The Kerygma, as given to St. Catherine of Siena by the LORD

From the dialogue On Divine Providence by Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor

The eternal Father, indescribably kind and tender, turned his eye to this soul and spoke to her thus:

‘O dearest daughter, I have determined to show my mercy and loving kindness to the world, and I choose to provide for mankind all that is good. But man, ignorant, turns into a death-giving thing what I gave in order to give him life. Not only ignorant, but cruel: cruel to himself. But still I go on providing. For this reason I want you to know: whatever I give to man, I do it out of my great providence.

‘So it was that when, by my providence, I created man, I looked into myself and fell in love with the beauty of the creature I had made – for it had pleased me, in my providence, to create man in my own image and likeness.

‘Moreover, I gave man memory, to be able to remember the good things I had done for him and to be able to share in my own power, the power of the eternal Father.

‘Moreover, I gave man intellect, so that, seeing the wisdom of my Son, he could recognise and understand my own will; for I am the giver of all graces and I give them with a burning fatherly love.

‘Moreover, I gave man the desire to love, sharing in the tenderness of the Holy Spirit, so that he might love the things that his intellect had understood and seen.

‘But my kind providence did all this solely that man might be able to understand me and enjoy me, rejoicing in my vision for all eternity. And as I have told you elsewhere, the disobedience of your first parent Adam closed heaven to you – and from that disobedience came all evil through the whole world.

‘To relieve man of the death that his own disobedience had brought, I tenderly and providently gave you my only-begotten Son to heal you and bring satisfaction for your needs. I gave him the task of being supremely obedient, to free the human race of the poison that your first parent’s disobedience had spread throughout the world. Falling in love, as it were, with his task, and truly obedient, he hurried to a shameful death on the most holy Cross. By his most holy death he gave you life: not human life this time, but with the strength of his divinity.’

Baptism, Confession, and Wine Skins

One of the best ways to grow in prayer as a Christian is to pray with the Word everyday.  In the Catholic Church we are given daily Mass readings that take us through the liturgical year in cycles.  Right now we are in “ordinary time.”  We have special choices of readings during the Advent, Lent, and Easter seasons. Currently we are reading First Corinthians and the Gospel of Luke.  The Scriptures always seem to apply to the times that we are in!  I am convinced, that when Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” (Mt 11:15, 13:9, 13:43; Mark 4:9; Luke 8:8, Luke 14:35), He was not only echoing the prophets, (Is 6:10, 30:21, 35:5, 43:8; Zech 7:11; Jer 7:24, 35:15), but He was speaking to us.  He does this everyday in the Mass readings, and I will venture to say… 

It is essential for a Christian to read and pray with the Word of God everyday.

This week, in particular, I was struck by Jesus’ parable about the new cloak and the new wineskins.  He says:

“No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one.

Otherwise, he will tear the new

and the piece from it will not match the old cloak.

Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins.

Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins,

and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined.

Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.

And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new,

for he says, ‘The old is good.’” (Lk 5:36-39).

This reminded me of something I read in my ESV Study Bible (a Protestant Bible) last week, commenting on 1 Cor 1:17, in which Paul said, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”  The comment in my ESV Study Bible was, “Hearing and believing in the Gospel, unlike baptism, is essential to salvation.”

My goodness.  If we take the words “unlike baptism” out then this statement is true.  One thing we like to say in the Catholic Church is, “Both/And.”  It is both baptism and hearing and believing in the Gospel!  Baptism is clearly required as the normal means of salvation.  Jesus told His disciples to baptize all in Matthew 28:19.  Baptism was done throughout the Acts of the Apostles so that the Holy Spirit would come upon all who believe.  Does God need Baptism to infuse the Holy Spirit?  No.  But we do, because Jesus told us to do this! God is so loving and powerful that He can and will dwell in His people (Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, the prophets…etc!) for the purpose of drawing all to Himself in love.  We assent to this teaching of Christ and the apostles that we are to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and we then receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

You may be wondering what this has to do with new/old cloaks and new/old wineskins.

The new wine is the new covenant.  It is the Gospel!  In order to receive the Gospel we must be cleansed through Baptism.  When we are baptized we are completely cleansed from Original Sin.  We put on the white garment of Christ and receive His light and truth, living in the Holy Spirit. Our old wine skins are made new, so to speak. The salvation that Jesus won for us through His death and Resurrection is ours.  The blessed Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – make their dwelling within us. (see Jn 14:15-17). We belong to the family of God.  We are anointed priest, prophet and king. Living in Christ, we offer our lives to God as priest, (this is the universal priesthood of the faithful that all the baptized share), we live and proclaim the Word as prophet, and in freedom, we direct our lives towards Heaven through our daily choices as king. 

This is our birthright as the baptized faithful.

