Archive | February, 2008

Women and Parables- Luke 8:1-21

20 Feb

(NOVEMBER, 1887- ROME, ITALY) Thérèse Martin reflected on the plight of women of her time while retuning from the audience to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the priestly ordination of Pope Leo XIII. Eight years later, Sr. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, OCD, would record her thoughts in her autobiography thus:

 

“I still cannot understand why women are so easily excommunicated in Italy, for every minute someone was saying: ‘Don’t enter here…Don’t enter there, you will be excommunicated! Ah! Poor women, how they are misunderstood!…

 

And yet they love God in much larger numbers than men do, and during the Passion of Our Lord, women had more courage than the Apostles since they braved the insults of the soldiers and dared to wipe the adorable face of Jesus…It is undoubtedly because of this that He allows misunderstanding to be their lot on earth, since He chose it for Himself. In Heaven, He will show that His thoughts are not men’s thoughts, for the last will be the first…

 

More than once during the trip, I hadn’t the patience to wait for Heaven to be the first…” (Ste. Thérèse de Lisieux, Autobiographical Manuscript A, 66vo)

 

(FEBRUARY, 2008- CALI, COLOMBIA) The seventh chapter of Luke’s Gospel ends with an account of Jesus’ forgiveness of a sinful woman. For three reasons found in Scripture, this woman was particularly bold in coming to Jesus for forgiveness. Firstly, she knew that Jesus was dining in the house of a Pharisee who was not alone in his knowledge of her reputation.(1) Secondly, it was not recommended in Jesus’ time for women to associate with men in public, especially with teachers of the Jewish faith.(2) Thirdly, the woman anointed Jesus’ feet with the contents of an expensive alabaster jar, and then wet Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.(3)

 

Jesus responded to the woman’s dramatic yet genuine plea for forgiveness with even more extravagant mercy, such that Simon the Pharisee was dumbfounded. Christ reminds us then: “Her sins, which were many, are forgiven, for she loved much, but he who is forgiven little loves little.”(4) Our Lord’s loving forgiveness moves us to love in turn, and the more we are forgiven, the more we experience the presence of God, and the more love is effected.

 

Throughout Luke’s Gospel, women are often the first to understand Jesus’ message. In St. Luke’s opening chapter, God sends the Archangel Gabriel to Elizabeth and then to Mary, both of whom conceive miraculously. While Zechariah, a righteous priest, and St. Joseph are confounded, the former being silenced for his lack of faith and the latter requiring the presence of “an angel of the Lord” in a dream to reassure him that the child of the Virgin had been conceived “through the Holy Spirit”(5), Elizabeth and Mary realize more quickly that “with God nothing will be impossible.”(6) Mary takes another step forward, pondering in her heart the words of the shepherds, and then of her Son after He is found in the temple.(7)

 

Following St. Luke’s infancy and childhood narratives, women nearly disappear from the Gospel story. Between chapters 3 and 7, the only woman mentioned by name is Herodias, the wife of Herod Antipas’ brother Philip.(8 ) This near-lack of mention of women for four chapters is noteworthy because Luke, of the four evangelists, is foremost in his inclusion of women, as well as other people who were marginalized in first-century Palestinian society for a variety of reasons, in his telling of the Good News.

 

Where women are written about in chapters 3 to 7 of the Gospel of Luke, they tend to be afflicted with other problems, such as physical illness,(9) bereavement,(10) and sin.(11) While none of these women are named, Jesus heals them without exception, no matter the infirmity that necessitated Jesus’ presence among them.

