Last summer I spent a week in Avila. I've been several times. I never tire of this walled medieval city in central Spain, home to Saint Teresa of Avila and her companion Saint John of the Cross. A remarkable woman, her writings are as challenging, fresh and relevant today as they were when written in her bold and confident handwriting. Teresa's common-sense presence fills every corner of the city.
She began writing the Interior Castle on the Feast of the Holy Trinity 1577. A favourite passage of mine reads as follows: "Let us look at our own shortcomings and leave other people's alone; for those who live carefully ordered lives are apt to be shocked at everything and we might well learn very important things from the persons who shock us. Our outward comportment and behaviour may be better than theirs, but this, though good, is not the most important thing; there is no reason why we should expect everyone to travel by our own road, and we should not attempt to point them to the spiritual path when perhaps we do not know what it is ... It is better to attempt to live in silence and in hope, and God will take care of his own."
In John's Gospel for Pentecost Sunday, Jesus says: "Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven." Reading that, maybe the Holy Spirit wants me to shut up. Why do I assume that virtue requires me to root out wrong in others? Judging others is above my pay grade and should be left to God. Teresa slams the pious assumption that I know what is best for others. Alternative paths, chosen by those who shock me, may be superior to my own.