Tuesday October 15, 2002 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)
We hear in the readings today that the Holy Spirit is the gift God is giving to each one of us, that the Holy Spirit lives within our hearts and reveals to us the wisdom of God so that what we will know is the doctrine of God Himself. As the Lord pointed out in the Gospel reading, it is not His own teaching but the teaching of God. He says, "If anyone is interested in his own teaching, then he is trying to get honor for himself." On the other hand, if we are interested in the honor of God, then it is evident that it is God's teaching we are trying to proclaim.
That is exactly what Saint Teresa was about: not seeking anything for herself but looking instead for the greater honor and glory of God, as all the saints have done. And the teaching she has given to us is among the most sublime in the Church's history because she teaches to us the way that God has laid out, the way to perfection, the way to holiness. It is the wisdom of God which was given to her as a gift, and in return she has given it to each one of us. It is available for us so that we can learn how to pray, so that we can learn how the spiritual life is to work and the order of things.
This is an incredible gift God has given because, for each one of us, it means that we do not have to blaze a new trail, we do not have to try to figure out what the path is going to be; it has already been laid out for us - certainly, by the saints who have gone before us, but marked out by the Holy Spirit Himself. That is the wisdom we heard about in the first reading, the wisdom that was given, that was not kept for oneself but rather was passed on so that others would be able to recognize and know that wisdom as well. The wisdom that Saint Teresa understood through the power of the Holy Spirit was given to her as a complete and total gift. In fact, at one point she says that when God infuses wisdom into you, you will learn more in one second than you will be able to learn in a thousand years of study. That is what God provided for her and it is there for each one of us too if we will open our hearts and allow the Lord to provide.
Normally, that kind of infused knowledge does not come until one is at the heights of the spiritual life. God can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants, but He is moving people very quickly right now - very quickly through the spiritual life - because He does not have time to do it the normal way. And so if we are willing, all we need to do is ask. We have already been made sons of God. We already have the Holy Spirit in us calling out "Abba, Father!" and praying in us in ways that we are unaware. We already have that fountain Jesus talked about in Saint John's Gospel, the fountain of the Holy Spirit that wells up within us. Everything is there for our growth in holiness; there is only one thing in the way - and that is ourselves. And so if we are willing to put aside everything that does not lead us to God, everything that is not of God, and keep our focus on the Lord, we will be able to make extraordinary progress very quickly because that is what God is doing in our day, because of the extraordinary nature of the times in which we live.
The way is already laid out for us. We can look at Saint Teresa, at her Way of Perfection, at her Interior Castle, and we see the seven different levels of the prayer life, we see exactly what is to happen and how. It is all laid out if we are only willing to open ourselves to that truth to be able to learn from God and to be able to get ourselves out of the way so that we can do what God wants us to do, and to leave our hearts open so that God can infuse the wisdom through the Holy Spirit into each one of us so that we will be able to know the Will of God and carry it out in all things. In these days, we can learn from what the saints have already done. What took them years and years and years to go through to be able to learn all these things, we will be able to do in a much shorter time because they have already learned it. That is the gift God is offering to each one of us today: to open our hearts, to say "yes" to Him, to allow the Holy Spirit to do within us whatever it is that He needs to do, and to be able to grow in holiness and come very quickly to perfection.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.