Readings & Reflections: Memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church October 1,2014
Therese was born in 1873 to Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin. Her mother died when she was four, and at age fifteen she followed her two older sisters into the Carmel at Lisieux, France. Eschewing extreme penances, Therese declared, “It is sufficient to acknowledge one’s nothingness and to abandon onelself like a child to God’s arms.’ Even after the onset of tuberculosis and a trial of interior darkness, Therese persevered in her “Little Way” of confidence and love. “My God, I love you!” was her final prayer. The “Little Flower” died in 1897 at the age of twenty-four. She is a Doctor of the Church.
Reading 1 JB 9:1-12, 14-16
Job answered his friends and said:
I know well that it is so;
but how can a man be justified before God?
Should one wish to contend with him,
he could not answer him once in a thousand times.
God is wise in heart and mighty in strength;
who has withstood him and remained unscathed?
He removes the mountains before they know it;
he overturns them in his anger.
He shakes the earth out of its place,
and the pillars beneath it tremble.
He commands the sun, and it rises not;
he seals up the stars.
He alone stretches out the heavens
and treads upon the crests of the sea.
He made the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the constellations of the south;
He does great things past finding out,
marvelous things beyond reckoning.
Should he come near me, I see him not;
should he pass by, I am not aware of him;
Should he seize me forcibly, who can say him nay?
Who can say to him, “What are you doing?”
How much less shall I give him any answer,
or choose out arguments against him!
Even though I were right, I could not answer him,
but should rather beg for what was due me.
If I appealed to him and he answered my call,
I could not believe that he would hearken to my words.
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm PS 88:10BC-11, 12-13, 14-15
- (3)Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
Daily I call upon you, O LORD;
to you I stretch out my hands.
Will you work wonders for the dead?
Will the shades arise to give you thanks?
R.Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
Do they declare your mercy in the grave,
your faithfulness among those who have perished?
Are your wonders made known in the darkness,
or your justice in the land of oblivion?
R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
But I, O LORD, cry out to you;
with my morning prayer I wait upon you.
Why, O LORD, do you reject me;
why hide from me your face?
R. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.
Gospel LK 9:57-62
As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding
on their journey, someone said to him,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
And to another he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
Jesus answered him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection 1 – I will follow you wherever you go
Glory awaits all of us when we surrender fully to our Lord. When we do, we realize that the only way to greatness is through the path our Lord has prepared for us. But to choose such path, we must pay the price and place God above all. We cannot be of the world and live for the world and be a man of God at the same time. Following God by being a disciple of Jesus requires total commitment, sacrifice and dedication.
Commitment means an unwavering decision to abide by God’s will and plan and to follow His Word and His ways with a passion. Being committed to the Lord is simply being COMMITTED and never giving the enemy any space in one’s life. It is never looking back at the pleasures that the world can offer but being totally focused to a lifelong relationship with the Lord. It is walking straight paths with the Lord despite problems, trials and tribulations that come one’s way.
Being committed to Jesus implies one’s decision of great sacrifice to forget oneself for the sake of neighbor and God. It is to turn away from the pleasures of the world and the avoidance of what will pamper our lustful desires. To be with Jesus means giving our all for His glory and being able to dedicate all that we have, our resources, our time and talent to His cause. To be dedicated to God means being obedient to Him, living for Him and being a faithful and loyal follower EVERY STEP OF THE WAY.
Being a disciple of Jesus, one should repudiate anything that will cause us to be separated from God and completely serving Him at all cost.
Following Jesus and living for God means giving up the world and never turning back as Jesus once said: “Whoever puts his hand to the plow but keeps looking back is unfit for the reign of God.”
Giving up everything for Christ is nothing compared to what God has prepared for all of us.
Live our lives for Jesus with all our mind, with all our soul and with all our heart.
Heavenly Father, give me the grace to be a true and faithful disciple of Jesus. In Him, I pray and hope. Amen.
Reflection 2 – No Looking Back
No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. —Luke 9:62
When I was a boy on the farm, my dad would tell me, “You can’t plow a straight row if you look back.” You can test this for yourself by looking back as you walk through snow or along a sandy beach. Your tracks won’t be straight.
