Feast of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), Martyr & Patroness of Europe
Hosea 2:16-17, 21-22; Psalm 44; Matthew 25:1-13
In our first reading we see that the Lord will lure his faithful one and betroth himself to her forever. This is appropriate for this feast for we remember that Edith Stein was Jewish by birth and over time she sought to give herself to God through the Christian Church while not forgetting her Jewish heritage. In our gospel we have the parable of the ten bridesmaids who were waiting for the bridegroom’s return. Some were foolish and were not ready for his return and so were left outside in the cold. Edith was ready when it came to her own death in the concentration camp and as that time loomed she also gave strength and solace to those around her. So today would be a good time to ask ourselves if we are ready for when the Lord calls us and have we done all that we could do to deepen our faith and to make God’s presence visible in our world.
Edith Stein was born on October 12, 1891, the eleventh child of a Jewish family living in Breslau in what was then Germany (today Poland). She studied and became a lecturer of philosophy and knew many of the leading philosophers of her day including Edmund Husserl (for whom she was an assistant) and Martin Heidegger. She became a Catholic in 1922 having been moved by the life of St Teresa of Avila. Eleven years later she entered the Carmel at Cologne and took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. During the Nazi persecution she moved to the Carmel in Echt, Holland, to ease things for the Carmel in Cologne but was arrested there and sent to Auschwitz. There she was gassed on August 9, 1942, offering up her holocaust for the people of Israel. Her writings are noted for their doctrinal richness and spirituality including ‘The Hidden Life’ and ‘The Science of the Cross.’ She was beatified by Pope John Paul II at Cologne on May 1, 1987, and canonized at Rome twelve years later. She was also named Co-Patroness of Europe.
Esther 4C:12-16, 23, 25; Psalm 33; John 4:19-24
In the first reading from the book of Esther, we see Queen Esther pleading before God for her people. Her husband had been tricked into having the Jews treated badly with a view to their extermination, and so she pleaded to God for their safety before going before the king herself. Having been born a Jew, Teresa Benedicta also pleaded for her people during the Holocaust and offered her life for their salvation.
In the gospel, we see Jesus talking with a Samaritan woman at a well despite the fact that Jews and Samaritans did not associate with each other, and she was also an unaccompanied woman. In the conversation the Lord tells her that it does not matter where she worships so long as she has faith and worships the one true God – the Jews held that one could only worship in the Temple in Jerusalem, whereas the Samaritans worshipped on Mount Gerizim. As a result of the conversation, the woman came to believe in Jesus as her Messiah as did many of the people of her town following her original call to them.