“I am having great interior trials of all kinds.” – St. Therese

National Novena to St. Thérèse – Patroness of the Missions 2016

Day 8: Friday 30 September 2016 – Bishop Tim Carroll SMA– Homily:

“I am having great interior trials of all kinds.” 

[Editor’s Note: Bishop Carroll’s Novena homilies for Days 2, 4 and 6

follow Day 8 below]

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Trials and difficulties are something we can all relate to, whether it’s the death of a loved one, illness, depression, the breakdown of relationships, or so on.

We all, sooner or later, hear dark voices, questioning our basic beliefs and assumptions in either God or other people, or both.

There are times when we all ask the age old questions, “why me?”, “What have I done?”, “Is God punishing us?”

Once upon a time, there was a man named Job. You will find a Book called after him in the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament. It’s a story, that tries to answer these age old questions.

We speak of “the patience of Job”. In fact he was far from patient at times, questioning God.

The story of Job is the story of a man who ran into all kinds of misfortunes, with deaths in his family, and a string of disasters. His friends told him, God was punishing him for his sins. Job said no, I have not sinned. He was only trying to answer the question, “why do the good suffer?”

Let me allow Job to cry out for himself. I quote:

“Cursed be the night that I was born,

for exposing me to trouble and grief. . .

I wish I had died in my mother’s womb.

Why did my mother hold me on her knees,

or feed me at her breast?

I have no peace, and my troubles never end.”

(Job 3:10-13, 26)

After a lot of soul searching, Job eventually leaves everything in the hands of God, and came to the following answer, not easy to say, famous words that have echoed down the centuries, I quote:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I shall return.

The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away,

praise be the name of the Lord.”

(Job 1:21)

For all of us, it’s easy to say, “the Lord has given, praise the name of the Lord.” But to say, “the Lord has taken away, praise the name of the Lord”, that one is not so easy to say.

There is light and darkness, pain and pleasure, happiness and sorrow, laughing and crying. It would be lovely to say, “give me only the cup of happiness, and I will drink it every day.” Unfortunately, life is not like that.

The hurts of life, no one escapes them.

St. Paul says, I quote, “We have difficulties on all sides. We seem to have no answer to our problems.” (2 Cor.4:8) Then he adds, “But we never despair.”

St. Theresa suffered anguish of mind and body. T.B. was eating away her young body, and killed her eventually after great pain. There were no morphine pumps in those days.

To add to that, she went through spiritual darkness. She lost all joy and consolation in prayer. God seemed to be hidden from her.

Her darkness was so severe, that she describes it as a dark tunnel, a wall reaching to the very heavens, cutting out the sun and the stars. Yet her deep faith in God carried her through.

In times of grief or trials, we to need a strong faith to carry us through.

Faith is not a light to banish the darkness, but a lamp to guide us through it.

It is amazing what people can endure, if they have a cause or the right motivation, be it love of God, or of a person. Love can make the burden light.

We all know the famous story, “He is not heavy, he’s my brother.”

 Being in love with God or another person, does not mean, that everything will be easy in life, no. But the power and energy of love will see us through,

just like St. Paul and St. Theresa.

Let us remember, that love can die in any relationship, be it love of God, or of another person. Love is like a fire, it will go out, if you don’t add wood or fuel.

What happens, if that love wanes or dies? If it does die, then we are left with the cold ashes of failed love, in the once warm fire place of the heart.

The burdens of life become too heavy, with all kind of consequences.

The energy and motivation of love, and that deep faith in God, or in another person, that once carried us through, is gone, is dead.

I remember at home when I was young we had a big open fire. If my mother was going out, she would tell me, “Don’t let the fire go out.”

So this evening, let us check the fireplace of the heart, and see how the fire is doing. Let us take a few hot coals from St. Paul and St. Theresa. Let a fire like theirs, warm us, and see us through the cold and harsh winters of pain and problems.

Here are some of those hot coals, from the heart of Paul himself:

“Who can separate us from the love of God?

Can trouble, or hardship, or poverty?

Or danger or death? No.

For I am certain of this,

that things present or to come, nor any creature,

will be able to separate us from the love of God,

which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

(Rom. 8:35-38)

It was this same love and absolute trust in God that carried St. Theresa through her suffering and darkness. As she lay dying, the last words that fell from her lips were, “My God I love you.” These words carried her beyond death itself, into the hands of God.

One day, may that same love of God, also carry us, beyond pain, problems and even death, into the waiting hands of God himself. Amen.

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Following are Bishop Carroll’s Homilies on Days 2, 4 and 6 of the novena:

Day 2

National Novena to St. Thérèse – Patroness of the Missions 2016

Saturday 24 September 2016 – Bishop Tim Carroll SMA– Homily:

“God is nothing but love and mercy” –St. Theresa

I visited a friend recently, now a grandmother. She was babysitting her little grandson. After using her mobile phone, she put it on the table. The little lad tried to climb a chair to get at the phone. Granny said, “no” and took away the phone.

He then slapped his granny and ran. Then he stopped to see how she was taking it. The grandmother pretended to be hurt. He ran back with arms outstretched and said, “Nana, I sowi, I lob you.” What can the granny do only embrace him, as he ran into her outstretched arms.

This child had already learned, thanks to his parents, two keys words in the English language, vital for any lasting relationship, be it with another person, or with God.

“I’m sorry”. and “I love you”.

“I’m sorry”: It’s a magical word, to re-tie severed relationships and hurt, caused by us. Yet we are often too proud to say it, and admit we were wrong.

“I love you”: The three most powerful words in human language.

The faults of a little child pale into insignificance, when compared to what adult humans can do to one another. Yet, we must also remember, that we too, can run into the outstretched arms of God, and say: “Father, I’m sorry, I love you.”

Does that sound too childish? Did not Jesus himself tells us, I quote: “Unless you change and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Mt.18:3)

St. Theresa took these words of Jesus to heart, and made of them a ladder to climb to heaven. She called it her little Way.

There is another Bible quotation that St. Theresa drew on, I quote: “I will boast of my weakness… so that the power of Christ will dwell in me… For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor.12:9-10)

She says, I quote: “What does it matter to me, to fall every moment… by that I feel my weakness… I want to cast my faults into the furnace of his merciful love.” 

God’s merciful love for her, was a love that accepted her, as she was, with her faults and failings.

This Merciful Love of God, runs like a refrain in all the Gospels.

We look into a mirror to see our face. In the face of Christ we see the mirror image of God’s love and mercy. If anyone carries a sense of guilt, and doubts the mercy and love of God in their case, just read Luke 15.

Jesus gives us three stories, The Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and of course, the Lost Son.

All three repeat the same clear message, the love and mercy of God for all.

 “We had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was lost, and has been found.” (Lk.15:32)

“There is joy in the presence of the angels of God, over one sinner who repents.” (Lk. 15:10)

 The Tax Collector in Luke 18:13, beats his breast, and prays, “O God be merciful to me a sinner.”

Jesus tells us that his prayer was heard. Why? Because he threw himself on God’s mercy. He fell into the outstretched hands of God.

St. Theresa brought her little shortcomings and failings before God, and she too, threw herself into the outstretched hands of God’s mercy.

Let us take her example, and say with St. Paul, “I will boast of my weakness… so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Cor.12: 9-10)

The container or vessel, called the human heart, can sometimes fill up with the sour and stagnant water of little faults and failings, with resentment, anger, unwillingness to forgive, and so on. We all know the faults we carry about in our hearts.

St. Paul and St. Theresa both tell us, to spill them out, at the feet of God, and then ask him to refill to overflowing this container of the human heart of ours, with his love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness.

Let us then pour out that love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness for others, so that God can refill again this human heart of ours.

This is the Year of God’s Mercy. Let no one carry about a burden or guilt from the past. Let no one say, “God wrote me off years ago,” or “God has forgotten all about me.”

Go read Luke 15, and take God at his word.

Pope Francis tells us, I quote: “the way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for eternity. Rather it is to pour out the balm of God’s mercy, on all who ask for it, with a sincere heart.”  

Let us remember, that it’s not falling that is the worst, it’s to stay on the ground.

If mercy is the beating heart of the Gospel, as St. Theresa pointed out, then love must be the life blood, that pumps through that heart, carrying it all over the body, to our heads, in what we think, to our feet, in what steps we take, to our hands, in what we do, the pulse of God beating in our veins, and in our lives.

“I live now, not I, but God dwells in me.” (Gal. 2:20)

To conclude, let us remember the words of the little lad I told you about earlier. Let us too, run into the outstretched arms of God’s mercy, and say, “Father, I’m sorry, I love you.”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

 

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Day 4

National Novena to St. Thérèse – Patroness of the Missions 2016

Monday 26 September 2016 – Bishop Tim Carroll SMA– Homily:

“Jesus my only Love.” 

 Little did St. Theresa think that her book, “the Story of a Soul,”or “Heaven through the Back Door”, as we might call it, would be an international best seller.

When she was canonised in 1925 over 20 million copies of her book were sold in France alone. Her book gives us all a simple route to heaven. You could call it her G.P.S. for heaven.

Now G.P.S. as you know, stands for Global Positioning System, and most cars now have it. It’s a map to guide us on our journey. Just key in where you want to go, and follow instructions.

So let’s look at St. Theresa’s G.P.S. for heaven, a system approved by God himself, and stamped with miracles.

She said, I quote: “I want a very straight, very short way to heaven.” She searched the Bible for that short cut, and found it at Nazareth. Let us go to Nazareth and see what she found.

She realised that the public life of Jesus was 3 short years. He spent 30 long years at Nazareth, doing the things that our families do everyday.

Mary rose early, lit the fire, boiled the kettle. After breakfast Jesus and Joseph started into another day in the carpenters shed, with timber to cut, and farm instruments to be repaired.

Mary took her bucket and went to the village well for water. She cut the vegetables, and started into the dinner. She called in her two men, when dinner was ready. The three of them put their legs under the table, and ate together. Does this sound familiar?

All these simple humdrum everyday things had one very special ingredient. Its called, the love of God.

The dull greys of everyday living, now became coloured by a thing called love, the greatest force in the universe.

St. Paul tells us, I quote: “Without love I am nothing.” (1Cor. 13:2)

Tielhard de Chardin, the Jesuit priest and scientist, says. I quote:

“Some day, after mastering the wind and the waves,  we shall harness the energy of love. Then for the second time, we shall have discovered fire.” 

St. Theresa had found her short cut, her road map for heaven.

Like the Holy Family, she too, would do the ordinary things of everyday, and do them for love of God. She said, I quote: “I try to make my whole life an act of love.” end of quote.

The washing of cups, scrubbing and sweeping the floor, washing and mending clothes, and even a simple smile, and a kind word, all these took on a new meaning, coloured now by the colouring of God’s love, which she poured on everything, and gave it a new meaning and purpose, just like the Holy Family at Nazareth.

Praying to Mary, she said, I quote: “I know, that at Nazareth, O Virgin full of grace, You lived poorly, no miracles… But the silent loving carrying out of daily duties.” 

Note, the silent loving carrying out of daily duties.”

My favourite picture, is St. Theresa in the kitchen, where she wears an apron, her sleeves rolled up, with a saucepan in one hand, and a dish cloth in the other. It could be a picture of any one of us.

It’s no exaggeration to say, that St. Theresa’s way to heaven was through the kitchen. She had found her short cut to heaven. If you pour a little blackcurrant juice into a glass of water it will colour it.

We too, like the Holy Family and St. Theresa, must pour the colouring of God on the ordinary tasks of everyday, by asking God to bless them, a new colour scheme for our days and nights, the dye of God running and soaking into the fabric of all we do and say.

When I was young, if you met people working, you would say: “God bless the workers and the work.” I had an uncle, and every time he came into our house, he would say: “Bal o Dhia, anso isteach.” “God bless all here.” They were putting the colouring of God on our day, on our work, and on our homes.

Has this beautiful Irish custom died out? Are people now too embarrassed to mention the name of God in public?

We say we will do big things for God. But great things seldom come our way, as time and life passes us by, and the small things of everyday slip by us unnoticed.

The road from Cork to Dublin is tarred with small stones, little chips. Our road through life is also paved with the little chips of small things. Gather them up day by day like St. Theresa, and make your road to heaven with them.

Don’t lock God into a church building. We live out our lives in our homes and work places. We must pray to him in the cathedrals of our homes, in the sanctuary of our family.

It is there we must find God. It is there we must talk to him. We must find him among the pots and pans of everyday. He is at every door you open, in every kitchen and in every room. You don’t have to go on your knees to talk to him. Just be aware of his presence, a silent thought, a simple whisper will do.

Our road to heaven, then, begins in our own house. It’s the road the Holy Family took, lit up along the way by the lamp posts of love. It’s also the way of St. Theresa. It’s our G.P.S. for heaven too.

Let us take it, and follow it.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Day 6

National Novena to St. Thérèse – Patroness of the Missions 2016

Wednesday 28 September 2016 – Bishop Tim Carroll SMA– Homily:

Jesus has forgiven me more than Mary Magdalene”

 

There is no tribe or people on earth who can say, “Our people have never sinned.”

We all know our faults and failings. None of us are perfect. St. Paul, in 2 Cor.4:7 compares all of us to “vessels of clay”, or “pots of clay” and cracked pots at that.

Leonard Cohen, the poet and singer, puts it well when he said, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Yes, the light of God, shining through our cracks and fault lines.

There is a story told of a man, who had high notions of himself, who said he would never marry, until he met the perfect woman. He searched and searched, and after a number of years, found her. After getting to know her better, he proposed to her. However she refused to marry him, because she was searching for the perfect husband.    End of story.

Perfect people are only found in fairy tales, and even there, there is the big bad wolf.

The modern world is uncomfortable with cracks and weaknesses. There is an attempt to hide them, but rarely, to embrace them. We have films like “Superman” and “Superwoman”, with superhuman powers. They zoom in and out like angels, not needing wings.

This uncomfortable feeling with cracks and fault lines, is exploited by T.V. adds, who, literally, cash in on our weaknesses. Cracks and wrinkles, and signs of ageing are not acceptable, as if growing old was a sin. You must use their magic formula with an exotic name. Grey hairs also shows signs of ageing. The adds tell us, it’s not in fashion, so we must dye it, and of course, buy their product.

However we don’t need to cover up, to fill our cracks, get rid of grey hair, or pretend perfection, before we meet God in prayer. Let us acknowledge the cracks. God loves us as we are, body cracks and character fault lines.

The Church of Christ is a church of sinners. In Mt. 26:69-75 the rock of Peter was cracked by a woman’s voice, when he lied, and told her, he never knew Jesus. Yet Jesus, knowingly, and willingly, built his Church on these cracked foundations of Peter. That was a long time ago. Yet more cracks appeared in his Church again recently.

St. Paul tells us, in 2 Cor.12:7-9, I quote:

“I was given a thorn in the flesh.

Three times I appealed to the Lord to have it go away from me.

He said, ‘my grace is sufficient for you.’” 

From then on Paul could say, I quote:

“I will boast of my weakness,

so that the power of Christ may dwell in me…

for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor.12:9-10)

St. Theresa knew her Scriptures, and, like St. Paul and others, turned her faults and failings into rungs of a ladder to reach God. She said, I quote: “it is not because I have been preserved from serious sin, that I lift up my heart to God in confidence and love, I am ertain, that if I had on my conscience every imaginable sin, I would lose nothing of my confidence, but would throw myself, broken hearted with sorrow, into the arms of my Saviour.” 

In John 8:7-10, Christ said to the accusing Pharisees, I quote: “Let he who is without sin among you, cast the first stone…” And they left one by one, beginning with the elders… Then Jesus said, “has no one condemned you? Neither do I. Go now, and sin no more.” 

Like Peter, Paul, and St. Theresa, let us acknowledge our cracks and fault lines. Let us put them under our feet, and stand up on them to raise us up, and use them as a ladder to reach up to God.

If anyone doubts the loving forgiveness of God, let them read Luke 15, as I mentioned on the second night of the  Novena. It’s the story of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and of course, the Lost Son. All three stories have the same message, summed up in the words of Christ: “In the same way, there will be joy in the presence of God’s angels, over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)

God’s own forgiveness is further echoed in the words of the father of the Prodigal Son, I quote: “It is fitting that we should rejoice, because our son was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:32)

Christ assures us in these parables, that the forgiveness of God is for all who ask for it. Let us take Christ at his word. And like Peter, Paul, and St. Theresa, when we fall, make sure we fall into the waiting hands of God.

Let us never forget, that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.

Let me quote from a book of poems called “Prayers of Life”, I quote:

“It’s not falling that is the worst, it’s to stay lying on the ground.”

Let me finish with the words of St. Theresa herself, I quote:

“What does it matter to me to fall every moment. By that I feel my weakness.” 

Most of us may be cracked pots, but remember, there are cracks in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

May the light of God come through our cracks and fault lines. Amen.

 

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