We cannot receive the fullness of Gospel unless we are baptized.  We cannot receive the truth that Jesus laid down His life for us in freedom and that He forgives us all our sins.  We hide.  We are afraid.  In baptism we are claimed for Christ.  His divine life is poured into us through the symbolic action of water pouring on our heads.  His Cross is on our foreheads (see Rev 7:3).  We never need to fear again.  Jesus’ own baptism is a theophany event in the three Synoptic Gospels (Mt 3:13-17; Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3:21-22), in which the Father and the Spirit are manifest.  Further, Jesus tells Nicodemus in the Gospel of John, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:5).  In the same discourse of Paul that is mentioned above, he says, “For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me” (1 Cor 4:15b-16).  His clear teaching throughout the discourse is that it is Christ who baptizes and sends the Holy Spirit — not the minister — and that he has become their spiritual father, in Christ.  If we are to imitate Paul, are we not, also, to imitate Christ?

One other glorious thing that is our birthright as the baptized faithful — the other Sacraments.  These are the means, instituted by Christ, to continue living in Him.  They strengthen us on our journey.  Every sacrament that we receive is like a “power-up,” if you will.  The power to live in Christ is strengthened and renewed. This now brings me to confession.  After we are baptized, of course we fail, everyday, in living out God’s will.  Proverbs tells us that even the righteous man “falls seven times and rises again” (Prov 24:16), and the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the means to “renew our wine skins,” so that the Gospel can continue to renew our hearts.  There are no greater words for a sinner than the words of absolution: “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.”

Who absolves?  Christ.  Through the ordained minister, fulfilling the ministry of the Church.

Renew your wine skins!  Receive the Word.  Everyday!

Thoughts on the Resurrection and Eternity. There is only one thing that matters.

This may be the last post I write.  I write this for my children, especially, but also for anyone else who might be seeking.  Since it is about the “One Thing” there may be nothing else worth writing!  In this time of uncertainty and fear, getting the “One Thing” right becomes even more important.

The guy to the right is Curly.  He is a character in the hilarious 1980’s movie, City Slickers, starring Billy Crystal as Mitch.  Here is how the “One Thing” dialogue goes (this is the last time I put those two words in quotes!):

Curly: None of you get it. Do you know what the secret of life is?

Mitch: No, what?

Curly: [holds up one finger] This.

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.

Mitch: That’s great, but, what is the “one thing?”

Curly: [smiles] That’s what you gotta figure out.

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, was the day that we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, which is a celebration of the destruction of sin and death. Right? Doesn’t that sound incredible?! Some people might say, “For Christians, of course.  For us it is a day to be with our family.” Some may have other reasons to celebrate: springtime, new life, hope.

They have not yet found the one thing, but they are getting closer.  Those who celebrate these things on Easter Sunday are seeking things on earth that reflect the One Thing, and that is very good.  But it is not enough.

—-

What is it within us that drives us to be with others, to seek the joy of unity with other human persons?  Why is social distancing so difficult? Could it be merely an instinct to be social, to mix with our kin and our friends and have fun? Is it just an instinct, like a dog’s desire for attention?

This instinct is indeed satisfied through our social interactions, yet it is much more than my sweet puppy’s desire for attention.  Humans desire more; we seek something beyond us that satisfies a longing that is deep within our hearts.  We think in terms of eternity, and ultimately the only thing that will satisfy us has to be eternal.

It doesn’t matter what religion you are, or whether you even consider yourself “religious.”  The truth is that we all follow something. We all strive for something beyond ourselves.

—-

The One Thing has been revealed to us.  The One, Eternal Word, has been spoken.  

“I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

“Follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Our desire for communion that is within us can attach itself to only One Thing.  All truth, goodness, and beauty culminates in this One Thing, this One Word: Jesus.  Until we find Him we will always be seeking, always restless.

Think of the largest, tallest mountain.  We are all trying to climb it.  There are multiple paths to the pinnacle: around and around, zig-zag, straight up.  Along the way we find many signs that point us to the top.  There may even be signs that keep us where we are for a time. Throughout the journey we find refreshment and nourishment to get us there, if we look carefully.  We may fall and start again.  The important thing is to keep going, to keep climbing.

Yes, indeed, yesterday and today we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. The Resurrection is so important that Catholics celebrate it for 50 days.  Just to be clear, I use the term Catholics as a universal term.  This feast is celebrated pro multis, for all.  It is celebrated as such because it is, indeed, the One Thing!  It is Eternal Life in God, Who created us and loves us!

To be resurrected means to live eternally.  This is something that all humans understand and seek.  It is a constant, if you will, of the universe.  It is a universal law that humanity longs to live forever.  Eternity is at the essence of everything we strive for.  It is the pinnacle, the summit.

This pinnacle is a Person.  He has come down to be one of us in order to bring us back up with Him, in a union of Love with the Father, in the Holy Spirit.  The Resurrected King is Resurrecting me.  And you.

That is the One Thing.