A good farmer doesn’t look back once he has put his hand to the plow. Jesus used this analogy to teach us that if we are to be His disciples we must make a complete break with all loyalties that hinder our relationship with Him.
Total allegiance to God is a principle that is rooted in the Old Testament. The Israelites, after being freed from slavery and fed by supernatural means, looked back longingly to the days when they enjoyed fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic in Egypt (Numbers 11:5-6). God was greatly displeased, and He judged His people. Their looking back indicated a lack of commitment to Him.
Today, people who cling to old sins and the worldly pleasures they enjoyed before becoming Christians cannot be loyal disciples of Jesus Christ. When we repent and believe in Him, we become citizens of a new kingdom. We are to break with the sins of the past.
Discipleship means no looking back. — Herbert Vander Lugt
As a follower of Jesus,
I am walking in His way;
Straight ahead till life is over,
I will walk with Him each day. —Hess
In the dictionary of discipleship, you won’t find the word “retreat.” (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries)
Reflection 3 – The price of being Christian
In our American history on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, a southern brigade was about to break through the northern line when General Hancock ordered a much smaller regiment, the First Minnesota, to charge the overwhelming numbers to give him time to bring up reinforcements. Of the 262 Minnesotans who attacked, 215 were either killed or wounded; only 47 came back. These men knew the meaning of sacrifice and commitment.
Dietrich Bonhoefer, the German Lutheran pastor hanged by the Nazis in 1945, wrote a still influential book titled The Cost of Discipleship. Linking Jesus’ call (“Come, follow me”) to Jesus’ crucifixion, Bonhoeffer concluded, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Today’s Gospel account makes it clear that a true disciple must be willing to forego his possessions, make any sacrifice, and persevere in his response. In Bonhoeffer’s terminology, anything less than wholehearted commitment to Christ is “cheap grace.” The grace of true discipleship is “costly.”
Dorothy Day, Catholic social activist and founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, once famously said, “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed that easily.” Dorothy’s rejection of the title had nothing to do with pride or humility – rather, she did not want her efforts on behalf of the poor and oppressed (for example, her begging for food, sleeping on the floor of a jail, or devotion to Holy Mass) to be thought the works of only special or extraordinary people. She wanted to make it clear that all who follow Christ are called to make sacrifices for the sake of the gospel and the good of their neglected brothers and sisters.
Our decision to follow Christ should not be made lightly. The consequences of our “yes” are dramatic. The Lord will always be with us. We have the support of the heavenly kingdom. But the cost of our discipleship is high – he meant it when he said we must pick up our cross if we wish to come after him! (Source: Norman Langenbrunner, Weekday Homily Helps. Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, September 30, 2009).
Reflection 4 – Humble like a child
The secrets of the Kingdom of God are hidden from the learned and the wise, but are revealed to those who, like Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face (1873-1897), are little and humble. She is a Doctor of the Church, who received the knowledge of divine love from God and taught the world the “little way”, the Gospel way of holiness for all (see John Paul II, Divini amoris scientia, 19 October 1997, 2).
Thérèse experienced the grace of a complete conversion on Christmas Day 1886, and this enabled he to “run like a giant” along the way of perfection. Jesus, she writes, made her a fisher of souls; she desired to work for the conversion of sinners. Charity entered her soul; she forgot herself and wanted to please others. This is what filled her with happiness. She resolved to remain in spirit at the foot of the Cross, to quench Jesus’ thirst and was consumed herself with a thirst for souls. The more she gave Jesus to drink, the more the thirst of her soul increased.
As a Carmelite, Thérèse embarked “on the way of holiness, insisting on the centrality of love. She discovers and imparts to the novices entrusted to her care the little way of spiritual childhood, by which she enters more and more deeply into the mystery of the Church and, drawn by the love of Christ, feels growing within her the apostolic and missionary vocation which spurs her to bring everyone with her to meet the divine Spouse” (see John Paul II, Divini amoris scientia, 5).
She understood that she was simple, but that the closer she approached to God, the simpler she would become. She saw herself as a little flower that would blossom under the shadow of Jesus’ Cross. The tears and blood of Jesus were to be her dew, and her Sun was the face of Jesus veiled with tears. She practiced little virtues, serving her sisters in small ways, and offering up small sacrifices.
