Saint Therese of the Child Jesus
Today is the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, and our entrance antiphon bursts upon us like a song from her heart. "The Lord led her and taught her. And he kept her as the apple of his eye. Like an eagle spreading its wings, he took her up and bore her on his shoulders. The Lord alone was her guide." In her short life of 24 years (1873-1897) she came to know, to relish, and to proclaim the immeasurable, lavishing, overflowing love of God for her and for all the world.
Our scripture readings today, honoring her, proclaim that same over-powering love for all people everywhere – believers, agnostics, and unbelievers.
I delight in the details of the image of our first reading from Zechariah:
Thus says the Lord of hosts: "In those days ten men of every nationality . . . shall
take hold, yes, take hold of every Jew by the edge of his garment and say, ‘Let us
go down with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’"
I try to picture it – ten foreigners grabbing at the coat of every Jew to travel along with him. I see Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof raising his eyebrows to heaven and giving God that look. Yes, this is the teaching of the prophet and the teaching of St. Therese: God loves everyone and calls everyone to his love.
In the gospel Jesus rebukes James and John who want to call down fire upon the Samaritan village for not welcoming them. But Jesus, on his way to his death, loves everyone, even those who reject him. And in his death he will pour out his love through his blood, shedding it for every human person everywhere. That is the teaching of St. Therese.
Therese goes to God not in anxiety and fear, but in trust and confidence. She offers herself and all that she does not to a God who needs and wants to be appeased. She goes in love and gratitude and offers herself to a God of all merciful love. She knows that God loves her completely, with and in all her weaknesses, faults, and failings. God loves her lavishly, as Mother and Father to her – so she does everything, every daily ordinary thing, in love of and for love of her God. And now Therese spends her heaven in helping us here on earth to love God in that same trusting, confident, grateful way, in the way a loving child goes to its parents. She invites each of us to learn her little way of love in the ordinary things we do each day
Br. Peter A. Fitzpatrick, CFX, a Xaverian Brother, is a Passionist Associate at Ryken House, across the creek from the Passionist Monastery, in Louisville, Kentucky.