Bernard of Clairvaux: Kindness so unexpected

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At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of is mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:3-8

“What could result from the contemplation of compassion so marvelous and so undeserved, favor so free and so well attested, kindness so unexpected, clemency so unconquerable, grace so amazing except that the soul should withdraw from all sinful affections, reject all that is inconsistent with God’s love, and yield herself wholly to heavenly things? No wonder is it that the Bride, moved by the perfume of these unctions, runs swiftly, all on fire with love, yet reckons herself as loving all too little in return for the Bridegroom’s love. And rightly, since it is no great matter that a little dust should be all consumed with love of that Majesty which loved her first and which revealed itself as wholly bent on saving her.”

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), French abbot and reformer among the Benedictine monks, in his classic work, On Loving God, excerpt from chapter 4.

Lent is drawing near. It’s the season when reflect on the kindness and generosity of Jesus Christ leading up to Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday, which this year is on 6 March 2019. Each Lent, we adopt fresh patterns of fasting, praying, and giving to shape life after Easter in service to Christ.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to Titus, stated plainly that before experiencing the kindness of Christ, we were slaves to all kinds of nonsense. Since experiencing His marvelous love, we are free but must use that freedom with intentionality. We must devote ourselves to doing what is good.

Bernard, one of my favorite monks, would challenge us to fast from anything that is inconsistent with God’s love or that hinders us from yielding ourselves wholly to heavenly things. Contemplate the compassion of Christ and His favor so free. This propels us to doing good.

What will you fast from, give to, and pray for this Lent? Think about it. You have a week to decide. I am thinking about it too.