 

Jesus and the twelve Apostles are kept busy in ministry, as St. Luke points out again in the first sentence of Chapter 8. In traveling from one town or village to another, Jesus cannot be burdened with tasks that are extraneous to His main purpose- “proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God.”(12) Therefore, many women travel with Him and with the Twelve, “(providing) for them out of their resources.”(13)

 

In addition to mentioning the economic contribution of the women to Christ’s itinerant ministry, the Gospel includes details of the former spiritual sicknesses of some of them.(14) Three women are named: “Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, (and) Susanna.”(15) Two of these women become especially important later in St. Luke’s account, during the Passion and Resurrection narratives. The Galilean women are identified in general as being present at Jesus’ death and burial,(16) and Mary Magdalene and Joanna, along with Mary, the mother of James, are named in Luke as the first witnesses to the Resurrection.(17)

 

Other parallels involving women are also integral to St. Luke’s Gospel. For example, the aged prophetess Anna is described in the story of Jesus’ presentation as having “never left the temple…(worshipping) night and day with fasting and prayer.”(18 ) After the presentation of Jesus, Anna breaks forth from her pious secrecy, “(giving) thanks to God and (speaking) about the Child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”(19) Then Anna is not mentioned again. However, in St. Luke’s account of the burial of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea, who also “was awaiting the kingdom of God”(20) as a secret follower of Jesus, picks up where Anna had left off. Anna’s patient and prayerful wait for the Messiah is related to and necessarily precedes the next step whereby Joseph of Arimathea audaciously asks Pontius Pilate for Jesus’ body.(21)

 

Joseph received the Body of Christ from the Cross and then buried Him in a yet-unused tomb, to where the Galilean women would later return with perfumed oils and spices.(22) Likewise we, the Church, receive the Body of Christ fully present in the Eucharist. The Church boldly asks for Christ’s Body as Jesus Himself taught us:

 

“Give us this day our daily bread…”(23)

 

Upon receiving Our Lord’s Glorious Body, hidden in the Communion host as it was by the burial linens, the Church, like Mary after finding the Child in the temple, and like the Galilean women after encountering the Risen Lord, “remembers His words.”(24)

 

One might easily dedicate an entire article to the short passage in Luke 8 about the Galilean women and to the parallels related to those verses elsewhere in the Gospels. However, the Lucan Gospel’s inclusion of the women relates especially to the parables of the Sower and of the Lamp in the same chapter. Women, in the Gospel as well as throughout the history and tradition of the Church, are a kind of parable in and of themselves. The Church herself, designated often by feminine pronouns and metaphors such as the Bride of Christ,(25) is in the same way a parable or a collection of parables. A parable can be defined as a story that “either reveals or conceals divine mysteries, depending upon one’s faith and disposition.” (S. Hahn and C. Mitch, Ignatius Study Bible, The Gospel of Luke, Notes on Luke 8:4) Such has been the story and such is one main function of the Church.

 

Of the two parables in Luke 8, that of the sower is arguably best-known. The Gospel reads thus:

 

“‘A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled, and the birds of the sky ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew, it withered for lack of moisture. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundredfold.’ After saying this, He called out, ‘Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.’”(26)

 

As Jesus explains later to His disciples, ‘to hear’ has more than only one meaning. Those on the path, according to the parable of the sower, receive the Word of God, but Satan hastens to take it away as quickly as it is heard.(27) Some hear the Word and indeed it produces a short-lived response of joy, but these people on rocky ground easily lose their faith “in time of trial.”(28 ) The thorns in the parable represent the material, worldly desires which prevent a deeper understanding of the Word of God.(29) Therefore, the faith of these people is also short-lived. However, when the seed that is the Word(30) is sown in rich soil- in “generous and good hearts”, faith grows and spreads “through perseverance.”(31)

 

Jesus speaks of perseverance as an essential aspect of allowing the Word of God to take root within us. This theme reappears later in the Gospel of Luke, especially in the Parable of the widow and of the unjust judge, and in Jesus’ teachings on persistence in prayer.(32) Following the parable of the sower, Our Lord continues in this mode of teaching with the parable of the lamp. Again, the main purpose of the parables- to reveal or to conceal divine mysteries, depending upon the quality of the approach of the faithful-is emphasized. Jesus reminds us:

 

“There is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care, then, on how you hear.”(33)

 

Christ thus challenges us again on the quality of our ‘hearing’. As in the last verse of His parable of the sower, Jesus asks us to hear, not purely sensorily, but also to interiorize and then to act upon the Gospel message with generosity and with goodness from the heart. Therefore, ‘to hear’, in this sense, is nearly synonymous with the great commandment ‘to love’.(34)

 

Hearing, thus loving, involves three steps: the first is to hear with our ears- the strict definition of hearing. The second is to contemplate, and the third is to act. It is possible to join the latter two steps into a single concept; St. Ignatius Loyola once spoke of “contemplation in action”. Nonetheless, Jesus warns us not to stop at the initial, entirely sensory, stage. Otherwise, Satan will remove the word of God from those who think they have heard it but have neither contemplated it nor acted upon it.

