32nd Friday in Ordinary Time
Memorial of St.Gertrude the Great
Wisdom 18: 14 – 16; 19: 6 – 9; Ps 105; Luke 18: 1 – 8
In Jesus’ parable on prayer, the arrogant judge who has no fear of God nor respect for anyone finally makes a just decision for the widow – for only one reason – he is tired of her persistence and above all, fears that she will come and strike him. Jesus teaches that God is completely opposite – welcoming both persistence and boldness our God responds in some way that always expresses mercy.
Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Gertrude the Great, a Cistercian nun of the 13th century, whose whole life is marked by persistent and bold prayer. Her work called “Spiritual Exercises” is one long prayer that speaks of faithful persistence, of reverent boldness and a very profound intimacy.
In the collect for this Mass we heard: “O God, who prepared a delightful dwelling for yourself in the heart of the Virgin St. Gertrude…” – “a delightful dwelling” – God delighted in her and she in Him – this is manifestly clear in the 695 paragraphs of her exercises. She experiences God’s love as “cherishing love” – in fact, for her, the Lord Himself is this Cherishing Love – she addresses the Lord in these very words, “O Cherishing Love!”
Her life speaks to our lives as Cistercians – her life speaks to all who seek God. Christ in His humanity is the basis and focus of her prayer and her writing. St. Benedict’s admonition: “Prefer nothing whatever to the love of Christ” is the foundation of her life and the motive for her persistence and boldness in prayer. In this she is an example of what it means to live as a Cistercian – what it means to live the grace of our Baptism in Christ – “singing His praise, proclaiming His wonderful works, glorying in His holy name.’ (Ps 105)
In the conclusion of her “Spiritual Exercises” she writes: “May your soul bless me today, dear Jesus. May your imperial divinity bless me. May your fruitful humanity bless me so efficaciously and your royal munificence leave behind for me such visible signs of your blessing that, totally changed from myself into you by unconquerable love, I may cling to you inseparably. Make me perfect in fearing you. Make me pleasing to you.” Her final petitions are made in simplicity – yet so very profound in desire.
From this prayer we can see why God delights in her – surely we too will continue to seek God’s delight through her intercession.