October 15, 2020 – Thursday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of St Teresa of Avila, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/101520.cfm)
One time, I was asked to reconcile a church organization over a conflict that had caused hatred and division among the members. This started when a member took the risk of giving a feedback to their leadership. The person confronted them and told them about their exclusivity. The leadership seemed to favor few members over the others. The person who brought this out could not take this kind of attitude in the organization anymore. It was in the person’s best intention and good faith to improve the relationship within the organization. However, the leadership’s reaction was quite hostile. Instead of welcoming such feedback, they reacted so much to the point of finding the faults of the person who confronted them. Instead of taking it as a challenge to make themselves better, they became more exclusive and at the same time hostile to those who confronted their attitude.
A person can be hostile when confronted with his or her failure. Even among our friends, we find it difficult to tell one another of our sins and mistakes. Others, because of such confrontation, friendship was broken. Among neighbors especially, when one begins to pinpoint the mistakes of another, this may cause endless hate-speech, gossiping, and even violent reactions. This happened in that organization whose leaders were confronted of their failure to be inclusive.
Indeed, people who tend to display a strong image with a sense of self-righteousness will be resistant towards his or her critics. This happens to us when we think highly of ourselves that we forget how to be humble and be accepting of negative comments and confrontations.
When we have grown to be arrogant, we display an air of contempt towards those whom we believed are threatening our good image. Thus, we become hostile and aggressive towards those who confront us and friendly only to those who flatter us.
These are the attitudes that we find in today’s Gospel. When Jesus confronted the failures and sins of the Pharisees and scholars of the law, they became unfriendly towards him. Jesus pointed out how their ancestors, as leaders, killed the prophets in the Old Testament in order to hide their failures and sins from the people. The Jewish leaders wanted to keep the people away from the truth and away from God.
Consequently, in order to advance their personal interest, to preserve their privileges, influence, wealth and power in the community, they developed ways of enslaving the people. They created many laws and demanded that the public must follow them literally but they themselves did not; heavy taxes were imposed upon the people but they themselves would not properly pay taxes to the temple; and they developed a gap among their people, stretching the gap between rich and poor, righteous and sinners.
And Jesus confronted them, pointed out their failures and evil intentions. But they could not accept it. As a revenge to Jesus, they planned to silence Jesus by killing him.
The Lord has revealed himself to them but still they refused God’s offer of salvation. These people were without faith. They did not worship God but themselves alone.Tweet
Nevertheless, God continues to confront us of our sins and failures because the Lord desires our salvation, our freedom. Our Psalm proclaims today, “The Lord has made known his salvation.” Paul reminds us too in his letter to the Ephesians, “God chose us, to be holy and without blemish before him.”
This is God’s desire that we will be able to claim also that we are his and called to be holy. The path of holiness involves confrontation of ourselves, of our selfish tendencies and evil intentions. By confronting ourselves and welcoming God and others to correct us, then, we embrace the grace to be transformed. This is the very life that St. Teresa of Avila embraced also. She confronted the way of life of her community that she believed had already departed from its original intention.
St. Teresa’s journey as a reformer was not easy. She herself became a threat to many, a contradiction to those in power. Thus, she became unpopular, misunderstood, misjudged and opposed. Yet, St. Teresa would say, “God alone is sufficient.”
St. Teresa of Avila whose feast we celebrate today reminds us of a person who truly found satisfaction, true comfort and riches in God. Through her closeness with Jesus, she discerned and chose God’s desire for her rather than her personal desires even if that leads to personal conflict and difficulty. She made God as the most essential in her life which made her offer also herself.
This is what Jesus wants us to be, that we become persons who are not trapped by our mere personal desires. The Lord desires that we become free and truthful to ourselves because it is in this way the we shall also find life meaningful and become life-giving in our relationships with our family and friends and with our colleagues at work.
Let us allow Jesus to confront us. His confrontations with us may appear in different forms. This could be through a lingering guilt and shame of the past sins that we have done, through a friend and colleague who has the nerve to confront us, and through a family member who takes the risk of making us aware of our sins and mistakes. Through them, we may welcome God’s way of transforming us everyday. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR