Deacon Steven Johnson’s Reflection 10-15-20

Deacon Steven M. Johnson – St. James, Belvidere, IL

Homily for Ordinary Time-28th Week Thursday, 10-15-20, Year A – Memorial of St. Teresa of Avila

READINGS: 1st Reading 1 Rom 8:22-27, Gospel Jn 15:1-8

St. Teresa of Avila
Born: March 28, 1515 in Avila, Spain
Died: October 4, 1582 in Alba de Tormes
Canonized on March 12th, 1622 by Pope Gregory XV
Doctor of the Church (first to be so via Pope Paul VI in 1970).

Mystic, Reformer of the Carmelite order, Contemplative, Writer of “The Way of Perfection” and “The Interior Castle,” expert in contemplative prayer.

She partnered with St. John of the Cross to reform convents for women and monasteries for men enduring many trials to do so.

She is the patron St. of Spain, headaches, and Spanish Catholic writers.

Theme: Hope in Christ’s Love

St. Teresa suffered from a struggle wherein she recognized herself as a sinful woman who enjoyed a life filled with earthly pleasures and one of prayer and devotion to Jesus. She had a hard time separating herself from these earthly pleasures and focusing her life on Christ. She loved Jesus but also loved the world.

She finally decided to enter the Carmelite Order to try and devote more of herself to Jesus. She quickly realized that she was weak in spirit and devotion and for many years gave up on the usual outward communal prayer life which seemed to do nothing for her. She suffered health issues and trials from her own order as well as the community in general. Something was missing.

She soon came to understand that she could not bear good fruit without the full love of Christ inside her. As Jesus says in the Gospel today, “just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me” “and I in you.”

Finally, Christ pointed her in the direction of an interior contemplative prayer life. She soon came to understand that focusing internally on just the love that Christ had for her would be enough for her to overcome her worldliness. 

Even though she experienced a dryness in her outward prayer life, something that she could see, she never gave up hope for a true relationship with Jesus through contemplative prayer, something she could not see. This is exactly what St. Paul is getting at in our first reading.

Eventually Jesus awarded her with mystic experiences of His love for her. She would be given the gift of ecstasy in Christ’s love, and through that love would begin the reformation of her Order, teachings and writings that she would come to share with the world, the internal contemplative prayer life she so fully understood now. 

Even though she could not see it in her daily life, she never gave up hope in Jesus’ love for her. She came to know the love of Christ on a deep and internal way that gives all those who are wandering in this world hope for the love of Christ in their life.

St. Teresa of Avila was no different than you and me. She struggled with doubt, a meaningful prayer life, spiritual dryness, and her own sin, just like us. She never gave up hope on what she could not see, a life in love with Christ. We can take a lesson from St. Teresa in that in our darkest moments, when we see the things of this world weighing on us, we can then draw on the things we cannot see such as the love of Christ which secures for us, freedom and liberation from the world.

Published by St. James, Belvidere

Saint James Catholic Church, Belvidere, IL