Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
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.”
Commentary on Luke 12:8-12 From Living Space
Jesus continues to prepare his disciples for trials to come in the future.
He encourages them to be faithful to their Christian commitment and to their faith in Christ as Lord. When we publicly acknowledge Jesus as Christ and Lord, Jesus too will acknowledge us as his faithful disciple. Of course, it will be difficult during times of abuse and persecution but they must always be ready to acknowledge their allegiance to Jesus. To deny that allegiance may win them a reprieve in this life but not in the next. “He who saves his life will lose it,” as Jesus said on an earlier occasion. The word for ‘deny’ here is the same word used in Peter’s denial and disowning of his Master (Luke 22:34 and 61).
There comes now a saying which can cause difficulty to some. “Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man will be forgiven but whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.” Why should there be just one exception to the forgiveness of sin? And why is speaking against the Son acceptable but not against the Spirit?
To speak against the Son is clearly wrong but, with repentance, there can be reconciliation. But to sin against the Spirit is to go against Truth itself. This was basically the sin of the Scribes and Pharisees. They not only criticised Jesus; that could be understood. But they locked themselves into a situation where they shut out any openness to the truth, the Truth that others could so easily see present in Jesus. As long as they were in that situation, there was no possibility of reconciliation. Forgiveness in the Gospel is not just a unilateral move on one person’s part. It always involves a coming together of two opposing parties in reconciliation. To sin against the Spirit is to close the door on reconciliation.
It seems that in Luke’s context he may be applying the saying to those Christians who are under attack for their faith. If they deny the Spirit of Truth they too lock themselves out from being reached by God. In times to come, Jesus’ disciples will be dragged before civic and religious authorities. They are not to be afraid or worried about how to defend themselves or about what they should say.
People who have been in this position have attested that the words do indeed come and with them a certain peace and strength, provided one retains one’s integrity and wholeness. And it is the presence of that Spirit, the Spirit of God and of Jesus, that is at work.
Most of us will not have to suffer severely for our faith. But there will likely be times when we may find our religious beliefs and practices ridiculed and made fun of. We can be tempted at such times to go into hiding, to conceal our Christian identity. We may even fail to come to the support of people who are under attack, refuse to stand by them, refuse to stand up and be counted as committed followers of the Gospel.
If that has happened in the past, let us ask forgiveness. Let us pray that in future we may have the courage and integrity in word and deed to let people know who we are and what we stand for.
The world seems to have lost its focus, whether in politics or in morals. This is why even in the midst of progress; many feel lost and hopeless in the world. Without hope, life cannot continue. Whether in work, relationship, marriage or in health, many people in the face of difficulties want to give up, because they see no hope. Even those working for a just world today are often tempted to give up, because they feel that the power of evil is stronger than good. By cooperating with His divine plan, we will find our purpose and meaning in this life on earth as we wait for the fullness of sharing God’s life in heaven.
But for us Christians, we know there is hope. The readings from the letter of St Paul to the Ephesians over the last couple of days told us that there is hope. Through the grace of revelation, St Paul revealed to us the plan of God for humanity, which is that everything will be united in Christ. Above all, we are given the hope of true freedom because we are called to the great destiny of being adopted sons in Christ. That this hope be always in our minds is the prayer of St Paul for the Ephesians and for us when he prayed, “May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers.”
What then is the basis of hope? Our hope is founded on Christ. Indeed, Paul says, “This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.” The responsorial psalm similarly declares “You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.” Christ, therefore, having won victory over sin and death rules over all of creation.
The psalmist reminds us that we, too, in Christ, have been given authority over creation and to rule the earth with His wisdom and love. “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him? 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.” By cooperating with His divine plan, we will find our purpose and meaning in this life on earth as we wait for the fullness of sharing God’s life in heaven.
Of course, we cannot do what Christ has done unless we have found our hope in Him. Only then can we be certain of “how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers.” If the Father had raised Jesus from the dead and “put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation”, then we can be confident that we will overcome all things in Him. This is particularly so because it will not be on our strength that we will overcome the tribulations of the world. Rather, it is Christ who acts in us, He being the Head of the Church and we the members of His body. With Christ at work in us, we need not ever fear that we are fighting a losing battle in the proclamation of the Good News, even though at times, we might feel rather discouraged at the hostility of secularism against the Church and all religions.
For this reason, the gospel warns us that those who have no faith in Christ will lose all hope. By failing to declare our faith in Jesus, it shows our lack of confidence in Him. Jesus said to His disciples, “I tell you, if anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of men, the Son of Man will declare himself for him in the presence of God’s angels. But the man who disowns me in the presence of men will be disowned in the presence of God’s angels.” It is not so much that He will disown us, but that we will disown His Spirit at work in us. By not standing up for Jesus on earth before men, we will be so embarrassed to stand before Jesus Himself when we meet Him face to face, for we know that we have betrayed Him.
