20 August, Saturday — Who are you listening to? Who are you following?

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.

Ez 43:1-7 
Mt 23:1-12

…but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practice what they preach.”

Again, this week we are reminded how easy it is to think too highly of ourselves. When we do, we have (or will) experienced how easy it is to fall from high places. We see it happen every day, don’t we? Social media has made it easy to ‘rise’ and even easier to fall (to be shot down by so many). But this isn’t anything new, both the Old and New Testament warn us over and over and over again, to follow the leader who worships God. The leader who speaks God’s word and serves others, not someone waiting or demanding to be served.

We have a choice. And pride is the proverbial cross in the road where we choose.

We are at a time – at least America – where many like to talk about the greatest of God, the love of God, the mercy of God, the forgiveness of God, the favour of God, the blessings of God and the final resting place for all of us…Heaven. But we don’t seem to hear about the justice of God and the real choice of hell based on sinful, sin-filled living. About the consequences of our actions that are not in line with love, truth and beauty. There are over 160 instances in the New Testament alone in which hell is mentioned, and over 70 times that Jesus speaks about hell. Yet many people, even some Christians in the world today, don’t really think there is a hell. 

Some are those who buy into the lyrics of John Lennon’s “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky….” Poetically speaking, it seems quite nice – but isn’t that how the fallen angel usually works, weaving death in and out of ‘nice’? It is easy to hear half truths and follow the wrong person, the wrong teaching. Sometimes these half truths, these ‘wrong’ people are merely a bump in the road of life, not a track to hell, but we must be diligent in whom we choose to listen to and follow. Not all roads lead to heaven. 

Thomas Merton states, “Why should anyone be shattered by the thought of hell? It is not compulsory for anyone to go there. Those who do, do so by their own choice, and against the will of God, and they can only get into hell by defying and resisting all the work of Providence and grace. It is their own will that takes them there, not God’s. In damning them, He is only ratifying their own decision – a decision which He has left entirely to their own choice. Nor will He ever hold our weakness alone responsible for our damnation. Our weakness should not terrify us; it is the source of our strength, “libenter gloribor in infirmitatibus meis ut inhabitect in me virtus Christi.” Power is made perfect in infirmity, and our very helplessness is all the more potent a claim on that divine Mercy who calls to himself the poor, the little ones, the heavily burdened.”     

C.S. Lewis writes, “There are only two kinds of people in the end those who say to God, ‘thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice, there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”

In creating us, our Almighty, All-loving Father gave us free will. With this freedom, we choose who we want to listen to, and who we want to follow. 

(Today’s OXYGEN by Gina Ulicny)

PrayerLord God, help us to use our eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart and mind that focuses on You.  

ThanksgivingFather God, thank you for the gift of heaven. 

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