Friday, October 15, 2010

Blessed The People The LORD Has Chosen To Be His Own.

Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus,
virgin and doctor of the Church
Reading I
Ephesians 1:11-14
Brothers and sisters:
in Christ we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose of the One
who accomplishes all things
according to the intention of his will,
so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ.
In him you also, who have heard the word of truth,
the Gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him,
were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
which is the first installment of our inheritance
toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.
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Psalm 33
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten‑stringed lyre chant his praises.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
For upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down;
he sees all mankind.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
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Luke 12:1-7
At that time:
So many people were crowding together
that they were trampling one another underfoot.
Jesus began to speak, first to his disciples,
“Beware of the leaven
–that is, the hypocrisy–of the Pharisees.

“There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness
will be heard in the light,
and what you have whispered behind closed doors
will be proclaimed on the housetops.
I tell you, my friends,
do not be afraid of those who kill the body
but after that can do no more.
I shall show you whom to fear.
Be afraid of the one who after killing
has the power to cast into Gehenna;
yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.
Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins?
Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God.
Even the hairs of your head have all been counted.
Do not be afraid.
You are worth more than many sparrows.”
St. Teresa of Avila

Teresa lived in an age of exploration as well as political, social and religious upheaval. It was the 16th century, a time of turmoil and reform. She was born before the Protestant Reformation and died almost 20 years after the closing of the Council of Trent.
The gift of God to Teresa in and through which she became holy and left her mark on the Church and the world is threefold: She was a woman; she was a contemplative; she was an active reformer.
As a woman, Teresa stood on her own two feet, even in the man's world of her time. She was "her own woman," entering the Carmelites despite strong opposition from her father. She is a person wrapped not so much in silence as in mystery. Beautiful, talented, outgoing, adaptable, affectionate, courageous, enthusiastic, she was totally human. Like Jesus, she was a mystery of paradoxes: wise, yet practical; intelligent, yet much in tune with her experience; a mystic, yet an energetic reformer. A holy woman, a womanly woman.
Teresa was a woman "for God," a woman of prayer, discipline and compassion. Her heart belonged to God. Her ongoing conversion was an arduous lifelong struggle, involving ongoing purification and suffering. She was misunderstood, misjudged, opposed in her efforts at reform. Yet she struggled on, courageous and faithful; she struggled with her own mediocrity, her illness, her opposition. And in the midst of all this she clung to God in life and in prayer. Her writings on prayer and contemplation are drawn from her experience: powerful, practical and graceful. A woman of prayer; a woman for God.
Teresa was a woman "for others." Though a contemplative, she spent much of her time and energy seeking to reform herself and the Carmelites, to lead them back to the full observance of the primitive Rule. She founded over a half-dozen new monasteries. She traveled, wrote, fought—always to renew, to reform. In her self, in her prayer, in her life, in her efforts to reform, in all the people she touched, she was a woman for others, a woman who inspired and gave life.
Her writings, especially the Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle, have helped generations of believers.
In 1970, the Church gave her the title she had long held in the popular mind: doctor of the Church. She and St. Catherine of Siena were the first women so honored.
Ours is a time of turmoil, a time of reform and a time of liberation. Modern women have in Teresa a challenging example. Promoters of renewal, promoters of prayer, all have in Teresa a woman to reckon with, one whom they can admire and imitate.
Teresa knew well the continued presence and value of suffering (physical illness, opposition to reform, difficulties in prayer), but she grew to be able to embrace suffering, even desire it: "Lord, either to suffer or to die." Toward the end of her life she exclaimed: "Oh, my Lord! How true it is that whoever works for you is paid in troubles! And what a precious price to those who love you if we understand its value."
Patron Saint of:

Saint of the Day

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

'I shall show you whom to fear.
Be afraid of the one who after killing
has the power to cast into Gehenna;
yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.'

It is strange how in this passage Jesus tells his disciples first not to be afraid, then to be very afraid, then not to be afraid again! The part about the sparrows must clarify this in some way. I've always in the past read it as just reassurance that God cares for us (and sparrows) even more than we do ourselves. But today it occurred to me that Our Lord might have been referring to sparrows going cheap(or cheep!) in the Temple as sacrificial victims (2 for a farthing, 5 for a halfpenny). There would be no point in sacrificing them if one did not believe God noticed sparrows.

Leviticus 14:4 specifies 2 sparrows, one killed and the other set free, as part of a rite for cleansing from leprosy. In a sense, the sparrow set free is like the soul flying up to heaven while the sparrow killed is like sinfulness being consigned to hell.

People must have felt sad, buying two chirpy little sparrows and seeing one killed by the priest. Generations of Jewish children must have been traumatized by this whenever they recovered from the frequent skin ailments of childhood!

But we cannot take our uncleanness with us to heaven, no matter how fond of it we have grown! It's better not to allow ourselves to become unclean in the first place, rather than risk a painful and possibly terminal intervention by the High Priest.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can share the destiny of the sparrow who is set free, not the one killed and cast aside. It is a matter of our free choice.

'I shall show you whom to fear.' It is almost as though Jesus is referring forward to his own final encounter with the High Priest Caiaphas. This could be described as an encounter between the true High Priest and his imperfect earthly shadow. At first sight, Caiaphas is the one to fear - but on reflexion it is Jesus and true High Priesthood itself that Caiaphas in particular should fear.

'Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna.' The Law includes the death penalty, but did people also believe that the High Priest had the power to damn? I expect that possibility would have been hotly debated, like the whole subject of the Resurrection. Whatever the debate, if the reference to sparrows is intended to remind the disciples of Temple sacrifices, Jesus is implying that there is a High Priest with such power (Jesus Himself, not Caiaphas).

It's interesting that this translation talks of 'the one who after killing', rather than 'after he has killed'. Christ crucified could be described as Christ 'after killing'. 'The one who after killing' could therefore be either the victim or the High Priest. I wonder if there is any ambiguity to justify this in the original Greek?

'yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.'

If Christ is the source of our freedom from fear, the only fear we need to have is losing Christ.