 

Jesus’ caution toward us, “To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away”,(35) is ominous, especially after having heard the Beatitudes, wherein Jesus blesses those who have little and promises a reversal of their fortunes in Heaven.(36) However, in the concluding verse of the parable of the lamp, Jesus refers not to material possessions, but to our faith. His exhortation is recalled later in Scripture. For example, St. Peter writes:

 

“Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith.”(37)

 

Faithful resistance to the power of Satan, that is, proper hearing of the Word of God, must begin in the home. Therefore, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Sec. 2204) cites the family as “the domestic Church.” After the two parables of Chapter 8, St. Luke then pertinently records Jesus’ discourse on the family. Herein, Jesus extends the family unit beyond simple heredity. When the crowds approach Our Lord and tell Him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you,”(38 ), they are speaking not only of His immediate family, but of His extended relatives also. In Jesus’ time, ‘brothers’, translated from several Semitic languages, meant male children of the same parents as well as nephews, cousins, half-brothers, and occasionally close friends.(39)

 

Questions related to this passage as to who is included in Jesus’ family arise mainly as a challenge to the traditional Catholic insistence on the perpetual virginity of Mary. These questions merely distract one from the key message delivered by the Lord here: His family includes all “those who hear the word of God and act on it.”(40) Thus, this teaching relates back to Jesus’ earlier instructions on hearing the word, which were discussed earlier in this article.

 

Particularly, though, St. Luke is less clear than St. Mark in portraying Jesus as the “son of Mary”(41), perhaps because of the earlier Lucan presentation of Mary as the one chosen and purified by God in order to bear His Son:

 

“For He has looked upon His handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on all ages (will) call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name.”(42)

 

The Gospels of Mark and of Luke, in different ways, both present the mother as the foremost religious teaching figure in the family. In Jewish society at the time, family descent and inheritance was traced back according to the father and his male predecessors. In faith, St. Mark breaks most radically from this tradition by identifying Jesus as the “son of Mary”(43), implying that Jesus’ inheritance, and indeed His very being, is that of God the Father.

 

Women in first-century Palestine were responsible for teaching their faith to their children in the home, mainly through oral tradition. Furthermore, regardless of the father’s religious background, the religion adopted by the children was generally that of the mother, whose role was therefore of great dignity, although it was largely hidden and often misunderstood.

 

Little has changed since then in much of the world regarding the position of women, who are frequently the most disadvantaged and socially neglected. Women are the heads of single-parent households more often than men, and are more deeply affected worldwide by poverty, war, hunger, and disease. This is especially true in less-developed countries such as Colombia. Here, governments do little to protect the poor, the sick, and the dying, and formal education, taken for granted in richer countries, is unavailable to many. About two weeks ago, I was speaking with the psychologist, who practices her English while I learn Spanish, in the school where I teach French and English. During one such conversation, a woman entered the room with her two children, who are students at the school. Later, I discovered that their mother was HIV-positive. Sadly, the children will eventually be left without a mother. On another occasion, I accompanied two Basilian priests on a visit to a barrio served by our parish named La Playa, on the bank of the Rio Cali, which is so poor and forgotten that it does not appear on most maps of the city. There, men sift the mud on the riverbed, earning nearly nothing for hard labour, while families live in shacks that fail to keep out contaminated rainwater during storms.

 

There is hope nevertheless amid so much suffering. The woman with HIV is able to provide her children with an education while she is still living, and the people in La Playa smile and greet visitors in their rutted, garbage-strewn dirt streets. This is the hope and courage that Ste. Thérèse of Lisieux spoke about just over 110 years ago. Women and families suffer most, just as they did in Thérèse’s time, and in Jesus’ time. Their suffering is hidden, but must not be forgotten. Just as the heart tirelessly pumps blood through the body, sustaining life though it is hidden by flesh and bone, women sustain and give life to the family and to the Church. When women and families suffer, so does the entire Church, but amid suffering and misunderstanding, a quiet but active life-force sustains the body of Christ. This militant courage of women- that, as Ste. Thérèse writes, which drove St. Veronica “to wipe the adorable face of Jesus” on the Way of the Cross- is the militant courage of Mother Church.

 

Finally, Ste. Thérèse cites Christ’s teaching to His disciples: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”(44) Then she humourously observes, “I hadn’t the patience to wait for Heaven to be the first…”

 

As women and families suffer, the entire Church suffers, yet her Saviour takes her Cross upon Himself. As the Church, we courageously approach Jesus to wipe His face amid the insults and the indifference of the soldiers of this world, and He gives us His image of authentic humanity and divinity to guide us toward the triumph of Heaven. Christ shows us the road to salvation by means of women and of the family. Like women and families, the Church is a kind of parable; if, both in contemplation and in action, the Church acts as a united body both suffering and militant, she will, in Christ’s name, be triumphant.

 

We pray that Christ will continue to help His Church to offer her hidden and public trials, and to act with courage in a world that often fails to hear the Gospel. Jesus, guide us toward the triumph you have prepared for those whom you love. Amen.

 

I conclude with a prayer for the intercession of St. Mary, Blessed Virgin Mother of God, first among women, and first disciple of Jesus. In Latin, this prayer is known as the Sub Tuum, and is prayed in the Basilian community where I am currently living in Cali following the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours or after other meetings in the house. Thus I wish to end this article with this beautiful petition in Latin, in English, in French, and then in Spanish:

 

Sub Tuum praesidium confugimus,

Sancta Dei Genitrix,

Nostras deprecaciones ne despicias in necessitabus nostris,

Sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper,

Virgo Gloriosa et Benedicta.

 

We fly to your protection,

O Holy Mother of God.

Despise not our prayers and our necessities,

But deliver us from all danger,

O Ever-Glorious and Blessed Virgin.

 

Sous l’abri de ta miséricorde, nous nous réfugions,

Sainte Mère de Dieu.

Ne méprise pas nos prières quand nous sommes dans l’épreuve,

mais de tous les dangers délivre-nous toujours,

Vierge Glorieuse et Bienheureuse.

 

Bajo tu amparo nos acogemos,

Santa Madre de Dios.

No desprecias las suplicas que te dirigimos en nuestras necesidades;

Antes bien líbranos de todo peligro,

Oh Virgen Gloriosa y Bendita.

 

Amen.

 

WRS

 


BIBLICAL NOTES:

 

(1) cf. Luke 7:37, 39

(2) cf. John 4:27

(3) cf. Luke 7:44

(4) Luke 7:48

(5) Matthew 1:20

(6) Luke 1:37

(7) cf. Luke 2:19, 51.

(8 ) cf. Luke 3:19

(9) cf. Luke 4:38-39

(10) cf. Luke 7:11-17

(11) cf. Luke 7:36-50

(12) Luke 8:1

(13) Luke 8:3

(14) cf. Luke 8:2

(15) Luke 8:2-3

(16) cf. Luke 23:49, 55

(17) cf. Luke 24:10

(18 ) Luke 2:37

(19) Luke 2:38

(20) Luke 23:51

(21) cf. Luke 23:52

(22) cf. Luke 23:53-55.

(23) Matthew 6:11, Luke 11:3

(24) Luke 24:8

(25) cf. Ephesians 5:25-32, 2 Corinthians 11:2, and Revelation 19:7

(26) Luke 8:5-8

(27) cf. Luke 8:12

(28 ) Luke 8:13

(29) cf. Luke 8:14

(30) cf. Luke 8:11

(31) Luke 8:15

(32) cf. Luke 18:1-8; Luke 11:1-13.

(33) Luke 8:17-18

(34) cf. Mark 12:30-31

(35) Luke 8:18

(36) cf. Luke 6:20-23

(37) 1 Peter 5:8-9

(38 ) Luke 8:20

(39) cf. Mark 6:3 and related notes, New American Bible, Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1970.

(40) Luke 8:21

(41) Mark 6:3

(42) Luke 1:48-49

(43) Mark 6:3

(44) Mark 9:35

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Seers and Knowers

4 Feb

Nearly a month has passed since my arrival in Cali to serve in the Basilian house and in the parish, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Our Lady of the Assumption), and to teach French in the high school of the same name. The students have been back in school for almost three weeks, and the house has returned to a more regular and busy schedule also. I arrived in Cali with very little knowledge of Spanish, so my struggle to learn a new language, but also a great joy in applying myself to this undertaking, have been expected. In addition to being immersed in Spanish, I am also receiving daily tutoring in the language, so my vocabulary has been improving rapidly already. 

The devotion and vibrancy with which our faith is expressed in Colombia has been especially encouraging. The Congregation of St. Basil is well-established and respected here, and many in the parish have identified me as a Basilian Associate before I have even had the opportunity to explain in tentative Spanish, “Soy un candidato canadiense de los Padres Basilianos. (I’m a candidate of the Basilian Fathers from Canada)…”, though in this first stage of formation we wear neither the wooden cross nor the white shirt that Basilian seminarians and priests wear in Colombia. 

In my previous article, I wrote about the prophetic role played by St. John the Baptist in St. Luke’s Gospel. While imprisoned for having spoken out against the illicit marriage of the tetrarch Herod Antipas to Herodias, the wife of Antipas’ brother Philip (cf. Luke 3:19-20), John acts as a prophet, although not by the classical image of one who foresees and preaches about what is to come. St. John fits this definition, too, but he is more importantly a model for those who are persecuted for righteousness, as well as for the humble, for the poor, and for the otherwise disadvantaged. (cf. Luke 6:20-26) 

Many Colombians fit into those categories represented by St. John the Baptist. Colombia’s average annual per capita income is about $2180 U.S. (cf. Gran Enciclopedia Espasa, vol.5, 2848 ) Poverty is abundant, and violence is a persistent threat, yet in only a short time here, I have encountered, especially among the poorer people, a joy that comes with an attraction to Christ and a desire to share fraternal love through everyday actions. This manner of living Christian life is prophetic in its own right. The poor tend to be better messengers of Christ’s message that draws us together toward God, the source of all love and of all mercy. (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14, 1 John 4:7-10) 

My summary of the life of Ste. Thérèse of Lisieux on this blog was meant to be, in part, my personal testimony to the love of God that works timelessly through the intercession of Ste. Thérèse and all the saints to empower us to do the Lord’s will. Like St. John the Baptist, but in modern times, Ste. Thérèse was and is a great prophet of love and messenger of the will of God, and is therefore rightly a Doctor of the Church. Her example of poverty, of humility, of chastity, of discipline, of obedience, and of contemplation is worth emulating, especially since she lived so recently. However, one easily becomes inattentive to the power of Ste. Thérèse’s message because it is written so simply. She wished this simplicity for herself repeatedly; “Little Thérèse” somewhat reluctantly wrote her autobiography on the orders of her sister, Pauline, then-Prioress of the Lisieux Carmel. 

This great saint, co-patron of France, of missionaries, and of the sick and dying, and patroness of florists, recognized prophetic love and working solely to please God as her entire vocation. The opening manuscript of “The Story of a Soul”, and indeed the entire “mystery of (her) vocation”, began in prayer. Kneeling before a figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ste. Thérèse asked for Our Lady’s intercession so that she might do only according to God’s wishes in writing about her life. Thérèse then recalled the words from the Gospel of St. Mark, “(Jesus) went up the mountain and summoned those whom He wanted, and they came to Him”, and from St. Paul’s  letter to the Romans: “For He says to Moses: ‘I shall show mercy to whom I will, (and) I will take pity on whom I will.’” (Mark 3:13, Romans 9:15-16). 

