Fr. Roger J. Landry
Chapel of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, Dallas, TX
Saturday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor
October 15, 2016
Eph 1:15-23, Ps 8, Lk 12:8-12
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- Today St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians shows us the content of the prayer he prayed for the Christians there and always. His prayer began with thanksgiving that they’re already living the two main aspects of the Christian faith — love for God and love for all the holy ones — before he turned to asking that God the Father may give them:
- “A spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him” — He wants them to see things as God sees, to see them with God’s eyes, to see God himself and understand all things in his light. This is a light not just of the mind or intellect but also of the whole being, especially the affections, as we see next.
- “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe” — He is praying that our heart will know the hope that belongs to our vocation so that we may trust in God, in his promises, in his power, even when we should have to suffer for our faith.
- “In accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come.” — If we need “proof” to ground the hope of our call, St. Paul points to Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, which shows us the full power of God over evil, sin and death, and the ultimate plan of God for our life and the love that God showed through the incarnation, passion, death and resurrection to fulfill that plan.
- “And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the Church, which is his Body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” — As Christ said in his valedictory address on the mountain before ascending to heaven, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” and he entrusted that authority to the Church, to preach, to baptize, and to teach, knowing that he was always with him. And he gave this gift to us in the Church so that we may experience the fullness of God and help others to do the same. God wants us to have life to the full and that life happens in relationship with God.
- In the Gospel, Jesus finishes his speech to and about the Pharisees by illustrating these points in another way. He has been correcting the Pharisees for their externalism and hypocrisy and warning the disciples about the Pharisees’ leaven, about the way their religious approach can metastasize as a virulent cancer. He also recognized that many of the disciples were afraid of the Pharisees, afraid of what they might do, just as they were plotting to have Jesus murdered by the very Roman authorities they wanted booted from their country. And so Jesus yesterday and today is addressing that straight on, so that his disciples may know the hope that belongs to their calling, so that they may know God’s revelation in his Son, so that the eyes of their hearts may be enlightened, so that they may trust in God’s power and become who they are called to be by faith. He talks to them about acknowledging him before others, despite their fears; he talks to them about trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit, who will teach them what to say, rather than distrusting in God’s power and fearing more those on earth than having confidence in God’s power. As Jesus said yesterday in the previous excerpt of this passage, God loves and knows us so much that he has numbered every follicle on our head and loves us so much more than all the sparrows on the planet. This is what gives us confidence to correspond to the hope of our call so that we might have life to the full.
- Today the Church celebrates a great saint — one of the greatest — who enfleshed these lessons. Someone who did correspond to the fullness of the hope of her calling, someone who did know God’s wisdom and pass it on in such a way that she became a doctor of the Church, someone who acknowledged Christ before others, who cooperated with the Holy Spirit, even amid the sufferings that came from just trying to reform herself and her fellow Carmelites to love God in accordance with her faith in Christ Jesus and love her neighbors by helping them become truly holy. We prayed at the beginning of Mass that God “who through your Spirit raised up Saint Teresa of Jesus to show the Church the way to seek perfection” would “grant that we may always be nourished by the food of her heavenly teaching and fired with longing for true holiness.” Her life shows us the way to seek perfection, to live the words of Sacred Scripture, and so it’s important to highlight at least a few of the ways she shows us how to correspond to our own vocation.
- Like many of us, St. Teresa started off with great desires. When she was seven, she took great pleasure in the lives of the saints, making a little hermitage in her back yard where she could read and pray. One day her younger brother Rodrigo was in the back yard with her and they began to think about the happiness of the saints in heaven and got caught up in the thought of living “forever and ever and ever and ever and ever.” Rodrigo asked how they could get to heaven fastest, and Teresa replied that that would be through martyrdom, because the sufferings of the martyrs were nothing compared with the glory they received immediately upon death. Rodrigo asked how they could become martyrs and she said that they would need to go where the Muslims were in order to be killed by them for the faith. Rodrigo asked where the Muslims were and she told him in Morocco. And so off they went walking toward Morocco, forgetting — we can excuse 7 and 5 year olds! — the small geographical complication that there was the Mediterranean Sea between Spain and northern Africa! The got outside the city walls and as far as the ancient Roman Adaja Bridge when they were met by their Uncle Francisco coming back on his horse from hunting who asked them where they were headed. When informed they were heading to Africa to be martyred by the Moors, he told them he would give them a ride on his horse. After they hopped on, he took them back to their home! The episode shows, however, how strong young Teresa desired what the Holy Spirit wants, which is to help guide her all the way to heaven, how courageous she was from an early stage to be willing to suffer even earthly tortures — like the stories of the martyrs she read with her brother — for the eternal prize. That deep desire never left her, but over the course of time, it waned. She entered the Carmelite monastery when she was 20, but the house was in a spiritual malaise. Some nuns had suites of rooms, with servants and pets. Eventually she succumbed to it herself, spending vast amounts of time entertaining visitors and friends in the parlor, giving herself over to various compromises with worldliness and vanity. It was only two decades later, when she was about 40, that God reawakened her from her life according to the flesh, from her spiritual worldliness, from tolerating venial sins, trusting in herself, not valuing God’s grace, to a truly fervent life of the Holy Spirit. She gave herself over to God and allowed herself to be led to reform Carmelite life as a whole. The Holy Spirit revivified her desire for holiness, for happiness, for heaven and he guided her through all the stages necessary to give her a foretaste of heavenly union here on earth through prayer.
