In the Gospel according to Matthew, Peter asks Jesus if he has to forgive a person who's wronged him “as many as seven times.” Jesus responds with “seventy-seven times” and makes his point with a parable. The lesson: God forgives us so much, yet we can’t forgive one another for so little.
Forgiveness, in the final analysis, is a decision to will the good of the other even though we may still harbor negative feelings. It's a decision to let go of wrongs done to us and move on with our lives.
|Bernini's Teresa in Ecstasy|
In 16th century Spain, at a time of dramatic exploration and religious upheaval, Teresa of Avila, along with fellow Carmelite John of the Cross, became an energetic reformer. They traveled to monasteries and established numerous discalced--“barefoot”—communities emphasizing the contemplative aspects of their Rule.
Teresa’s writings had great influence. “Interior Castle” illustrates the individual's ascent to God in the imagery of a castle where the triune God dwells in seven mansions or chambers. These are comparable to the classic stages of prayer: the purgative way (trying to please God), the illuminative way (being pleasing to God), and the unitive way (ecstatic experience of God).
|St. Therese of Lisieux|
I love this prayerful reflection of Teresa of Avila: “Let nothing upset you, Let nothing startle you, all things pass; God does not change. Patience wins all it seeks. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone is enough.”
Therese of Lisieux, another Carmelite icon, lived and died in the late 19th century in Normandy, France. We know about her through the remarkable autobiography she was asked to write, “The Story of a Soul.” At 15, Therese joined two of her sisters at the discalced Carmelite monastery, and pursued a spiritual path that she came to call the “little way.” She died at 24, still struggling with doubts about God and yet holding a crucifix tenderly as she spoke her dying words, “My God, I love You.”
So, what is Therese’s “little way” that anyone can follow? For me, it includes three ingredients. First, Therese realized our insignificance; and yet God gave us significance. God who is love created us in love so that God could be one with us. Therese personified humility: gratitude to God that she even existed.
Second, Therese recognized that God loved her unconditionally. She had a childlike trust, always receptive to whatever gifts God bestowed upon her.
Finally, Therese loved God unconditionally, even though she often wondered where God was in her life. She did small things extraordinarily well. She accepted the will of God in the daily routine of cloistered life. In every situation, Therese willed the good of the other.
Yes, Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux, Doctors of the Church, challenge us to integrate prayer into our daily lives so that we can "journey" into the awesome light of God forever.