version with a different perspective and clearer understanding of life’s purpose. With a new heart and spirit, comes this new desire and evangelical zeal to “love (my) neighbours as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
Nowadays, I would often find myself worrying about the wellbeing and needs of others, I would check in on friends every now and then, asking how they’ve been. My hopes and dreams are no longer about what I want, but more to do with what the Lord wants, and so I would avail myself in helping others get to know how wonderful God is, at the same time steer any ‘lost sheep’ into his fold.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Cynthia Chew)
Prayer: Dear Abba Father, please turn our hearts of stone to that of flesh so that we may love our neighbours as ourselves.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for the things you’ve done and the things you’re about to do.