Sermon for Sunday 19th after Pentecost.-On St. Therese of Lisieux.

Theresa of the Child Jesus

Lesson from the letter of St. Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians
Eph 4:23-28
Brethren: Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, which has been created according to God in justice and holiness of truth. Wherefore, put away lying and speak truth each one with his neighbor, because we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down upon your anger; do not give place to the devil. He who was wont to steal, let him steal no longer; but rather let him labor, working with his hands at what is good, that he may have something to share with him who suffers need.

Continuation ✠ of the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew
Matt 22:1-14
At that time, Jesus spoke to the chief priests and the Pharisees in parables, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like a king who made a marriage feast for his son. And he sent his servants to call in those invited to the marriage feast, but they would not come. Again he sent out other servants, saying, “Tell those who are invited, behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatlings are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast.” But they made light of it, and went off, one to his farm, and another to his business; and the rest laid hold of his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. But when the king heard of it, he was angry; and he sent his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city. Then he said to his servants, “The marriage feast indeed is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy; go therefore to the crossroads, and invite to the marriage feast whomever you shall find.” And his servants went out into the roads, and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; and the marriage feast was filled with guests. Now the king went in to see the guests, and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. And he said to him, “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?” But he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind his hands and feet and cast him forth into the darkness outside, where there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.

Homily by Fr. Carlos Zepeda

My dear friends in Christ, today we celebrate the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, and the Gospel speaks to us about what he calls: “The marriage feast”, which is nothing else but a figure of heaven.

In this parable, our Lord tells us also, that a man was found in this feast, who was not wearing the proper garment. The Master of the house angry, had him thrown out, to the tortures of the outward darkness. In other words, he had him thrown in hell.

Now, if we wish to be admitted to heaven, and not be thrown out into hell, the garment that we must have is the state of grace in our soul. We must have the love of God in our souls.

My dear friends, a good example of a person who kept this garment, is that precisely of the Saint we celebrate today, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus. And I will say, humoring her, Little Theresa of the Child Jesus, for so she wished to be called.

If you know me a little bit, you know full well I could never refrain from speaking today of her, for she is a Saint who is very dear to my heart.

Let us then, briefly think of her, to better understand this garment we must wear in our souls to make it to heaven.  And I would like to tell you, what was the garment Little Theresa had in her soul. She had three main qualities:

1.- A Childlike Spirit.

2.- Missionary Spirit.

3.- Ardent Love for God.

First, everybody knows that St. Therese of the Child Jesus was a teacher given to the world, to teach us what she called: “spiritual childhood”. and that simply means that we are to become “like children” if we want to be good. The way she was in this regard, meant simply the practice of the virtues of innocence. This woman grew up all her life, without ever falling into mortal sin. Her soul was innocent, and yet she was a human as you can get. She had frailties, fears, pains, weaknesses. But throughout her life, she practiced the virtues of a child.

Imagine her walking in front of you, and imagine that you live with her. She would always tell you the truth, whether you liked it or not. If you asked her to wash the dishes, to take out the dog, to clean the bathroom, to do the garden, she would go and do it gladly. Like a child would.  At the least sign of worldliness, impurity, impiety, she would run away and tell you to cut it out. If she would be with you and a bad radio ad came up, she would immediately turn off your radio or horrified beg you to turn it off. Don’t even think she would sit down at the T.V. she was an innocent child, and so she wished to remain.

But above all, you would be very pleased to be next to her, because she was very humble. In her eyes, she was nothing, to her, God was all her strength and value. You would never catch her trying to get her advantage or her point across. She submitted to all, and impose on no one, except when it came to keeping the law of God, then she would not yield.

This can all be summarized like this: She kept all malice, all evil, all dissimulation, all sin away from her soul.

And this we must Do: Keep all malice away from your soul. Don’t allow any evil intention, thought, or desire. Nor word, nor action. Not even the slightest shadow.

The Second Characteristic that she had was a missionary spirit.

She lived to save souls. And she had great confidence in God’s power and goodness, that He would give her a way to save souls.

Even though she lived always in her convent, in her soul and her mind, she was saving people all around the world. And she thought us this lesson: Nothing is impossible when it comes to saving souls. She was always between walls, but every sacrifice she made, every prayer, was aimed at saving the world, saving souls.

She might be suffering in her cell, in her mind, she was saving the souls of the poor slaves in Africa.

She was walking painfully in the patio of the convent, in her soul she was helping some poor missionary Priest, walking in Siberia, in the middle of the snow.

She was praying in the chapel. In her Spirit, she was running around the streets of Indochina, converting natives, and bringing them to the faith.

And the amazing thing is, that such things are possible, and she proved this with her life! Even though she was a nun who lived all her life in the cloister, when she was canonized she became the Patron Saint of the Missions!

And finally, she made it her life mission to pray for the sanctification of Priests. She called this a “wholesale deal”. By Praying for Priests, she would be a sharer in all their merits and labors.

On one occasion St. Theresa was reading the lives of martyrs and saints, and she read about a certain saintly person, who offered herself to God as a Victim to his Justice. In other words, she offered herself to take the punishment which sinners deserved.

St. Theresa said she did not feel at all like she wanted to make that offering. But then she said: Will it be only God’s justice that needs victims? Will the Love of God, which is despised and rejected by so many not also need victims?

And so, she offered herself to the love of God, as a Victim. That is, she offered to take for herself all the love of God which other souls so rejected.

After this offering, her life changed. She delivered herself fully to God, to whatever sufferings, difficulties, graces, God willed to give her.

And this leads us to the third quality in her soul: The Love of God.

After this day, her soul was plunged into difficulties. She was very often left dry. She did not feel anything in practicing religion. In fact, sometimes she felt like she didn’t want to pray or go to Mass, or anything of the sort. But even though she felt like it, she didn’t give in. She would go to Mass, pray, sacrifice even more. She didn’t feel like she loved God, but she made the decision to love him even more and to Act with that love. Her love had no feelings, it was only a strong decision from her will.

She loved in the darkness. She loved in the cold, she loved in uncertainty. She loved in temptation, she loved in dereliction, she loved in abandonment.

This was Our Lord taking her offer. He took away from her what would have made her love easy, and he gave her all that would make her love stronger and purer.

St. Theresa lived like this for a number of years. She died very young, at the age of 23. But although it seemed like she died from natural causes,  we know well that she actually died of love. Her soul grew so much in the love of God, that her body could not contain it anymore. And so her last words were a cry: “I love Him… My God! I love Thee!”

My dear Friends. This great saint is our friend in heaven. Pray to her, as you would to a friend.  Let us strive to imitate her in these three great qualities that she had:

-Be like children, don’t allow any malice in your soul.

-Be missionaries. Everyday offer sacrifices, prayers, for other souls.

-Offer yourself to the Love of God, and remember our Lord frequently and lovingly during the day.

Let us put in our minds her words, which she uttered while still young:

“I do not want to be a mediocre Saint! I want to give everything to God!”

In Nomine Patris…

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