On the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, June 9, 1895, Thérèse offered herself as a sacrificial victim to the merciful Love of God. She understood how much Jesus desires to be loved. Only love, she writes, makes us acceptable to God and this love is what she desired. The road that leads to God is the surrender of a little child who sleeps without fear in her Father’s arms. “Whoever is a little one, let him come to me” (Proverbs 9:4). For Thérèse, holiness was not something hard to attain. To attain sanctity, we need to be little and remain little.
The following year, on the night of Holy Thursday in 1896, she began to suffer an illness and experience a trial of faith that lasted until the day of her death, on September 30, 1897. Jesus, Thérèse understood, does not demand great actions from us, but simply surrender and gratitude. Jesus has no need of our works but only of our love. She saw that among Jesus’ own disciples, Jesus finds few hearts who surrender to him without reservations, few who understand the real tenderness of his infinite Love. She understood God’s love and that her vocation in the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, was love.
The heart of Thérèse’s message, then, is the mystery of God who is Love. Through spiritual childhood, she experienced that everything comes from God, returns to him and abides in him, for the salvation of all, in a mystery of merciful love (see John Paul II, Divini amoris scientia, 8). Thérèse knew Jesus, loved him and made him loved with the passion of a bride. “She penetrated the mysteries of his infancy, the words of his Gospel, the passion of the suffering Servant engraved on his holy Face, in the splendor of his glorious life, in the Eucharistic presence” (John Paul II, Divini amoris scientia, 8).
On this day, we are all called to be simple and humble like children, to listen to God’s Word in Sacred Scripture and in prayer, and to welcome God’s merciful love into our lives as we run along the path to him.
Read the source: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/daily-homily-humble-like-a-child
Relection 5 – St. Therese of Lisieux followed Jesus
Therese Martin was born in Alencon, France in 1873, the youngest of nine children, four of whom became Carmelite Nuns at Lisieux, and one, a Visitation sister. Therese was a rather sensitive, normal, little girl. Our Lady healed her of a serious illness at the age of ten. After a profound conversion at 13, Therese felt a call to enter Carmel as a contemplative Nun, so that she could give herself totally to Jesus. But she was too young, so she appealed directly and personally to the Pope. She was allowed to enter the Lisieux Carmel at the age of 15, and her father lived to see her professed a Carmelite Nun, Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. She developed a simple spirituality, based on childlike trust and confidence in God. The spirituality of her “little way” was about doing simple things of life well and with extraordinary love. She believed and taught that “everything is grace” – God’s face and presence can be experienced in every person and situation of our lives, if we just attend with love and expectancy. Her struggle, like ours, is to be where God places us in the real life situations of our lives. Experiencing the dark night of the senses and spirit refined the power and energy of this young, precocious Carmelite. Her love became surrender, as she slowly died of tuberculosis. Under obedience she wrote her autobiography, Story of a Soul. St. Therese died of tuberculosis at the age of 24 at the convent of Lisieux, France on September 30, 1897, promising to spend her heaven doing good on earth. Her promised “shower of roses” began and has become a torrent in the Church ever since. She was beatified in 1923 and canonized in 1925. In his bull of canonication, Pope Pius XI noted that she had achieved sanctity “without going beyond the common order of things.” She was declared the patron saint of the missions and then Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II on October 19, 1997.
She followed Jesus like a good farmer who didn’t look back once she had put his hand to the plow. In the gospel today (Lk 9:57-62), Jesus used this analogy of a good farmer to teach us that if we are to be His disciples we must make a complete break with all loyalties that hinder our relationship with Him.
Total allegiance to God is a principle that is rooted in the Old Testament. The Israelites, after being freed from slavery and fed by supernatural means, looked back longingly to the days when they enjoyed fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic in Egypt (Num 11:5-6). God was greatly displeased, and he judged His people. Their looking back indicated a lack of commitment to Him.
