Teresa of Avila gives three examples of how godly and prayerful people can be distracted from following Jesus:
First example: A wealthy person without an heir loses a portion of their wealth, yet still has enough to live on. Teresa says, “If he begins to get restless and worried, as though he had not a crust of bread left to eat, how can Our Lord ask him to leave all for His sake?”
Second example: A person with more than enough to support himself has an opportunity to acquire more property. Teresa says he should take the opportunity if it comes to him. But if he strives after more and more to the point of distraction it will be difficult for him to ascend to the mansions nearest the King.
Third example: A person becomes distraught when their reputation or approval in the eyes of others diminishes. Teresa says, “Are not these the same persons who some time ago were meditating upon how the Lord suffered, and upon what a good thing it is to suffer, and who were even desiring to suffer?” These same people may “imagine that the trouble they have is somebody else’s fault and represent it to themselves as meritorious.”
Teresa notes, some defend their excessive pursuit or protection of wealth as being motivated by a desire to give to the poor.* (There is no reason to doubt their motives; after all, we are talking about godly and prayerful people). Yet finding tranquility of soul and freedom of spirit by following Christ takes precedence over works of charity.
We become distracted when we mourn the loss of what we will never use, pursue what we don’t need, and blame others for our “approval ratings”. These distractions prevent us from moving to the deepest parts of the Interior Castle.
*Teresa’s concern is not with accumulating wealth or wanting a good reputation. Her concern is with being distracted from following Jesus.
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These thoughts are so accurate in my life. I find that my heart wanders so frequently and wonder if heaven has invaded my imagination. Thanks again for another great blog!
Thanks for your comments Eden.
Dave, these are helpful words. i especially appreciate your articulation of Teresa’s concern. This is similar to Ignatian spirituality which sees all things as good and given to help us make a greater return of love to God but if anything distracts us from following Jesus we must let go of it. So it isn’t so much the thing itself but how it causes us to move toward or away from God. Just like Teresa’s teaching: it’s all about following/loving Jesus.
May God give us the grace now to do it!