Ste. Thérèse conveys two related messages here: God’s mercy is at the root of all of our vocations, and God calls us all, whether strong or weak, rich or poor, to different vocations- some great and some obscure- as Ste. Thérèse’s metaphor of the flowers in God’s garden beautifully illustrates on the second page of her autobiography. Sr. Thérèse of the Child Jesus wondered, as often do we, why God shows extraordinary patience toward some who commit terrible sins but are then converted dramatically and then become great saints, such as Sts. Paul and Augustine. On the other hand, some “are given such favours that they become unable to tarnish the immaculate brilliance of their baptismal robes…” (Ms. A, 2vo) Ste. Thérèse resolves this problem of perceived inequality of divine grace among people by recognizing that God created the entire garden and all its flowers. Not all people can be the tall roses and the pure white lilies; the souls symbolized by the little violets and daisies please God just as much, and Our Lord showers the small flowers with sunlight just the same as the tall ones, as if each one were “the only flower on earth.” (Ms. A, 3ro

Whatever our vocation, our duty and our joy is to please God. Patient and persistent prayer enable us to better recognize our divinely-given and divinely-inspired vocations. Furthermore, attention to our inner spiritual nature allows us to see Christ in other people, especially in the poor and in those who otherwise have few worldly merits. 

Ste. Thérèse of Lisieux reminds us again: “The love of our Lord is revealed as well in the simplest soul that resists His grace in nothing as in the most sublime soul. In fact, love properly understood, means self-abasement…” (Ms. A, 3ro) The examples of Ste. Thérèse and of other saints reveal to us the Way of Love that Christ commands us to follow. (cf. Mark 12:28-34, Matthew 22:34-40) The poor and the suffering are so frequently the brightest beacons of God’s love, and God calls those who serve among the poor to emulate the simple depth of their faith. Thus, Jesus blesses “the poor in spirit.” (Matthew 5:3) 

God, who made himself small in coming to us as a human being, is too often alone in recognizing the value of those who possess little of this world. Nonetheless, He asks us to love as He loves- to treat each flower in His garden as if each were alone on earth. In loving all of God’s creation, we are made rich. This is explained metaphorically in the opening pages of Ste. Thérèse of Lisieux’s autobiography. In the same discourse, Ste. Thérèse contemplated the lives of saints whom God “caressed from the cradle to the grave” (Ms. A, 2vo), and also characterized herself as one in the process of ‘seeing’ God- “Le voyant…” (Ms. A, 2vo) By extension, we are all called upon to be ‘seers’ of God- to be ‘les voyants’. Two years later, on her last manuscript page that she wrote before being moved to the infirmary of the Lisieux Carmel in July, 1897, Thérèse described the Greek mathematician Archimedes as “un savant”- a knower- who, although he was knowledgeable, lacked God whose love is the ultimate knowledge. (Ms. A, 36) 

God is the full union between the seer and the knower. Having been created in God’s image and likeness (cf. Genesis 1:27), we are challenged to represent and to bear witness to this union between seeing and knowing. Primarily, then, our vocation is to love. (cf. Ms. B, 3vo) St. Paul provides us with a Biblical example of this same point in his letter to the Corinthians: 

“At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially, then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:12-13) 

At one time a persecutor of the Church, St. Paul underwent a dramatic and miraculous conversion. At least at first glance, Paul’s conversion seems sudden. Chapter 9 of the Acts of the Apostles begins with Saul on the road to Damascus in search of followers of Jesus that he would bind in chains and then take back to the authorities in Jerusalem. (cf. Acts 9:3) Instead, Saul was blinded by a celestial light and then brought to Damascus by those traveling with him. In Damascus, an initially reluctant Ananias, on God’s insistence, laid his hands on Saul, who was then able to see again. (cf. Acts 9:10-18 ) The story seems simple, though Paul later wrote that his only boast was in his weakness and that the Lord’s grace was sufficient for him to persevere: 

“I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell (within) me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) 

In the very next verse, St. Paul again reminds those who view him as a ‘super-apostle’ that he is such precisely because of his nothingness. (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:11-12) When Saul was blinded on the road to Damascus, God saw for him. When Saul the Pharisee knew no other way than the letter of the law, God knew “a still more excellent way.” (1 Corinthians 12:31) In the same manner as Christ teaches us, He taught St. Paul what he would need to sacrifice in the Lord’s name. (cf. Acts 9:16) Thus, neither our conversion nor that of St. Paul is sudden; the road to love, to witness, and to self-sacrifice is lifelong, though Christ promised to accompany us forever. (cf. Matthew 28:20) When we do not see, Christ sees for us, and when we do not know, Christ knows all. 

In the great mystery of our faith, the Eucharist, Christ comes to us truly and fully. We pray during the Mass that we might be in union with the Lamb of God who gives Himself to us to remit our sins: 

“Through Him, with Him, and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, Almighty Father, forever and ever. Amen.” 

This prayer is our petition that as God sees and knows, we might also come to be seers and knowers. In becoming nothing as our Lord is everything, we come to union with Him (cf. John 3:30). In doing simple works lovingly, we come to see and to know God who is Love. (cf. 1 John 4:8 ) 

Every Christian ought to pray that we never tire in our witness to God’s love, first in our example and then in our words. Our prayer must be as persistent as are our struggles, from learning a new language to recognizing Christ in those who are of another culture or those who are poor or sick. It was a deathly ill Thérèse of Lisieux who spoke of tireless dedication to her vocation- of the reason why God created us and of how we exist to do His will- on July 17, 1897, just two months before she died: 

“I sense that I will enter into rest…But I sense above all that my mission is yet to begin; my mission to make God loved as I love Him, to give my ‘little way’ to souls. If the Good God grants my desires, my Heaven will come to earth until the end of the world. Yes, I will spend my Heaven doing good on earth. This is not impossible, because even in the midst of the beatific vision, the angels keep watch over us. 

I do not yet wish to have myself a feast of joy; I do not wish to rest while there are still souls to save. But when the angel says: ‘Time is no more!’ (Revelation 10:6), then I will rest. I will be able to rejoice, because the number of the elect will be complete and all will have entered fully into that joy and into that rest. My heart is thrilled by the thought…” (Last Conversations, “Le Carnet Jaune”, 17.7) 

With all her remaining energy, Ste. Thérèse spoke of the love that saves- the love that, as St. Paul reminds us, “never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:8 ). This is “the love of Christ that impels us”, so that in turn we might “encourage (others) while it is still ‘today’”, in St. Paul’s words, even as we are encouraged also. (2 Corinthians 5:14, Hebrews 3:13)  Our mission, then, is especially to lead those who are small and those who are poor by making ourselves small and poor in spirit. St. Paul captures the urgency of our calling: “While it is still ‘today’”, yet there are saints in every age, and it is never too late to recognize our summons from God, as St. Augustine did in his prayer from his Confessions, Book 10:  

“Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! Late have I loved Thee. And behold, Thou wert within, and I abroad, and there I searched for Thee; deformed I, plunging amid those fair thorns which Thou hadst made. Thou wert with me, but I was not with Thee. Things held me far from Thee, which, unless they were in Thee, were not at all. Thou calledst and shoutest and burstest my deafness. Thou flashest, shonest, and scatteredst my blindness. Thou breathedst odors, and I drew in breath and pant for Thee. I tasted and hunger and thirst. Thou touchest me, and I burned for Thy peace…” 

Late have we, the people of Israel (in the Hebrew sense of the word, meaning ‘struggling with God’), loved the Lord who has given us everything and asks us for so little. Let us pray, in the words of St. Paul to the Romans (9:1, 4-5), that we might bear witness to Christ and thus to love, our reason for being: 

“I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie, my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness…They are the Israelites, theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Messiah. God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen.” 

WRS 

Aquí estoy, Señor, para cumplir tu voluntad.

Here I am, Lord. I come to do your will. 

-Hebrews 10:9