Homilette for Thursday, October 15, 2009

Memorial of St. Theresa of Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church

(Romans 3:21-30; Luke 11:47-54)

The University of St. Thomas in Rome ("the Angelicum") is situated in a formidable construction not far from the famous Coliseum. The building was erected in the sixteenth century to house a community of nuns. It is said that the nuns were wealthy matrons who arrived at the convent with their servants. Each nun evidently took an amply-sized, comfortable room on the first floors while the servants were given much less spacious quarters on the second floor. The life-style was likely equivalent to that in Carmels which St. Theresa of Avila set out to reform in the same sixteenth century.

In the gospel passages which we read at Mass this week Jesus assumes the role of a reformer of sorts. He criticizes the piety of the scribes and Pharisees, which was gaining popularity in his days, for being more concerned about superficiality than about significant moral matter. They insist on ritual washing but give little to the poor. They pay tithes on small things but care little about the judgment of God in substantial matters like due honor to parents. They build monuments to the slain prophets of old but are ready to murder the apostles whom Jesus will send out to preach God’s Kingdom.

It is sometimes said that the Church is in a constant state of reform. This means that the Church must always recall its roots and strive to remain faithful to them. In a world where comforts soon turn into needs, where charity becomes tax shelter, and church-going melts into socializing, it is necessary for all of us to redouble efforts to live the gospel.