FEBRUARY 12, 2015 - Blessed HUMBELINE
1 KINGS 11:4-13 ; MARK 7:24-30
The two readings we have just heard present us with strongly contrasting figures, each of whom is representative of the ancient doctrine of the two ways. Already under the leadership of Moses this chosen people were confronted with the fact that there is a radical choice each must make at some point. That choice is to follow the holy, dutiful path that carries the traveler to the truly happy life. The alternative is to choose the other way that inevitably ends in misery and the confusion of disorder. Moses nearing the end of his life, stated the case in these terms ":Look, today I put before you life and the good, and the contrary: death and evil." (Deut.30:15) In view of the focus on Saint Humbeline at this Eucharist today, this tradition of the two ways in the primitive Church is highly appropriate in its application to her life.
In her earlier years, Humbeline is a prominent instance of how readily social success and wealth readily lead to a worldly way that ends in spiritual death. Solomon displayed its more baneful influence that was given as his rule progressed, florid expression. We hear of this in our first reading where we learn of his marriages to numerous pagan women. Readily yielding to their ways, Solomon had a baneful influence on the beliefs and religious behavior of the chosen people. His pagan practices contributed to the eventual division of the Jewish people into two distinct nations that proved a source of political tension. Less extreme in her manner and in a less prominent position, Humbeline nevertheless, in spite of her saintly mother's example and training, having married well soon left the way of life and virtue and struck out on the way that Solomon traveled, only to find it is the path that leads to corruption. That is the word Bernard was to use at her trip to Clairvaux.
Upon visiting her brothers and especially Bernard at the monastery of Clairvaux, the married and worldly sister met with a rejection. Bernard was not one to mince words. He refused to meet with her and sent word that he had no time to spend in the presence of such worldly corruption. Such rejection from a respected and love brother proved the turning point in her life. Digesting its implications immediately caused her to re-evaluate her situation. She managed to convince Bernard of the sincerity of her sudden change of heart and won his support. After a two year period of prayerful growth in the spirit, she arranged with her husband for a separation so that she was free to join the Benedictine community at Jully. By her ready response to Bernard's words Humbeline showed the same trusting faith displayed by the Syro-Phenician woman. They both spontaneously that won the approval of Jesus as given n the Gospel just read, where our Lord expresses approval of trusting faith.
Humbeline, we learn, once converted, is described by William of saint Thierry as persevering with fervent dedication in her monastic life. He was convinced that she deserved to be remembered as a saint for her fruitful service to the Lord in the same sacred monastic ways as her Cistercian brothers. May her example and intercession obtain the same graces of fidelity to the Lord Jesus who invites us today to give our whole life to him.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger