Today’s (Solemnity of All Saints) non-scriptural selection in the Office of Readings provides us with a nice wake-up call. Taken from a sermon by St Bernard, the 12th century Cistercian abbot first takes his brothers to task for their laziness at worst, or their lack of zeal at best:
Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed, to join the assembly of patriarchs, the ranks of the prophets, the council of apostles, the great host of martyrs, the noble company of confessors and the choir of virgins. In short, we long to be united in happiness with all the saints. But our dispositions change. The Church of all the first followers of Christ awaits us, but we do nothing about it. The saints want us to be with them, and we are indifferent. The souls of the just await us, and we ignore them.
Then, he delivers a fatherly exhortation:
Come, brothers, let us at length spur ourselves on.
This reminded me of St Paul’s advice to Timothy (2 Tim 1:6-7):
Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.
We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no danger in setting our hearts on such glory.
When did I last take time to “long for” heaven?
How frequently each day do I reflect (“set our mind”) on the things of heaven?
How “earnestly” am I “seek[ing] the world which is above”?
Is there an element of “haste[n]” or urgency in my efforts?
What can I do to strengthen my “desire” for God and for heaven?
Bernard concludes this selection with his continued exhortation and a reminder not to neglect the access to God’s heart that can be attained through the communion of saints:
Therefore, we should aim at attaining this glory with a wholehearted and prudent desire. That we may rightly hope and strive for such blessedness, we must above all seek the prayers of the saints. Thus, what is beyond our own powers to obtain will be granted through their intercession.