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A God Who Cares
Memorial of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
Jesus said to them, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And as for you, Capernaum, ‘Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld.’ Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to take this time to open my mind and my heart to whatever it is you want to say to me today. I believe in your love for me, even though I don’t always feel it. I hope in the power of your grace to continue purifying and strengthening me in my journey through life. And I thank you for all the good gifts you have given me throughout my life, and especially in these last twenty-four hours. Lord, “lead me in the path of your commandments, for that is my delight” (Psalms 119:35).
- Jesus Cares: Jesus shows so much emotion in this passage! He chastises the Jewish towns because their citizens were insensitive to God’s invitations. Somehow, their hearts had been hardened and God’s loving voice couldn’t penetrate. And this mattered to Jesus. His heart is not indifferent to the indifference of the people he loves and wants to fill with his grace. We encounter this passionate heart of the Lord throughout the holy Scriptures. God is constantly intervening in the life of his people, constantly calling them to trust him and follow him. And even though they often do not or will not hear and heed him–as is evident, for example, in today’s first reading–he simply will not give up. He continues to speak out, to call, to invite. He cares. We matter to him—deeply! Let that sink in: I matter to Jesus; he cares deeply about me. If I believed that more fully, what difference would it make in my life?
- Human Beings Are Free: Jesus would not chastise the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida if they were incapable of choosing their response to witnessing his “mighty deeds.” Even though our nature has been wounded by original sin, we are still free. We are “response-able” beings. We can choose to turn our attention to God—or not. We can choose to follow God’s call when we hear it in the Gospels, in our conscience, in the teachings of the Church—or not. We can choose to accept God’s invitation of mercy as often as he makes it–and he makes it unceasingly–or not. True, our freedom is not absolute. It is conditioned by many factors, but it is still present. And what we do with it, how we respond to the challenges, opportunities, and invitations that God sends or permits, determines the kind of person we will be. In this sense, Christians are the ultimate existentialists: Our existence is a gift, and what we choose to do with that gift day after day determines whether our lives will end up being “meaning-full” or “meaning-less.” God invites us to be his partners in building up a Kingdom of infinite value, but he refuses to force us.
- Jesus Speaks through Messengers: As Jesus sent out the seventy-two disciples, he promised that “whoever listens to you, listens to me; whoever rejects you, rejects me.” God speaks through his followers. This means that we are not only God’s disciples, but God’s messengers. With our example, our deeds, and our words, Jesus is continuing to spread his Gospel in the world; he speaks through us. This is our core identity as Christians: disciples who are missionaries, followers of Christ who are also his messengers. But this also means that he continues to speak to us through our brothers and sisters in Christ. Today’s saint, Therese of the Child Jesus, is a powerful example. Filled with the grace that comes into a heart fully given over to Christ’s love, this young saint’s autobiography (she died at the age of 24), written under her Carmelite vow of obedience, has become a spiritual lighthouse amid the darkness of a secularized world. When in 1997 St. John Paul II declared her the thirty-third Doctor (Teacher) of the Church, it was a recognition of this truth, that by the Holy Spirit God continues to speak into our needy world through Christ’s faithful followers. If we want to hear his voice, all we need to do is listen.
Conversing with Christ: Dear Lord, why do you care so much about us? We are so slow, so deaf, so lazy, so easily distracted. And yet you never give up on us. You never give up on me. You continue to send me messages, in so many ways, reminding me of your love and your truth. But not only that: You actually send me as your messenger! You entrust your love and your truth to me and ask me to share it with those around me. Don’t you know how weak I am, how foolish, how fearful? I know you do. But somehow, this is the path along which our friendship grows: trying to listen for your voice, and trying to be a faithful echo of that voice. Please, Lord, make me a good listener, and make me your good messenger.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will listen for your voice in a special way and pay attention to the “mighty deeds” you have done in the holiness of St. Therese of Lisieux, who teaches all of us to find and enjoy your loving presence in the little things of everyday life.
For Further Reflection: Excerpt from St. Therese’s autobiography used in today’s Office of Readings (http://www.liturgies.net/saints/thereselisieux/readings.htm#loh).
Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.