Memorial of Teresa of Avila

Before reading today’s Gospel (Luke 11: 47-54), Tony Worner acknowledges that today we also celebrate the Memorial of St Teresa of Jesus (or Teresa of Avila), who is recognised as a ‘doctor’ in the Church because of her writings and teachings on prayer. St Teresa of Avila, along with St John of the Cross, is acknowledged as the modern founders of the Discalced Carmelites and because of this, we also remember our Bishop Greg Homeming and the Carmelite communities in Goonellabah and Coffs Harbour.

Tony says, the verses we read today from Luke’s Gospel follow on immediately from those of the previous days. These verses over the three days, relate to ‘outward religion’ where Jesus, after being invited to dine at a Pharisee’s house, rebukes him and the Pharisees in general, for their ‘clean on the outside and dirty on the inside’ mentality. Not only does Jesus get stuck into the Pharisees but, in this text, he again castigates those who associate themselves with the Pharisees – the lawyers. While Luke doesn’t use the term “hypocrites”, which Matthew does, their religious life is simply a role they play. Their religion is a sham.

So again, the message for us is to check ourselves. What is our motivation for doing things? Are we religious on the ‘outside’, simply doing things to show others that we are doing the right thing, or hoping that our reward will be great. As Jesus says, we need to do what is right but does the love and care of our neighbor go with it. This is the hard bit. What’s our attitude to those on the fringes, to those who are disadvantaged, to those who don’t quite belong?

St Teresa of Avila in probably her most renowned work, The Interior Castle, describes her deepening relationship with God through prayer – the ups and downs, the struggles, the mess and quiet reflective times. She constantly struggles with her motivation to lead an interior life that reflects her outward life.

Tony invites us to follow the example of St Teresa and turn to prayer in helping us to lead a life worthy of a disciple of Christ rather than simply follow outward religious observances like that which consumed the Pharisees and Scribes.

Tony closes with this prayer:
Come, Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of your people and kindle in them the fire of your love. Give us delight in God’s truth so that we may be drawn to Christ and imitate his love in ways to build up communities of peace. Amen.