Accordingly, we can understand why Jesus said, “Everyone who says a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” To deny the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us is to live without hope. We must not think that God will hold our sins against us. Rather, it will be our sins that will hold out against God who reaches out to us in mercy and forgiveness. If the sin against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven, it is because when a man has lost all faith in God and in his fellowmen and himself, he would fall into nihilism. Being totally closed to the love of God, he condemns himself into meaninglessness and hopelessness. Indeed, all those who have given up on life have in the first place given up on God and on man. So long as one continues to have faith in God, there is hope for himself and hope for others.
But for those who have faith in Jesus, then He assures us that “When they take you before synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say.” So long as we have faith in Jesus, “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him.” Yes, He will enlighten us and give us not just hope in this world but the everlasting joy of sharing in the life of God, together with His saints in glory. He will help us to understand the ambiguities of life, to find faith and strength in times of confusion and trials and most of all, teach us about the eternal truths, what to say and how to proclaim the truth that He has given to us.
And so today it is important to strengthen our faith in Jesus who is at work in our lives. But we must surrender ourselves, especially our work. We must remember those many events in our lives when we thought we were powerless and helpless and yet the Lord came to our help and enabled us to do much more than we could imagine or thought of. By remembering the power of God in Christ Jesus, we will find hope.
So hope is born from faith in Christ. Through hope comes charity. We hope we will never give up on situations, especially on people. If at times, we feel like giving up it is because we lack hope and therefore have no capacity to love. Indeed, St Paul sums up so beautifully the inter-relationship between faith, hope and charity when he commended the Ephesians, saying, “I, having once heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus, and the love that you show towards all the saints, have never failed to remember you in my prayers and to thank God for you.”
St. Teresa of Avila
Teresa Sanchez Cepeda Davila y Ahumada
The third child of Don Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda by his second wife, Doña Beatriz Davila y Ahumada, who died when the saint was in her fourteenth year,Teresa was brought up by her saintly father, a lover of serious books, and a tender and pious mother. After her death and the marriage of her eldest sister,Teresa was sent for her education to the Augustinian nuns at Avila, but owing to illness she left at the end of eighteen months, and for some years remained with her father and occasionally with other relatives, notably an uncle who made her acquainted with the Letters of St. Jerome, which determined her to adoptthe religious life, not so much through any attraction towards it, as through a desire of choosing the safest course. Unable to obtain her father’s consent she left his house unknown to him on Nov., 1535, to enter the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation at Avila, which then counted 140 nuns. The wrench from her familycaused her a pain which she ever afterwards compared to that of death. However, her father at once yielded and Teresa took the habit.
After her profession in the following year she became very seriously ill, and underwent a prolonged cure and such unskillful medical treatment that she was reduced to a most pitiful state, and even after partial recovery through the intercession of St. Joseph, her health remained permanently impaired. During these years of suffering she began the practice of mental prayer, but fearing that her conversations with some world-minded relatives, frequent visitors at the convent, rendered her unworthy of the graces God bestowed on her in prayer, discontinued it, until she came under the influence, first of the Dominicans, and afterwards of the Jesuits. Meanwhile God had begun to visit her with “intellectual visions and locutions”, that is manifestations in which the exterior senses were in no way affected, the things seen and the words heard being directly impressed upon her mind, and giving her wonderful strength in trials, reprimanding her for unfaithfulness, and consoling her in trouble. Unable to reconcile such graces with her shortcomings, which her delicate conscience represented as grievous faults, she had recourse not only to the most spiritual confessors she could find, but also to some saintly laymen, who, never suspecting that the account she gave them of her sins was greatly exaggerated, believed these manifestations to be the work of the evil spirit. The more she endeavoured to resist them the more powerfully did God work in her soul. The whole city of Avila was troubled by the reports of the visions of this nun. It was reserved to St. Francis Borgia and St. Peter of Alcantara, and afterwards to a number of Dominicans (particularly Pedro Ibañez and Domingo Bañez), Jesuits, and other religious and secular priests, to discern the work of God and to guide her on a safe road.
