Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sermon: Teresa of Avila

Sermon for October 15, 2013 ~ 10:00 Healing Service
Feast Day of Teresa of Avila, Nun
St. Philip’s In The Hills Parish, Tucson, AZ
The Rev. Vicki K. Hesse
For online access to the readings click here. Matthew 5:13-16

I speak to you in the name of One God, Father Son and Holy Ghost. Amen

Today is the feast day of Teresa of Avila. 
She is well-known as a Spanish mystic and some of you may know of her already?

I am curious what you know about Teresa?

You may have heard some of these quotes?

Born in 1515 in Avila, Spain, she was formed at the time
of “the Renaissance” –
of the “discovery” of America
of the realization that the earth was round
Old and sacred certainties were less certain.
May things were doubted, questioned, researched, discovered.
Humans were becoming aware of their “interiority.”
Sounds like she could inform us today!

Teresa became
          A mystic
a religious reformer,
founder of convents,
author of four books,
the first woman to be raised as Doctor of the Catholic Church and
considered one of the great masters of Christian prayer.

Her biography includes these snippets:
·        Include from Holy Women Holy Men
o       Close spiritual friend of St. John of the Cross
o       Took pleasure in the study of the saints’ lives and “used to delight in spending times of contemplation, repeating, “for ever, for ever, for ever, for ever, they shall see God.”[1]
·        Born into nobility, her mother died when she was 14
·        Nearly died when she was 24 but attributed her cure to St. Joseph’s intercession
·        Experienced profound conversion when she was 44
·        Performed a miracle when she was 46, bringing her nephew back to life
·        Finished her book The Life…a collection of her works and memoir at age 52, followed by The Way of Perfection and her Meditations on the Song of Songs
·        At age 56 she founded seven convents
·        She was denounced in the Inquisition at Seville and ordered to retire at age 60, but she did not.  She wrote The Interior Castle and continued directing the convents, experiencing declining health due to an accident falling down stairs.
·        Despite the demands of her administrative and missionary work, Teresa found time to write numerous letters.
·        She proved to be gifted with practical organizing skills, warm friendship, and a lover of and beloved of God.
·        She dies on October 4, 1582, but that was the year the Gregorian Calendar was introduced, so the date became October 15.

If I was to introduce you to her at a party,
I would remark about her commitment to the interior life.
This commitment was very ordinary and very accessible for us,
mere humans who are not saints. 

She followed the St. Ignatius of Loyola “exercises”
for discernment and prayer. 

I recently found this little book in the library,
“15 Days of Prayer with Saint Teresa of Avila,”
by Jean Abiven a devoted student of Carmelite spirituality.

The book opens with,
“You are going to spend fifteen days, dear reader friend,
in the company of Teresa of Avila, or more precisely,
you will spend fifteen days in the company of the Lord
with Teresa’s help…”[2]

The introduction continues to reveal that
Teresa’s writings inform these prayer periods. 

“…[here,]…we find the progression of a soul,
which…asks itself fundamental questions,
battles against sin,
gives itself to Christ with all of its spark,
a soul which must continue to discern
how to read him in daily life and
how to recognize him through the [blessings] received…” 

Indeed, the author relays,
“…the actions of her whole life serve as witnesses
to a constant prayerful union with the Lord.”

Here are the stages that Jean Abiven proposes
for his “15 days of Prayer”

·        Days 1 and 2: Getting onto the road: How do we pray? Who am I in the eyes of God?
·        Days 3 and 4: The merciful benevolence of the Savior to the sinner that I am.
·        Days 5, 6, and 7: Jesus presents himself to me, asking, “Do you want to follow me?”
·        Days 8 and 9: What do I do, Lord, to join you?
·        Days 10, 11, and 12: Discerning the Lord’s initiatives.
·        Days 13, 14, and 15: Remaining united to him in our daily lives through service to the Church.

In each of these daily reflections,
Teresa provides a kind of spiritual banquet,
with include scriptures and poetic writings
For example, The Business of Friendship (p. 1)

It seems to me that these reflections
bring Teresa into our midst, this day.

Today’s Gospel reading from the Sermon on the Mount, connects us to Teresa’s devotion to the interior life.
In today’s passage about being the salt of the earth
and the light of the world,
we can imagine Teresa meditated and prayed about this. 

Her commitment to interiority is what kept her soul “salty” and her light shining.

I found that The Message provides a fresh interpretation, in our own vernacular:

13 “Let me tell you why you are here.
You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out
the God-flavors of this earth.
If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?
You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

14-16 “Here’s another way to put it:
You’re here to be light,
bringing out the God-colors in the world.
God is not a secret to be kept. …
If I make you light-bearers,
you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand.
Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop,
on a light stand—shine!
Keep open house; be generous with your lives.
By opening up to others,
you’ll prompt people to open up with God,
this generous Father in heaven.

And so, this day, as we commemorate Teresa of Avila,
may we find ourselves committed anew to our interior life. 

May we be the salt-seasoning that
brings out the God-flavors of the earth in all our relationships
– family, friends, co-workers, and even our enemies. 
With God’s grace fresh in our lives,
may we be generous with our lives,
opening our interior life with others and
sharing the God-colors in the world. 

May we know that God loves us all, generously, freely, faithfully. 


[1] Holy Women, Holy Men, p. 638
[2] Jean Abiven, 15 Days of Prayer with Saint Teresa of Avila

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