LUKE 9: 51-56

St. Therese of Lisieux

Today's Gospel from St. Luke describes a turning point in our Lord's life.  In this passage we are presented with Jesus' declaration that he is to undergo the painful sufferings and death that await him in Jerusalem. Saint Luke states the matter in a few word:  Jesus "resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem."  This declaration is followed by an exchange between Jesus and two of his closest disciples, James and John, in the course of which we are given an insight into the Lord's extraordinary meekness and patience, so greatly in contrast with the aggressively hostile reaction of these followers.  Luke himself by the time he wrote his account of this event, had learned to appreciate the Lord's humble willingness to endure rejection and disapproval without rancor.  He grasped its significance as a new way of confronting suffering inflicted by hostile opposition.

This display of our Lord's lowliness of spirit and patient endurance that characterized his behavior renders this passage eminently suited for today's feast of Saint Therese of the child Jesus.  The more so when we recall that after experiencing something of the lack of regard and low opinion had of her by some of her sisters in community, she added to her name "and of the Holy Face".  The Lord was treated with contempt and mockery in his passion.  Certain of his tormentors went so far as to spit in his face and strike his thorn-crowned head in mockery of his claim to be a king.  While not subject to such physical rudeness Therese united her own inner suffering with our Lord's submission to the contempt that he endured so patiently.  She learned through the energy of love to convert her similar painful experiences into inner strength rather than becoming a source of resentment.

Quite probably Therese came to stress the critical role of basic trust in her spiritual life in reaction to the death of her mother.  When a young person or child loses the mother, the child commonly experiences the loss as an abandonment of herself; it must be her fault, she reasons, that she is left alone by such a loving person.  She erroneously concludes she must be unlovable.  Therese's emotional illness at the age of nine was, quite likely, due to such a deep seated unconscious meaning her mother's early death instilled in her.  It was her vision of the Bl. Mother's loving appearance to her that reassured and so healed her.  It required the assurance of a mother's love to convert her self-image at the deepest level.  After the assurance of being lovable and finding she was loved, her confidence was restored and attained a fresh depth of conviction.  Though hidden even from herself, the resulting strength of soul, a great gift from God, enabled her to endure with love a fearful trial of darkness and, at the end, of pain as well.

May the prayer of saint Therese and the grace of this Eucharist obtain for each of us this same confident conviction that we too are sustained by the merciful love of Jesus who gives himself to us in this sacrament to supply for our need and to strengthen us in our weakness.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger