The Feast of St. Teresa of Avila – Tuesday 15th October, Evening Prayer
Looking back to the seemingly-never-ending number of readings from last week and indeed this week, I read the first verse of Psalm 74 and I highly identified with the cry: ‘Why does your anger burn against the sheep of your pasture?.’
I try to convince myself that all this reading is for my own good, for the flourishing of my priestly call and for a growing competence in ministry.
These readings are meant to make us better priests to proclaim the truth of God. As a Spaniard I’m very honoured to stand before you, on the feast of St Teresa of Avila, that great Spanish mystic of the 16th century. I won’t go into too much detail about her life but as a nun she felt tension between pursuing truth in the midst of her peers and not being well received for it by ecclesiastical authorities.
The Order of Carmelites, the monastic community that she was part of became filled with corruption and comfortable living and she saw that this went against the purpose of the order. She fought to ensure her community were true to its foundations and true to the Gospel. She faced difficulties and opposition for this and was judged and accused by many. But her perseverance paid off and a new, refreshed order originated, the Discalced (/dis’kalst/) Carmelites…she faced difficulties for the sake of truth.
In some ways she was like the prophet Micaiah, who we heard about in our reading from 1 Kings. We read today that, after being pressed to speak the truth, he is struck in the face. It is not the only time that happens but rather it seems to be a consistent thing in his ministry. He doesn’t say what King Jehoshaphat wants to hear and gets into trouble for it, especially because he goes against all the other priests, whom he, very boldly, calls liars.
Being in such isolated position must be hard.
Being at odds with authoritative powers is never easy and in the case of Micaiah, it entailed imprisonment and suffering… Suffering for the sake of truth.
This truth takes further shape in light of the Gospel, which Paul deems is the reason for His imprisonment. Truth is defined more deeply in our reading from Acts: truth is the hope of the faithfulness of God, that is, the hope of the resurrection of the dead, as Paul puts it.
In this case, St. Paul, just like Micaiah, is struck on the face by people acting for the authorities. In proclaiming truth, he is judged, or rather misjudged. However, it is clear that he is embedded in this situation for the sake of truth; a truth that not all his fellow Jews share and he cleverly uses that to his advantage and to enhance the Gospel a step further…
My attachment supervisor recently told me that “speaking truth does not always result in a happy outcome.”
Sometimes there is judgement for the sake of truth. Proclaiming truth in and out of season is not an easy task. It seems to carry a lot of struggle.
Even Jesus faced that struggle.
And sometimes those struggles come because of the way in which we proclaim truth: Sometimes we’re too bold, like Micaiah, or we don’t know to whom we are speaking, like St Paul.
How are we to respond to the call of God to proclaim his truth? How are we going to respond to rejection and to harshness?
I think, if we truly want the Holy Spirit to move in us to proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ, his life, death and his rescuing, then we must begin there: listening to the inklings of God in his Spirit…
We can learn from Jesus to carry on, come what may.
But perhaps, some guidelines can be derived from the Spanish saint who said: ‘be gentle to all and stern with yourself’.
The gift of the resurrection of the dead is what we are proclaiming and this has God’s fingerprint on it.
Let us then be faithful, as he is, and gentle to one another in proclaiming truth.
Sam Perez, Diocese in Europe