Wednesday, May 20, 2009


“St. Bernardino”
by El Greco, 1603 
MAY 20


Biographical Information about St. Bernardine of Siena[1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena

Readings and Commentary:

Acts 4:8-12

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them:
"Leaders of the people and elders:
If we are being examined today
about a good deed done to a cripple,
namely, by what means he was saved,
then all of you and all the people of Israel should know
that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean
whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead;
in his name this man stands before you healed.
He is the stone rejected by you, the builders,
which has become the cornerstone.
There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved."

Commentary on
Acts 4:8-12

This selection follows Peter and John as they proclaim Christ crucified and risen. As we hear in this passage, their effective apology has now gained them an audience with Caiaphas and the rest of the Sanhedrin – the very same people who handed Jesus over to be crucified and Peter, having just performed a saving act in His name, reminds them with the famous cornerstone (in other versions the word used is “keystone” or “head of the corner”) speech using imagery from their own hymnal
Psalm 118:22.

CCC: Acts 4:10 597; Acts 4:11 756; Acts 4:12 432, 452, 1507
Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10, 11

R. (8a and 9a) Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God.

R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will. 

Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Burnt offerings or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, "Behold I come."

R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
"In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
To do your will, 0 my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!"

R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

 I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, 0 LORD, know.

R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
Your justice I kept not hid within my heart;
your faithfulness and your salvation I have spoken of;
I have made no secret of your kindness and your truth
in the vast assembly.

R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
Commentary on
Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10, 11

While Psalm 40 is a song of thanksgiving, it is also combined with a lament. The initial waiting is satisfied by favor shown by God to one who is faithful in service to Him. Praise and thanksgiving are given to God whose justice is applied to all.

CCC: Ps 40:2 2657; Ps 40:7-9 LXX 462; Ps 40:7 2824
Luke 9:57-62

As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding
on their journey to Jerusalem,
someone said to him,
"I will follow you wherever you go."
Jesus answered him,
"Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head."
And to another he said, "Follow me."
But he replied, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father."
But he answered him, "Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God."
And another said, "I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home."
Jesus said, "No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God."

Commentary on
Lk 9:57-62

This passage from St. Luke’s Gospel gives us three sayings of Jesus about the requirement to place the values of Christian discipleship above all other requirements of life. Proclaiming the Kingdom of God must come before even family obligations.

In the first, “Foxes have dens…” Jesus does not deceive anyone – he lives in poverty, dedicated to his mission.

The second, “Let the dead bury their dead,” is a play on words: let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead. Jesus message is the message of life. This saying was never intended to be taken literally as filial piety is deeply ingrained in Jewish life.

In the third saying; “No one who…looks to what was left behind,” Jesus demands more than Elisha (see 1 Kings 19:19-21). “Plowing for the Kingdom demands sacrifice."[3]
CCC: Lk 9:58 544

Saint Bernardino of Siena (1380 - 1444) or
“Little Bernard” as he was called, is best known for his preaching. He moved from place to place in his adult life as a Franciscan, proclaiming Christ and, like St. Paul whom he idolized, preached Christ crucified for our salvation.
While his preaching fired the faith of many, his ability to empathize with those who were conflicted with trying to live a faithful Christian life in a secular society gave his preaching credibility. He was able to become blessed as a peace-maker, constantly raising the banner of Christ's peace between those in conflict; from individual arguments to city states warring in Italy.

His example of proclaiming Christ with words and actions is what we, who struggle with the same kinds of conflicts must take away from his example. In him we see the continuation of taking the Gospel into the world. Sts. Peter and John run into it in the first reading from Acts and the Lord alludes to it with his sayings from St. Luke's Gospel. We must constantly keep the virtues of Christian life at the center of our motivations, even - or perhaps especially when we are challenged to compromise our morality.

Today as we memorialize “Little Bernard”, let us seek to follow his example in spreading the Gospel and ask for his intercession, that we may have the strength to do so with humility and grace.


[1] The picture is “St. Bernardino” by El Greco, 1603 
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. 
[3] See Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall, Inc., © 1968, 44:97 p. 143

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