Tuesday, 9 August 2016 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Holy Scriptures speaking to us about what we ought to do in order to be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven and receive fully the blessings and graces of God promised to His faithful ones. And that was made very clear in what we heard in the Gospel today.

In the Gospel according to St. Matthew, Jesus told His disciples, that unless their faith be like those of the little children, they would have no part in the kingdom of heaven promised to them. Unless they welcomed the dear little children in His Name, they would have no part in His glory and inheritance. And if they misled these children into the darkness, their punishment and fate will be even more severe than otherwise.

And at the same time, He also told them of how God is like the loving shepherd who cares for all of his sheep without exception. And when even just one of the hundred sheep was lost, the shepherd went out of his way, doing what he could do best to bring that lost sheep back, so that it would not perish out of the reach of his love. When he found the sheep, he would celebrate and rejoice greatly.

Thus, in the same manner, we are the sheep of the Lord, who are part of the same flock which He has led and guided, through the intermediary of His servants, the prophets and leaders whom He had appointed over all of His people, those who had been sent into the world with the message calling all of mankind to return to the Lord, their one and only true God.

And we are lost in this world, lost in the darkness, lost and being unable to find our way to reach out to the Lord because of the veil of darkness, the veil of confusion, discord and unbelief which Satan and his allies had placed over our eyes, over our senses, over our minds, over our hearts, and over our souls, preventing us from seeing the truth, and remaining blind in the darkness.

And how did they do this? It is by playing and manipulating our fears, our desires and wants, that they have done these so excellently to the extent that many of us became wayward and committed many grievous sins and wicked deeds. We have put ourselves, our ego, our desires and all other obstacles in front of us, preventing ourselves from being able to reach out to the Lord, Who is trying to help us and to pull us out of this darkness, this trap.

And that is why He told His disciples, and thus all of us, that our faith must be like that of those little children who believed in Him wholeheartedly without any reservation. In case we are not aware of it, children are innocent until a certain age when they begin to be formed in their thoughts and moral ideas by those who are around them. And thus, when they believe in the Lord, they truly give it their all and believe in Him.

Are we able to do the same as well? We may not because of our various commitments and all the things that kept us back, held us back from being able to give it all for the Lord our God. And that was where sin came into our hearts and corrupted us, trying to pull us away and sunder us away from the Lord and His love. And in this, perhaps today we should seek to understand and follow what the great saint we celebrate today had done in her own life.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, or much more famously known throughout the world as St. Edith Stein was a Jewish convert to the Christian faith. She was born as an ardent Jewish believer, but grew to believe in the Lord after having read the works of another great saint, the Carmelite saint, St. Teresa of Jesus. She studied her writings thoroughly, and in the process, came to believe in the Lord and gave herself to be baptised into the faith, and eventually, after many years of struggle, joined the religious order of the Carmelites as well.

At that time, as she lived in Germany, where the tide was rising against the Jewish population in the NAZI dominated government of Adolf Hitler, threats and dangers grew more and more vivid every single day on St. Edith Stein and many other Jews living under their tyranny. Even throughout the war, when her life was in constant danger, she continued to write and gave encouragement to the faithful and to the oppressed people of God, never to give up for the Lord Who loves them all would be with them.

To the very end, St. Edith Stein gave it her all to serve the Lord. She gave it all even to the very end, encouraging and strengthening the faith of all those who wavered and those who suffered grievously by persecutions and all the forces applied against the faithful by those who were wicked and evil. She withstood all the challenges, and willingly gave up her life, when she and many others were brutally murdered by the NAZI forces in the concentration camps.

The zeal and courage of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St. Edith Stein, should be our example and inspiration as well. We should learn to walk in her footsteps, be strong and be courageous in our faith. Let us no longer be hesitant in following the Lord our God, but give it our all to serve Him, rejecting all the worldly temptations and all the lies of Satan that had no value in them.

May God bless us all and strengthen us, and may He, our Good Shepherd, care for us all just as He had cared for His servant, St. Edith Stein, and the many other people throughout the world, throughout the ages, who suffered because of their faith in Him. May God be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

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