Better Look Under Your Terebinth!

Memorial of Saint Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Click here for readings

Today in Mercy, on this feast of St. Bernard, the liturgy offers us a little bit more of the Books of Judges. The reading for today is about Gideon, warrior judge, who delivered the Israelites from the oppression of the Midianites.

Judges6_11 terebinth
What the heck is a “terebinth” anyway? – a small southern European tree of the cashew family that was formerly a source of turpentine.

For me, these passages about wars and deliverers create conflict. Believing in Christ’s message of peace and mutual love, we have a spiritual abhorrence for war and a resistance to taking sides in confusing civil conflicts.


But as our wonderful retreat guide last week (Clare D’Auria, OSF) told us, with the Scriptures, as with writings from cultures not our own, we have to “get under the language” to find the deeper spiritual meanings.


Here’s what I find “under the language” of Gideon’s story.

  • A person unafraid of transparency with God:

The angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth.
Gideon said to the Lord, “My Lord, if the LORD is with us,
why has all this happened to us?

  • A person open to God’s Presence in his ordinary daily circumstances:

The angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth
… where Gideon was beating out wheat

  • A person who is unaware of God’s astounding power within him:

The LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have
and save Israel from the power of Midian.
It is I who send you.”
But Gideon answered him, “Please, my lord, how can I save Israel?

  • A person whose faith continued to be shaky even in the presence of God:

Gideon answered the Lord, “If I find favor with you,
give me a sign that you are speaking with me.

  • A person awestruck by God’s willingness to be personally present to him:

“Alas, Lord GOD,
that I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!”

  • A person who responds to God in loving worship and visible witness:

The LORD answered him,
“Be calm, do not fear. You shall not die.”
So Gideon built there an altar to the LORD
and called it Yahweh-shalom.

God visits each one of us in our daily experiences. We want to be transparent with God in both our joys and sorrows, our needs and our abundance. We want to give over to God our hesitancies and fears as we respond wholeheartedly to God’s invitation to grace. By the witness of our faith and good works, we want to give God praise for being in our lives – under our terebinth.

Under the language, I found a lot of Gideon in myself. You?

Music: In honor of the great St. Bernard of Clairvaux, please enjoy this beautiful him attributed to him – Jesu, Dulcis Memoria (translation below)

The sweet memory of Jesus
Giving true joy to the heart:
But more than honey and all things
His sweet presence.

Nothing more delightful is sung,
Nothing more pleasing heard,
Nothing sweeter thought,
Than Jesus, the Son of God.

O Jesus, hope of the penitent,
How gracious you are to those who ask
How good to those who seek you;
But what [are you] to those who find?

No tongue may tell,
No letter express;
He who has experience of it can believe
What it is to love Jesus.

O Jesus, may you be our joy,
You who are our future reward.
May our glory be in you
Throughout all eternity.


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