The account of her spiritual life contained in the “Life written by herself” (completed in 1565, an earlier version being lost), in the “Relations”, and in the “Interior Castle”, forms one of the most remarkable spiritual biographies with which only the “Confessions of St. Augustine” can bear comparison. To this period belong also such extraordinary manifestations as the piercing or transverberation of her heart, the spiritual espousals, and the mystical marriage. A vision of the placedestined for her in hell in case she should have been unfaithful to grace, determined her to seek a more perfect life. After many troubles and much opposition St. Teresa founded the convent of Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Primitive Rule of St. Joseph at Avila (24 Aug., 1562), and after six months obtained permission to take up her residence there. Four years later she received the visit of the General of the Carmelites, John-Baptist Rubeo (Rossi), who not only approved of what she had done but granted leave for the foundation of other convents of friars as well as nuns. In rapid succession she established her nuns at Medina del Campo (1567), Malagon and Valladolid (1568), Toledo and Pastrana (1569), Salamanca (1570), Alba de Tormes (1571), Segovia (1574), Veas and Seville (1575), and Caravaca (1576). In the “Book of Foundations” she tells the story of these convents, nearly all of which were established in spite of violent opposition but with manifest assistance from above. Everywhere she found souls generous enough to embrace the austerities of the primitive rule of Carmel. Having made the acquaintance of Antonio de Heredia, prior of Medina, and St. John of the Cross, she established her reform among the friars (28 Nov., 1568), the first conventsbeing those of Duruelo (1568), Pastrana (1569), Mancera, and Alcalá de Henares (1570).
A new epoch began with the entrance into religion of Jerome Gratian, inasmuch as this remarkable man was almost immediately entrusted by the nuncio with the authority of visitor Apostolic of the Carmelite friars and nuns of the old observance in Andalusia, and as such considered himself entitled to overrule the various restrictions insisted upon by the general and the general chapter. On the death of the nuncio and the arrival of his successor a fearful storm burst over St. Teresa and her work, lasting four years and threatening to annihilate the nascent reform. The incidents of this persecution are best described in her letters. The storm at length passed, and the province of Discalced Carmelites, with the support of Philip II, was approved and canonically established on 22 June, 1580. St. Teresa, old and broken in health, made further foundations at Villanuava de la Jara and Palencia (1580), Soria (1581), Granada (through her assistant the Venerable Anne of Jesus), and at Burgos (1582). She left this latter place at the end of July, and, stopping at Palencia, Valladolid, and Medina del Campo, reached Alba de Torres in September, suffering intensely. Soon she took to her bed and passed away on 4 Oct., 1582, the following day, owing to the reform of the calendar, being reckoned as 15 October. After some years her body was transferred to Avila, but later on reconveyed to Alba, where it is still preserved incorrupt. Her heart, too, showing the marks of the Transverberation, is exposed there to the veneration of the faithful. She was beatified in 1614, and canonizedin 1622 by Gregory XV, the feast being fixed on 15 October.
St. Teresa’s position among writers on mystical theology is unique. In all her writings on this subject she deals with her personal experiences, which a deep insight and analytical gifts enabled her to explain clearly. The Thomistic substratum may be traced to the influence of her confessors and directors, many of whom belonged to the Dominican Order. She herself had no pretension to found a school in the accepted sense of the term, and there is no vestige in her writings of any influence of the Areopagite, the Patristic, or the Scholastic Mystical schools, as represented among others, by the German Dominican Mystics. She is intensely personal, her system going exactly as far as her experiences, but not a step further.
A word must be added on the orthography of her name. It has of late become the fashion to write her name Teresa or Teresia, without “h”, not only in Spanishand Italian, where the “h” could have no place, but also in French, German, and Latin, which ought to preserve the etymological spelling. As it is derived from aGreek name, Tharasia, the saintly wife of St. Paulinus of Nola, it should be written Theresia in German and Latin, and Thérèse in French.
Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada (28 March 1515 – 4 October 1582), was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint,Carmelite nun and author during the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer. She was a reformer in the Carmelite Order of her time and the movement she initiated, later joined by Saint John of the Cross, eventually led to the establishment of the Discalced Carmelites, though neither she nor Saint John were alive when the two orders separated.
In 1622, forty years after her death, she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV, and on 27 September 1970 was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI. Her books, which include her autobiography (The Life of Teresa of Jesus) and her seminal work El Castillo Interior (trans.: The Interior Castle), are an integral part of Spanish Renaissance literature as well as Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practices. She also wrote Camino de Perfección (trans.: The Way of Perfection).
After her death, Saint Teresa’s cult was known in Spain during the 1620s, and for a time she was considered a candidate to become a national patron saint. A Santero image of the Immaculate Conception of El Viejo, said to have been sent with one of her brothers to Nicaragua by the saint, is now venerated as the country’s national patroness at the Shrine of El Viejo. Pious Catholic beliefs also associate Saint Teresa with the esteemed religious image called Infant Jesus of Prague with claims of former ownership and devotion.