Wednesday October 15, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of Saint Teresa of Avila
Reading I (Wisdom 7:7-14) Reading II (Romans 8:14-17, 26-27)
Gospel (St. John 7:14-18, 37-39a)
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord tells us that if anyone comes to Him and drinks of the water that He will give then this water from within, which is the grace of the Holy Spirit – indeed, the Holy Spirit Himself – will become within that person a fountain springing up to eternal life, a fountain of living water, because it is the fountain of wisdom; it is the fountain of God Himself. This is something that Saint Teresa has found the way to be able to do. As we heard in the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, not only did she pray and wisdom would be given, but what she says is, “What I learned without self-interest I pass on without reserve; I do not intend to hide her riches.”
When one reads Saint Teresa of Avila, one recognizes that indeed there is not only an inexhaustible treasure but that this is not human. This is the divine wellspring flowing out of her heart to be able to teach the world how to pray, to teach the world about the love for God. When we look at what Saint Teresa is about, it all is just simply brought down into one point. It is precisely what we see in the second reading, that is, that anyone who has been baptized becomes a son of God and God dwells within. What Saint Teresa wants all of us to be able to find is the indwelling Trinity, “His Majesty” as she calls Him always, dwelling within their hearts. Her image was that her heart was like a throne upon which God was seated, and it would be there that she would be able to go and worship the living God Who dwelt within her. It was there that she came to learn; it was there that she came to love; and it was there that she was perfectly united with God. She shows to us the way of perfection which the psalms lay out. She shows to us the way to perfect union with God, to perfection, even in this life.
If we want to be able to be truly holy, to do the Will of God in all things, to know the path that leads us most perfectly to God, this is the woman who lays it out most clearly for us. This is the way which God has given for us to be able to know how to achieve holiness in the shortest and the most direct manner. It is not an easy way necessarily – it is going straight up the cliff – but it is the fastest way and it is the clearest way. Saint Teresa is the master of prayer in the Church. Above all others, she is the one who lays out the way of the spiritual life most clearly and most succinctly. If you have not read her, I highly recommend it so that you will be able to learn from her this way of perfection, the way of union with Jesus Christ, Who dwells within.
That latter point is what she covers in her Interior Castle as she looks at the soul like a crystal orb with seven different levels. As one enters, it is at the most outer ring, and one works their way in towards the middle where it is brilliant and where Jesus Christ dwells. The whole movement of the spiritual life is to go deeper into the soul until one finds perfect union with Jesus Christ, Who dwells at the very center of our being. That is what her writings are about, and she teaches us this way which was shown to her by the Lord Himself. She did not keep it for herself, but rather she has written it all down under obedience to teach the Church so that all of us would be able to know the wisdom of the saints, so that all of us would be able to walk the path that has been blazed for us. We do not have to reinvent the way to get to God; it has already been laid out for us. All that is left is for us to choose it. So none of us is with excuse. It is one thing to say, “Wouldn’t it be nice. I’d sure like to be holy. I’d like to grow in the spiritual life. Wouldn’t union with God be nice.” But what are we doing about it? Willing it and wanting it are two entirely different things. If we will it, we will read what this incredible saint has written and we will get on that path and walk the way of perfection.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.