Saturday, June 6, 2009


“St. Norbert”
by Marten Pepijn, 1637


Biographical Information about St. Norbert [1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Norbert

Readings and Commentary:

Ezekiel 34:11-16

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends his flock
when he finds himself among his scattered sheep,
so will I tend my sheep.
I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered
when it was cloudy and dark.
I will lead them out from among the peoples
and gather them from the foreign lands;
I will bring them back to their own country
and pasture them upon the mountains of Israel
in the land's ravines and all its inhabited places.
In good pastures will I pasture them,
and on the mountain heights of Israel
shall be their grazing ground.
There they shall lie down on good grazing ground,
and in rich pastures shall they be pastured
on the mountains of Israel.
I myself will pasture my sheep;
I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD.
The lost I will seek out,
the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up,
the sick I will heal,
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy,
shepherding them rightly.
Commentary on
Ez 34:11-16

The prophet presents the allegory of God, the shepherd. In this oracle the vision is God the Father, like a shepherd, will gather the people of Israel from the foreign lands to which they have been driven and bring them back to “the mountains of Israel”.

"This beautiful oracle resounds in our Lord's parable of the Good Shepherd who takes care of his sheep (cf. John 10:1-21), in what he says about the Father's joy on finding the lost sheep (cf. Matthew 18: 12-14; Luke 15:4-7), and in things he has to say about the Last Judgment as reported by St Matthew (Matthew 25:31-46)." [3]

CCC: Ez 34:11-31 754
Psalm 23:1-3a, 4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing 1 shall want.
Commentary on
Ps 23:1-3a, 4, 5, 6

Psalm 23 is probably the most quoted Psalm in Holy Scripture and perhaps one of the most commonly used of all the scripture. It is both a song of praise and a prayer in difficult times. The imagery of the Good Shepherd is also found in the exodus (see
Isaiah 40:11; 49:10; Jeremiah 31:10). It is used extensively in both the Old Testament and the New Testament (see Ezekiel 34:11-16; John 10:11-18).

The reference in the third strophe above “You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes” “occurs in an exodus context in
Psalm 78:19. As my enemies watch: my enemies see that I am God's friend and guest. Oil: a perfumed ointment made from olive oil, used especially at banquets (Psalm 104:15; Matthew 26:7; Luke 7:37, 46; John 12:2).” [4]
CCC: Ps 23:5 1293
Luke 14:25-33

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus,
and he turned and addressed them,
"If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.
Which of you wishing to construct a tower
does not first sit down and calculate the cost
to see if there is enough for its completion?
Otherwise, after laying the foundation
and finding himself unable to finish the work
the onlookers should laugh at him and say,
`This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.'
Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down
and decide whether with ten thousand troops
he can successfully oppose another king
advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?
But if not, while he is still far away,
he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.
In the same way,
everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions
cannot be my disciple."
Commentary on Lk 14:25-33

The Lord, perhaps in an action intended to identify those who had the zeal to be true disciples, tells the crowd of the necessity of total dedication to the call to discipleship. They had seen his recent miracles of healing, and were, no doubt, hoping to learn wisdom from him.
He tells them that they must place their love of God first, before family and even their own lives. He tells them, through two examples – the construction of the tower and the evaluation of the battle – that they must measure the sacrifice needed to be his follower. He punctuates his statement by telling them they must “renounce” all their possessions to follow him.
CCC: Lk 14:26 1618; Lk 14:33 2544

Anyone having read the story of St. Norbert, whose memorial we celebrate today, will understand why the scripture passages used on his feast day were selected. The Gospel speaks of Jesus instructions to the crowds of people following him, not just his disciples. He gives them a very hard lesson about the need to dedicate themselves to service to God, placing that need above all others, even family.

Not only did St. Norbert believe and follow this instruction in his own life, he also founded an order (Premonstratensian Order) whose rule placed this requirement stringently upon its followers. In addition to adopting this clear message, St. Norbert preached the word eloquently, bringing many to a better understanding of their own faith as well as reaching out to the un-churched.

His example of heroic virtue rests not only in his determination to preach the word but also in his tireless efforts to reform the Church using Christ as a model. As with all positive change, there were those who resented his efforts, clerics who had lost sight of the “Christ model”; and these groups opposed and resisted his efforts. He made the comfortable uncomfortable.

The same, of course, was true of the Lord. He challenged the powerful to become powerless, the rich to become humble, and the pious to become servants. For his great goodness, they ultimately killed him. And this very principle is what the Gospel calls us to.

St. Norbert provides an example of holiness that demonstrates how the Gospel may be lived. Our call is to hear and to follow as best we can, seeing in the Saints, a reflection of Christ in the world.


[1] The picture used is “St. Norbert” by Marten Pepijn, 1637
[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] The Navarre Bible: “Major Prophets”, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2002, pp.733
[4] See NAB footnote on Ps 23:5

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