Tuesday, August 9 ~ Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Saint Theresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), Virgin and Martyr
Holy Gospel: Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14 The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father. What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.”
Meditation: Do you find yourself somewhat surprised to see the disciples discussing with Jesus who is the greatest? Have each of us not done the same thing at some point in our lives? The appetite for glory and greatness seems to be inbred in us on one level or another. Even the Psalms speak about the glory God has destined for us: “you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor.” (ref. Psalm 8:6). Jesus made a dramatic gesture by placing a child next to himself to show his disciples who really is the greatest in the kingdom of God. What can a little child possibly teach us about greatness? Children in the ancient world had no rights, position, or privileges of their own. They were socially at the “bottom of the rung” and at the service of their parents, much like the household staff and domestic servants. What is the significance of Jesus’ gesture? Jesus elevated a little child in the presence of his disciples by placing the child in a privileged position of honor at his right side.
Prayer: God of our Fathers, who brought the Martyr Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross to know your crucified Son and to imitate him even until death, grant, through her intercession, that the whole human race may acknowledge Christ as its Savior and through him come to behold you for eternity. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Contemplation: So, then, who is the greatest in God’s kingdom? The one who is humble of heart, who instead of asserting their rights willingly, empties themselves of pride and self-seeking glory by taking the lowly position of a servant or child – and they do so by imitating Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity. Remember the words of Saint Benedict: “The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all.”
About Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross: Born Edith Stein of Jewish parents, Saint Teresa Benedicta was a brilliant philosopher who stopped believing in God when she was fourteen. She was so captivated by reading the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila that she began a spiritual journey that led to her Baptism in 1922. Twelve years later she imitated Teresa by becoming a Carmelite, taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Born into a prominent Jewish family in Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland), Edith abandoned Judaism in her teens. As a student at the University of Gottingen, she became fascinated by phenomenology, an approach to philosophy, and earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1916. After living in the Cologne Carmel (1934-1938), she moved to the Carmelite monastery in Echt, Netherlands. The Nazis occupied that country in 1940. In retaliation for being denounced by the Dutch bishops, the Nazis arrested all Dutch Jews who had become Christians. Teresa Benedicta and her sister Rosa, also a Catholic, died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz on August 9, 1942.