Today, people who cling to old sins and the worldly pleasures they enjoyed before becoming Christians cannot be loyal disciples of Jesus Christ. When we repent and believe in Him, we become citizens of a new kingdom. We are to break with the sins of the past by regular confessions, prayers and receiving the body of Christ at the Holy Eucharist.
Discipleship means no looking back. As a follower of Jesus, I am walking in His way; straight ahead till life is over, I will walk with Him each day with St. Therese of Lisieux as my example.
Reflection 6 – Putting our hand to the plow and not expecting consolation
“God wants to show (me)… that it would be mistaken in looking elsewhere for a shadow of beauty which it would be taking for beauty itself!…
“How good he is to me… how divinely lovable he is when not wanting to allow me to attach myself to any created thing. He knows well that if he were to give me a shadow of happiness, I would attach myself to it with all my energy, all the strength of my heart, and this shadow he is refusing me; he prefers leaving me in darkness to giving me a false light which would not be himself!…Since I can’t find any creature that contents me, I want to give all to Jesus, and I don’t want to give to the creature even one atom of my love. My Jesus always makes me understand that he alone is perfect joy when he appears to be absent!…
“Today more than yesterday, if that were possible, I was deprived of all consolation. I thank Jesus, who finds this good for my soul, and that, perhaps if he were to console me, I would stop at this sweetness; but he wants that all be for Himself!… Well, then, all will be for him, all, even when I feel I am able to offer nothing; so, just like this evening, I will give him this nothing!
“Although Jesus is giving me no consolation, he is giving me a peace so great that it is doing me more good!…
“Joy is to be found only in suffering and in suffering without any consolation!” (St. Therese of Lisieux, +1897 A.D.).
Reflection 7 – St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897 A.D.)
“I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul.” These are the words of Thérèse of the Child Jesus, a Carmelite nun called the “Little Flower,” who lived a cloistered life of obscurity in the convent of Lisieux, France. (In French-speaking areas, she is known as Thérèse of Lisieux.) And her preference for hidden sacrifice did indeed convert souls. Few saints of God are more popular than this young nun. Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, is read and loved throughout the world. Thérèse Martin entered the convent at the age of 15 and died in 1897 at the age of 24. She was canonized in 1925, and two years later she and St. Francis Xavier were declared co-patrons of the missions.
Life in a Carmelite convent is indeed uneventful and consists mainly of prayer and hard domestic work. But Thérèse possessed that holy insight that redeems the time, however dull that time may be. She saw in quiet suffering redemptive suffering, suffering that was indeed her apostolate. Thérèse said she came to the Carmel convent “to save souls and pray for priests.” And shortly before she died, she wrote: “I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth.”
On October 19, 1997, Saint John Paul II proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church, the third woman to be so recognized, in light of her holiness and the influence on the Church of her teaching on spirituality. Her parents, Louis and Zélie were beatified in 2008.
Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1155
Thérèse has much to teach our age of the image, the appearance, the “sell.” We have become a dangerously self-conscious people, painfully aware of the need to be fulfilled, yet knowing we are not. Thérèse, like so many saints, sought to serve others, to do something outside herself, to forget herself in quiet acts of love. She is one of the great examples of the gospel paradox that we gain our life by losing it, and that the seed that falls to the ground must die in order to live (John 12:24).
Preoccupation with self separates modern men and women from God, from their fellow human beings, and ultimately from themselves. We must relearn to forget ourselves, to contemplate a God who draws us out of ourselves, and to serve others as the ultimate expression of selfhood. These are the insights of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and they are more valid today than ever.
All her life St. Thérèse suffered from illness. As a young girl she underwent a three-month malady characterized by violent crises, extended delirium and prolonged fainting spells. Afterwards she was ever frail and yet she worked hard in the laundry and refectory of the convent. Psychologically, she endured prolonged periods of darkness when the light of faith seemed all but extinguished. The last year of her life she slowly wasted away from tuberculosis. And yet shortly before her death on September 30 she murmured, “I would not suffer less.”
Truly she was a valiant woman who did not whimper about her illnesses and anxieties. Here was a person who saw the power of love, that divine alchemy which can change everything, including weakness and illness, into service and redemptive power for others. Is it any wonder that she is patroness of the missions? Who else but those who embrace suffering with their love really convert the world?