Tuesday, 1 October 2019 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of all Missionaries and the Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we mark the beginning of the Extraordinary Mission Month as promulgated by Pope Francis earlier last year and it is fitting that this month of October begins with the feast of the Patroness of all Missionaries and Missions, namely St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus, a great visionary and saint, and through her many excellent writings, a great Doctor of the Church and inspiration to all of us.

St. Therese of Lisieux was a Discalced Carmelite nun who was renowned for her ‘Little Way’ or the ‘Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux’, which is why she was also known as the ‘Little Flower of Jesus’. St. Therese of Lisieux faced a lot of difficulties during the early years of her life and in embracing her calling into religious life as even though she was raised in a pious and virtuous family, her parents being just recently canonised as saints as well, St. Louis Martin and St. Marie-Azelie Guerin, but she had a frail condition and health.

Nonetheless, this did not stop St. Therese of Lisieux from listening to God’s call and embracing her calling, which in a way inspired her own family to also embrace their calling, as eventually the siblings of St. Therese of Lisieux also embraced and committed themselves to religious life like St. Therese had been. She received many visions throughout her life, from the Lord and His blessed Mother Mary, both before and after she joined the religious life.

That was how she began to journal her experiences and wrote extensively about those spiritual experiences and her thoughts, which made her own incredible piety and devotion to God even more amazing. She spent a lot of time praying for priests and many of the people whose faith were weak and lukewarm, hoping that through her prayers those people would be fortified further in their own faith and devotion to God.

And despite the tough circumstances and conditions she had to bear as a member of the strict Carmelite order, and the bullying and challenges she actually experienced during her years in the service of God, St. Therese continued to devote herself to God ever more strongly through prayer and through her love for her community, and by her examples and inspiring faith, eventually many would be strengthened in their own faith and others became converts through her many works and writings.

Truly, this is the essence of what missionary work is all about, and the Lord in our Gospel passage today wants to remind us of both our obligation as Christians as well as how we should approach this responsibility we now have in being witnesses of our faith and as missionaries of the Gospels of Christ. We must not be afraid to embrace God with all of our strength and love Him with all of our abilities as St. Therese of Lisieux had done.

And we should not think that it is impossible for us to devote ourselves just because we think that we are unworthy or incapable of doing what our holy predecessors had done. To be a good missionary does not need us to do great and wonderful deeds, or to perform miracles and doing seemingly superhuman feats. We tend to think too much, worry too much and have too many things in our minds and in the end, our fears, worries and uncertainties will become our undoing.

In today’s Gospel and also through the life and philosophy of St. Therese of Lisieux, we are all called to change our mindset and perspective of life, in how we should devote ourselves to the Lord. We are called to reflect on what it means for us to welcome the Lord like that of little children and how to love Him like those children had loved Him. A children’s love and faith are pure, and they are pure because they have not yet been corrupted by worldly desires and thoughts.

Therefore, our love for God must also be pure and unconditional just as how He Himself has loved us first. God has not reserved or held back His love towards us at all, and He gave us everything through Christ, His Son, Who suffered grievously and died on the Cross for the sake of our salvation. And as St. Therese of Lisieux famously put in her ‘Little Way’ as I mentioned earlier, that is for us to be faithful to God, it does not need us to be great or to do superhuman feats.

Rather, what we need to do, according to St. Therese of Lisieux, is to become small and humble, recognising our faults and shortcomings that we may empty ourselves of ego, pride and desires so that we may truly be able to love God and give ourselves to Him wholeheartedly, and doing this in a manner that we take a small, little step one at a time, and not a giant leap. Ultimately, all those small little steps will add up together and become a great progress for us in our journey of faith.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called today to be missionaries of our faith, to become the witnesses of Christ, in every little and small things we do in our lives, in everything that we say and we do, in all of our interactions with our fellow brethren, that we should commit ourselves to the path of righteousness and do only what pleases God from now on. Let us all be inspirations for one another and encourage one another to live more faithfully from now on.

May the Lord continue to bless us all and guide us in our journey of faith, and may He empower us all to live more courageously in His presence. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

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