Thursday the 9th Week of Ordinary Time
St Gertrude was a 13th-century Cistercian of the monastery of Helfta, and she had a problem with passages like the one we just heard in the first reading today. She wondered how any one person in a monastery could give a warm welcome to visitors like Ragúel and Edna, give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty, and go to visit their relatives, like Tobias and his family? If we don’t, each one of us, feed the hungry, knowing that we’re feeding Jesus, how can we say that we “love the Lord our God with all our heart”, as we just heard in the Gospel?
St Gertrude tells us in one in her writings that the Lord himself replied to her question, and his answer wasn’t what you might be expecting. He said to her: “Just as I am the salvation and the life of souls, so also, in every human being, I am always hungering and thirsting for their salvation. If an individual every day applies herself to the reading of a few words of Holy Scripture in order to edify herself, she will without any doubt allay my hunger with an extremely sweet refreshment”.
And the Lord went on to tell Gertrude that the same holds true for each of the works of mercy: these can all be practiced in this way within the monastery as well as outside. Those who do so can take to heart the words of today’s responsorial psalm: “May the Lord bless you from Zion all the days of your life!”
No wonder that the Roman rite officially refers to our Gertrude as Sanctæ Gertrudis, cognomento Magnæ, “Saint Gertrude, called the Great”, and there is even a movement to declare her a Doctor of the Church.