Harden Not your Hearts–Bernard of Clairvaux

We read in the gospel that when the Lord was teaching his disciples and urged them to share in his passion by the mystery of eating his body, some said: This is a hard saying, and from that time they no longer followed him. When he asked the disciples whether they also wished to go away, they replied: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

I assure you, my brothers, that even to this day it is clear to some that the words which Jesus speaks are spirit and life, and for this reason they follow him. To others these words seem hard, and so they look elsewhere for some pathetic consolation. Yet wisdom cries out in the streets, in the broad and spacious way that leads to death, to call back those who take this path. Finally, he says: For forty years I have been close to this generation, and I said: They have always been faint-hearted. You also read in another psalm: God has spoken once. Once, indeed, because for ever. His is a single, uninterrupted utterance, because it is continuous and unending.

He calls upon sinners to return to their true spirit and rebukes them when their hearts have gone astray, for it is in the true heart that he dwells and there he speaks, fulfilling what he taught through the prophet: Speak to the heart of Jerusalem. You see, my brothers, how the prophet admonishes us for our advantage: If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. You can read almost the same words in the gospel and in the prophet. For in the gospel the Lord says: My sheep hear my voice. And in the psalm blessed David says: You are his people (meaning, of course, the Lord’s) and the sheep of his pasture. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Hear also the prophet Habakkuk in today’s reading. Far from hiding the Lord’s reprimands, he dwells on them with attentive and anxious care. He says: I will stand upon my watch-tower and take up my post on the ramparts, keeping watch to see what he will say to me and what answer I will make to those who try to confute me. I beg you, my brothers, stand upon our watch-tower, for now is the time for battle. Let all our dealings be in the heart, where Christ dwells, in right judgement and wise counsel, but in such a way as to place no confidence in those dealings, nor rely upon our fragile defences.

Bernard of Clairvaux, St.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux is clearly one of the greatest preachers of all time. Born to a noble family near Dijon France in 1090 AD, St. Bernard was inspired by the example of a new religious congregation, the Cistercians, who had abandoned the relative ease and security of Benedictine monasticism of that day to live according to the primitive pattern of St. Benedict through hard manual labor, solitude, and rigorous prayer. When St. Bernard decided to abandon the privilege of noble life to enter the monastery, he brought over 30 noble relatives with him. Once professed, he was very soon made abbot and went on to found over 40 monasteries in his lifetime. St. Bernard’s magnetic preaching and exemplary character changed the lives of thousands and his writing continues today to inspire Christians everywhere. His words were so sweet that he came to be known as the Melifluous (“full of honey”) Doctor. St. Bernard died in 1153 and was later proclaimed a saint and a Doctor of the Church. His feast day in the Roman Calendar is August 20.