Wednesday, October 15 ~ Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Saint Teresa of Avila, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

Holy Gospel: Luke 11:42-46 The Lord said: “Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others. Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces. Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.” Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.”

Meditation: Why does Jesus single out the teachers and lawyers for some rather strong words of rebuke? The word woe can also be translated as alas. It is as much an expression of sorrowful pity as it is of anger. Why did Jesus lament and issue such a stern rebuke? Jesus was angry with the religious leaders because they failed to listen to God’s word and they misled the people they were supposed to guide in the ways of God. The scribes devoted their lives to the study of the Law of God and regarded themselves as  legal experts in it.  They divided the Ten Commandments and precepts into thousands of tiny rules and regulations. They were so exacting in their interpretations and in trying to live them out, that they had little time for anything else. By the time they finished compiling their interpretations it took no less than fifty volumes to contain them! In their misguided zeal, they required unnecessary and burdensome rules which obscured the more important matters of religion, such as love of God and love of neighbor. They were leading people to Pharisaism rather than to God.

Prayer: O God, who through your Spirit raised up Saint Teresa of Jesus to show the Church the way to seek perfection, grant that we may always be nourished by the food of her heavenly teaching and fired with longing for true holiness. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Contemplation: What was the point of Jesus’ lesson in today’s Gospel? Simple. The essence of God’s commandments is love — love of the supreme good — God himself and love of our neighbor who is made in the image and likeness of God.  God is love and everything he does flows from his love for us.  God’s love is unconditional and is wholly directed towards the good of others.  True love both embraces and lifts the burdens of others.  Paul the Apostle reminds us that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given us” (1 Cor. 5:5). Do you help your neighbors carry their burdens? God gives each of us sufficient grace for each day to love as he loves and to lift the burdens of others that they, too, may experience the grace and love of Jesus Christ.

About Saint Teresa of Avila: St. Teresa of Jesus, honored by the Church as the “seraphic virgin,” and reformer of the Carmelite Order, ranks first among women for wisdom and learning. She is called “doctor of mystical theology;” in a report to Pope Paul V the Roman Rota declared: “Teresa has been given to the Church by God as a teacher of the spiritual life. The mysteries of the inner mystical life which the holy Fathers propounded unsystematically and without orderly sequence, she has presented with unparalleled clarity.” Her writings are still the classic works on mysticism, and from her all later teachers have drawn, e.g., Francis de Sales, Alphonsus Liguori. Teresa was born at Avila, Spain, in the year 1515. In 1533 she entered the Carmelite Order; for eighteen years she suffered physical pain and spiritual dryness. Under divine inspiration and with the approval of Pope Pius IV, she began the work of reforming the Carmelite Order. In spite of heavy opposition and constant difficulties, she founded 32 reformed convents. Truly wonderful were the exterior and interior manifestations of her mystical union with God, especially during the last decade of her life. When dying she often repeated the words: “Lord, I am a daughter of the Church!” Her holy body rests upon the high altar of the Carmelite church in Alba, Spain; her heart with its mysterious wound is reserved in a precious reliquary on the Epistle side of the altar. St. Teresa composed the following well-known lines:

Let nothing affright thee,
nothing dismay thee.
All is passing,
God ever remains.
Patience obtains all.
Whoever possesses God
cannot lack anything;
God alone suffices.