15 July 2009

An Open Heart, a Worthy Offering

Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, bishop and doctor of the Church
(Wednesday of the 15th Week in Ordinary Time)

Readings: Ex 3:1-6, 9-12, Ps 103:1b-2, 3-4, 6-7, Mt 11:25-27

"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” (Mt 11,25)

The Gospel passage doesn’t intend to mean the following:
1. It does not exalt the virtues of unknowing or ignorance.
2. It does not advocate a return to, or a preservation of, an idealized state of innocence.

Rather, the Gospel and the First Reading tell us about the importance of having a heart open and ready to accept God.

Moses in the First Reading received the most important divine revelation in the Old Testament: “I am who am”. In the Gospel, Jesus was lamenting over the people’s hardness of heart, for despite the miracles they witnessed, they were still unrepentant.

Second, the readings today, by extension, point to what comes next after faith has been informed by the knowledge of God: faith then becomes manifest in our life and deeds.

The God who revealed Himself as the “Great I am” also revealed Himself as the God who saves His people. Moses would become His chosen instrument. The revelation to Moses was a prelude to his mission.

A faith shown in a life well-lived, this was how St. Bonaventure lived his life. He was born in 1221 and died in 1274. He was known as the “Seraphic Doctor” and was arguably the greatest philosopher-theologian of the Franciscan Order.

St. Bonaventure was a man of great gifts and great humility. “At the age of 36, he was made General of his Order. He would have been made Archbishop of York by Pope Clement IV had he not begged the pope not too -- with great tears and entreaties. When he learned of Pope Gregory X’s resolve to create him a Cardinal, he quietly made his escape from Italy. On his way, he stopped to rest at a convent of his Order near Florence; and there two Papal messengers, sent to meet him with the Cardinal’s hat, found him washing the dishes. The Saint asked them to hang the hat on a nearby bush, and take a walk in the garden until he had finished what he had begun. Then taking up the hat with unfeigned sorrow, he joined the messengers, and paid them the respect due to their character.”

He was a contemporary and good friend of St. Thomas Aquinas. Here is another famous anecdote, this time about the two friends: Once St. St. Thomas visited St. Bonaventure's cell while the latter was writing the life of St. Francis. Upon opening the door, St. Thomas found him in an ecstasy. "Let us leave a saint to work for a saint", said St. Thomas as he withdrew.

The New Advent
encyclopedia describes how the two friends have been compared through the ages:

“Again, in attempting to make a comparison between Bonaventure and St. Thomas, we should remember that the two saints were of a different bent of mind; each had qualities in which he excelled; one was in a sense the complement of the other; one supplied what the other lacked. Thus Thomas was analytical, Bonaventure synthetical; Thomas was the Christian Aristotle, Bonaventure the true disciple of Augustine; Thomas was the teacher of the schools, Bonaventure of practical life; Thomas enlightened the mind, Bonaventure inflamed the heart; Thomas extended the Kingdom of God by the love of theology, Bonaventure by the theology of love. Even those who hold that Bonaventure does not reach the level of St. Thomas in the sphere of Scholastic speculation concede that as a mystic he far surpasses the Angelic Doctor. In this particular realm of theology, Bonaventure equals, if he does not excel, St. Bernard himself. Leo XIII rightly calls Bonaventure the Prince of Mystics: ‘Having scaled the difficult heights of speculation in a most notable manner, he treated of mystical theology with such perfection that in the common opinion of the learned he is facile princeps in that field’ (Allocutio of 11 October, 1890).”

May St. Bonaventure inspire us to make our hearts open to the knowledge of God and His will, and our lives a worthy offering to Him. Amen.

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