Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us gather together to listen to the words of the Lord and to celebrate together as one whole Church, the Feast of the great saint and Patroness of Missions, the Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as St. Therese of Lisieux. On this day we heard of the words from the Scriptures reminding us all to entrust ourselves to the Lord and to follow Him faithfully, to follow Him with all of our hearts and might, and to be like little children in our faith, pure and sincere, and genuine in our desire to love God and to walk in His path, unfettered by the many temptations of the world often present all around us.
In our first reading today, we heard of the words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Isaiah, as He told them to have faith in Him and trust in Him, as He would restore peace, glory and happiness to Jerusalem, to His people and nation, and that they would no longer have to suffer or be in agony, as the Lord would be by their side and they would be His people. This was made in the context of how difficult the situation of the people of God at the time of the mission of the prophet Isaiah, and God wanted His people to remain firmly faithful to Him and to entrust themselves to Him, calling on them to turn away from their past, sinful ways.
For back then, many of the people of God had ended up being cast out and exiled from their own lands because of their own sins and disobedience as they allowed themselves to be swayed by their desires and attachments to the world. Those who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel, composed on much of the ten tribes that rose in rebellion against the House of David, had been brought into exile by the Assyrians, the mighty empire that came and conquered the lands of Israel and destroyed the cities and towns of Israel, humiliating and crushing them. And all these happened because the Israelites there had not listened to God and His frequent reminders and calls on all of them to repent from their sinful ways. God had sent His many prophets, servants and messengers to call on them to repent, but they refused to pay attention and even persecuted those prophets.
In the southern kingdom of Judah, where the prophet Isaiah ministered in, the people of God had also not always been faithful to God and had from time to time falling again and again into sinful paths. They had not always listened to the words of the Lord, and rebelled against Him. They too have suffered at the hands of their neighbours and enemies, and back then, they were also under threat from the growing might of the Assyrians. But the Lord reassured them and told them that if they were to put their faith in Him, they truly had nothing to fear. God would restore the glory of Jerusalem and His kingdom to the people who were faithful to Him, and they would once again rejoice in His presence.
The main reason why the people had not been faithful and continued to fall into sin, again and again was because they were too attached to the worldly matters and concerns, desires and other things that kept them chained to the path of sin and disobedience against God. They were all too busy with their many attachments to worldly matters to attend to God and they ignored His calls because they were all too busy and preoccupied in seeking more worldly things, of wealth and glory, of fame and status, of many other satisfactions and pleasures in life. Due to all these, they kept on growing further and further away from God and His righteous path.
And that is exactly why we should heed what the Lord Jesus Himself had told His disciples in our Gospel passage today, that unless we follow the Lord in the manner that the little children were following Him, then we all can have no place in God’s kingdom. At that time, as mentioned, the disciples were then arguing amongst themselves about who among them was the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven, and they were competing and arguing that each one of them had better merits and worth to be the ones trusted by the Lord, to be part of His inner circle. But in doing that, they essentially opened themselves to the temptations of Satan and the other evil spirits, who always tried to seek our downfall.
That was how we mankind often fell into sin, because we allowed ourselves to be swayed by the temptations and allures of worldly pleasures, happiness and satisfactions, the desire for money and material wealth, for pleasures of the flesh and the comfort of the world, in various forms, and in indulging upon our many desires and wants in this world. Through these things, the devil and all of his wicked allies were trying hard always to snatch us from the path towards God and His salvation and grace. And unless we make the conscious efforts to resist the temptations to sin, then we may likely fall deeper and deeper into the path of sin.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why we should heed the life and examples set by one of our holy predecessors whose feast we celebrate today as just mentioned earlier at the start of today’s discourse, namely St. Therese of the Child Jesus, also known as St. Therese of Lisieux. This holy servant of God was also often known as the ‘Little Flower of Carmel’ and was remembered for her intense devotion to God and for her faith and holy life, as well as for her propagation of her ‘Little Way’ which were what she was mostly remembered and commemorated for. Even up to this day, the impact from her life and contributions are still enormous and can still be easily felt.
St. Therese of Lisieux was a Discalced Carmelite nun who had strong devotion to the Lord since her early youth, and who was inspired to join the religious convent at the very young age of fifteen. She grew up in a very devout and religious family, and her parents, who later on became saints themselves. St. Louis Martin and St. Marie-Azelie Guerin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, inspired their children to live a life of virtue and dedication to God, and all of their children became religious and dedicated their lives to God, including that of St. Therese of Lisieux herself. And when her mother passed away in her life, St. Therese was drawn closer to God, finding her refuge in Him.
Despite suffering from ill health throughout her life, St. Therese of Lisieux remained firm in her commitment to God and in her desire to be a religious devoted completely to God. St. Therese also began to experience visions and other mystical experiences from early in in her life. St. Therese was well-known for her night of ‘complete conversion’ experience, in which she experienced a great mystical vision and the liberating and comforting presence of God, solidifying her desire to commit herself to the Lord. Eventually, after a period of discernment and after some arrangements, St. Therese joined the Discalced Carmelite monastery.
She was remembered for her constant care for others, and for her prayers for sinners, such as for one convicted murderer, Henri Pranzini, whom she prayed for daily for his conversion before he was due to be executed for his crimes. She was also remembered for her great sanctity and her adherence to what is now known as St. Therese’s ‘Little Way’. This ‘Little Way’ constitutes the need for all of us as Christians to commit ourselves to God even in the smallest and the littlest things we can do on each days and in every moments of our lives. St. Therese said that it is in these small, seemingly insignificant moments that we gradually build up our approach towards the eternal kingdom of God.
The faith and dedication which was shown by St. Therese of Lisieux should remind all of us that as Christians, we have the calling and responsibility to reach out to our fellow men and to be the genuine witnesses of our Christian faith and truth. We are all called and in fact, challenged to do whatever we can to glorify God and to proclaim His Holy Name, His truth and love to the world, by the simplest things we do in life. We do not have to think of great and ambitious things, as in fact, many of those who seek for great things to do, end up disappointed, and not just that, but many ended up doing so for the wrong reasons, such as to serve their own pride and vainglory, their own desires and ambitions rather than to fulfil their role as servants and followers of God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember that each one of us as Christians have that important responsibility, for all of us to contribute in whichever ways we can, in our respective areas and missions entrusted to us, in our own daily living and activities. All of us are indeed missionaries, and we have to realise that mission entails even things as simple as us proclaiming the Lord through our own exemplary and virtuous lives. That is why St. Therese of Lisieux is the Patroness of Missions, reminding us not to have the misconception that missions can only take place in faraway and distant lands, or in great missionary efforts, but in fact, mission happens in each and every moments of our lives.
Let us all therefore do our best to proclaim the Lord as His missionaries of faith, hope and charity, and do our best, inspired by the good examples of St. Therese of Lisieux and the innumerable other saints, holy men and women of God, that we may always be virtuous and worthy in our actions, words and deeds, even in the smallest things. Let us all strive to be holy and inspirational to others, leading a most Christian living in our daily lives to the best of our abilities. May the Lord continue to bless us and strengthen us in our efforts and endeavours, and may St. Therese of Lisieux, of the Child Jesus continue to pray for us and intercede for us sinners, always. Amen.