Nada te turbe

Homily, “Nada te turbe”
Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, 2019
Homiletics Class at the Seminary of the Southwest
Austin, TX

Derek M Larson, TSSF

Today’s Lectionary Readings:

I’ve had this Taizé song playing over and over again in my mind the last few days. Maybe you know it.

Nada te turbe                                                                 Let nothing disturb you
Nada te espante                                                             Let nothing frighten you
Quien a Dios tiene                                                         The one who has God
Nada le falta                                                                   Lacks nothing

Nada te turbe                                                                  Let nothing disturb you
Nada te espante                                                              Let nothing frighten you
Sólo Dios basta                                                                God alone is enough

The words were written by St. Teresa of Avila whose feast day we celebrate today. St. Teresa of Avila, that wonderful 16th century Spanish Carmelite nun who lived in such a complicated time. The 16th century with the Protestant Reformation, the Spanish Inquisition, and the dawning of modernity! We have this wonderful example of a saint known for her great leadership, for her creative, for standing up for the humanity of women, for offering spiritual direction to other well known saints like St. John of the Cross.

But she was best known for her prayer. Once she described prayer as nothing more than spending a long time alone with the God who loves me. For Teresa prayer wasn’t just about things you say to God or about going through the motions, no, for Teresa prayer was about this deep intimacy with God, something that flows out of the soul.

By soul I don’t mean some kind of bodiless, floating mist in a spiritual realm. Soul points to the wholeness of a person. Body, mind, and spirit. For Teresa there was something very tangible about prayer. It was something she could almost physically feel. In fact some people have described her prayer as ecstatic. You might be familiar with Bernini’s sculpture, “The Ecstasy of St. Teresa.”The image of ecstatic prayer is pointing to a longing–a longing for connection and intimacy with the Divine.

Today’s epistle for the Feast Day of St. Teresa is from the book of Romans, chapter 8 verses 22-27, and in it Paul describes prayer in a very similar way.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

In this passage Paul is describing the reality of living between the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection and the waiting, the longing, for that good news to be fully realized in the world and in our lives. He uses the image of pregnancy to say that in Christ’s death and resurrection the kingdom of God has been conceived and we are waiting and longing for that kingdom to be born into the world.

This is a bit of a simplistic image because we see little births of the kingdom happening around us everyday. But we also look around and see a lot of pain. A lot of division in the world. Separation. Isolation. So we wait for unity and wholeness and the whole reality of God’s kingdom to be made manifest in the world. And not only us but creation groans for that reality.

But the truth is God is already deep within us. In Christ, God’s Spirit dwells in us. Sometimes when we feel isolation and hopelessness we try to cling to words, to anything we can say to God to help us feel more grounded and connected. But in today’s passage Paul is essentially telling us that in times like that, sometimes its best just to shut up. Sometimes its best for us to quiet our spirits and pay attention to the longing and simply let the Spirit that is already in us intercede for us with sighs too deep for words.

While its not in our lectionary reading for today, this very passage in Romans 8 climaxes with that beloved promise of God, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor demons, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor death, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In Christ, God’s Spirit is already in us. We are never separate from God. Sometimes we just have to quiet ourselves and listen, really listen to the longing within. And to recognize that gift of Divine connection already present within us. Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. God alone–God the one who is ever dwelling in you–is enough!