“Bernard, son of Quintavalle, son of Berardello, (died 1241) was one of the first followers of St. Francis of Assisi… He was a well-to-do young man from Assisi… Bernard received his evangelical calling in the church of San Nicolò, prompting him to give all of his money to the poor and become a follower of St. Francis…He was often sent on delicate missions…Bernard died around 1241 and is buried close to the tomb of St. Francis in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.” (Wikipedia}
He sought out Francis with a question. He wanted to know what to do with all the gifts God had given him, that he no longer wanted. All the good things he possessed he believed were God given. He didn’t want them. Like Francis he wanted, I suppose, to embrace poverty. He didn’t know what to do with all that God had given him.
Francis’ advice was to give it all back to God. They went to the church, prayed together for guidance and open the gospels at random pages determined to do what was written.
“If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Matt 19:21
“Take nothing for your journey,” he instructed them. “Don’t take a walking stick, a traveller’s bag, food, money, or even a change of clothes.” Luke 9:3
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23
It really didn’t take much pondering to conclude that I’m not like Bernard at all.
I know in my head that everything I possess comes from God. There is that little insistent voice that tells me that what I have I have earned. I have worked hard for it. I also know in my head that even with the working and earning, the talents that I have been given, the places where I worked and the health, physical and mental – all of these things came as God’s gifts to me. I know it – yet the voice in my head tells me that I deserve what I have. I’m not like Bernard at all
I haven’t reached the part yet where I want to give everything back. I’ve not finished with them. Again, in my head, I know that everything is laid at the feet of Jesus, everything is surrendered. I also know how reluctant I am to be open handed. I think in terms of the things I have being the things I need to have all the bases covered. There is no rainy day that I have not prepared for. I’m not like Bernard at all.
I think that the way the world thinks has infected so much of how I think and behave. I reason it all out and say to myself, in Francis’ day people did that, but today that’s not how it works. I don’t think we realise, sometimes, just how acclimatised to the world around us we have become, and it is to our detriment.
I don’t think I have ever randomly opened the Bible to read a passage and followed the instructions given. I have heard too many sermons that tell me it’s a bad thing to do. After the death of Judas Iscariot and the need to replace him, the disciples picked lots and chose Matthias. Commentators go on to ask – “What did Matthias go on to do? Nothing”. Picking lots, making a random choice was an Old Testament way of making decisions. They should have prayed about it. Paul came along later – was he not God’s replacement? So random Bible verses – I’ve heard too many warnings. Maybe it’s something I need to unlearn. I’m not like Bernard at all.
“Do you want to be like Bernard?” said God, after all the musing I had done. “Do you want that revelation, that life-changing, direction-changing, heart and mind-changing revelation that I really am the giver of al that you possess? Do you want to reach that point of really laying it down? Of letting me cover all the bases and deal with the rainy days?”
I’d like to say there was an eager “Yes”.
There was silence. You see, I’m not like Bernard at all.
But if I’m not like Bernard, who was like Francis, who was like Jesus - who am I?
Being Bernard is adventure and risk – and yet not risk at all because God has all the bases covered and has prepared for every rainy day.
I discover there is a “Yes” in me.