15Oct 15th October. Wednesday of Week 28

Saint Teresa of Avila, virgin and doctor of the Church.

Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada (1515-1582), was a Spanish Carmelite nun from Avila, a contemplative mystic, reformer and major figure in the Counter Reformation. Along with John of the Cross she founded the Discalced (or reformed) Carmelites .

First Reading: Galatians 5:18-25

(The symptoms or fruits of the flesh contrasted with those of the spirit.)

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Gospel: Luke 11:42-46

(Woe to legalists who impose impossible burdens yet neglect compassion.)

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herb of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.”

One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.

Free – to live a good life

The message of Jesus insists on the primacy of love, but also warn us against the excess of libertinism and individualism. In today’s text from Galatians, Paul minces no words in stating what proceeds from the undisciplined flesh: lewd conduct, impurity, envy, envy, drunkenness and the rest. Jesus’ words in the gospel are more carefully nuanced. While contrasting the way that the Pharisees paid their tithes, while neglecting justice and the love of God, Jesus concludes that the latter are more important, but immediately adds, “without omitting the other.” He did not mount any campaign against the Jewish or Mosaic law. In fact, he observed it carefully and always had a sensible reason for departing from it. When he permits a freer way of acting, he is generally defending his disciples, e.g., plucking and rubbing grain on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1).

The more that we multiply rules and regulations, the more we try to take control of other people’s lives. With control over other people’s lives comes a propensity to judge them. Jesus did not deny the validity of rules and regulations, in this case, the requirement to pay tithes. So we should not be in the habit of neglecting these things. Yet he stresed the more important need for justice and the love of God. It is good for us to question our motives in obeying rules and in seeking to be proper and correct in external details. Some consider the appearance of a home more essential than the happy life within the home. We may look good just because that is expected of us. But if we are in the habit of passing judgment on family, community and people at large, we have probably lost touch with the more central values of love.

Every individual has the capability of living a good life, whether Jew or Greek. We are asked to look for this goodness in others before we drag them before our hastily convoked court of law. Jesus, moreover, adds another bit of important advice. Before we begin to judge others harshly, we are asked first to “lift a finger to lighten” their burden. Perhaps then we would be in such admiration of their goodness and patience, that negative attitudes would be choked off.

One Response

  1. Soline Humbert

    Today marks the beginning of a special year of celebration for the 500th anniversary of the birth of Teresa of Jesus(Avila).
    She was the second woman to be recognised a doctor of the church,a week after Catherine of Siena in 1970,when being a woman was no longer considered an impediment to teach in the church.
    Until then and for centuries,the words of St Paul:” I forbid a woman to teach” blocked the way,and were actually used against Teresa in her own lifetime by those hostile to her,including the nuncio in Spain.
    The living official teaching authority in the church (“Magisterium”) however remains exclusively male. As Mary T Malone says, with some humour which Teresa would have appreciated: “Women now can be teachers in the church…when they are safely dead!”… Time to include living women?…

    Christ has no body

    Christ has no body but yours,
    No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
    Yours are the eyes with which he looks
    Compassion on this world,
    Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
    Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
    Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
    Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
    Christ has no body now but yours,
    No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
    Yours are the eyes with which he looks
    compassion on this world.
    Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
    Teresa of Avila


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