- She sought through her prayer constantly to correspond to St. Paul’s and the Church’s petition that we all might be filled with a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of God. She described the various stages on which God led her and leads us as an Interior Castle with seven “mansions” (each containing many rooms) of prayer and the spiritual life which leads to it and flows from it. The first mansion begins in the state of grace, but involves a lot of fighting against sin, especially pride. People are pulled by the material world and a desire for possessions, honor and power. The second mansion happens when the person seeks to advance through the castle through daily prayer, thoughts of God, humble recognition of God’s work in the soul, sermons, edifying conversations, good company and other means. The third mansion happens when, moved by grace, the person has a love for God so great that the person has a total aversion to all sin including venial and a desire to do works of love for others for God’s glory. The person begins to have less self-reliance and become more dependent on God. The person has generally reached a high standard of virtue, self-discipline, penance and prudence. These are all stages that are meant to happen in everyone who follows the guidance of the Holy Spirit in ordinary Catholic life. The fourth stage is one of contemplative prayer, when the person no longer seeks to acquire or grow by one’s own efforts but allows God to lead, even in prayer. The person begins to attach lesser importance to the things of this world and far more to God. The person decreases and God increases and experiences many spiritual consolations, like the prayer of Quiet. It no longer shrinks from trials. The fifth mansion begins an experience of union of wills in which the person develops a complete trust in God’s will. There’s no longer a need to control events or lose much time over petty worries, something that opens the person to receive more and more gifts from God. It’s a spiritual betrothal and the faculties of the soul can often go “asleep” in prayer as the soul is completely possessed by God. The sixth mansion is when the person is torn away from outside afflictions and begins to experience not just a betrothal but a love between Lover and Beloved that lasts for long periods of time full of intimacy. It often involves some intense suffering (physical, spiritual, often misunderstanding from others and occasionally a sense of abandonment comparable to the pains of hell) in which through the Cross one’s union with God and longing for God grows. The person begins to become increasingly occupied in the things of God and can have difficulty in every day practical issues. In the seventh mansion, there is a spiritual marriage in which two candles become one, where there is complete transformation and profound peace, when inadvertent venial sins are still possible but there’s great fruitfulness in prayer and action. The person can now continue duties with no difficulty because there’s a union with God in doing them. The person is engaged fully in the service of God and others with great calm and self-forgetfulness. St. Teresa invited all her sisters through all of these stages of spiritual progress by opening themselves up to the grace of God. She considered it within the reach of everyone who allows the Holy Spirit to lead. She would encourage us to abandon ourselves to the Holy Spirit and let him lead us through the various rooms of each mansion according to God’s pace until, God-willing, we enter into the mansions where we, with her, will live and love God “forever and ever and ever.”
- Today as we celebrate Mass on St. Teresa’s feast day, we ask the Lord to nourish us not only with the Gospel and the way St. Teresa became a living commentary on it, but fire us up with a longing for true holiness, not just by our willingness to be martyred as she was as a kid but for a transforming union with God as an adult. We ask her intercession that if we’re at all lukewarm, if we’re tolerating venial sin, or near occasions, or not really treasuring and responding to God’s graces in our life, to help us convert, no matter what age we are, so that our lives may correspond to the hope God has placed in us in calling us, and so that we might come to experience the fullness God intends to give us as we now receive within the power of the one who raised Christ from the dead and now gives him to us as our nourishment!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Reading 1 EPH 1:15-23
Hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus
and of your love for all the holy ones,
I do not cease giving thanks for you,
remembering you in my prayers,
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might,
which he worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead
and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age but also in the one to come.
And he put all things beneath his feet
and gave him as head over all things to the Church,
which is his Body,
the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.
Responsorial Psalm PS 8:2-3AB, 4-5, 6-7
O LORD, our LORD,
how glorious is your name over all the earth!
You have exalted your majesty above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings
you have fashioned praise because of your foes.
R. You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.
When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars which you set in place—
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
R. You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.
You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his feet.
R. You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.
Alleluia JN 15:26B, 27A
The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord,
and you also will testify.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 12:8-12
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you,
everyone who acknowledges me before others
the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.
But whoever denies me before others
will be denied before the angels of God.
“Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven,
but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will not be forgiven.
When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities,
do not worry about how or what your defense will be
or about what you are to say.
For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”