St. Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510)
Going to confession one day was the turning point of Catherine’s life. When Catherine was born, many Italian nobles were supporting Renaissance artists and writers. The needs of the poor and the sick were often overshadowed by a hunger for luxury and self-indulgence. Catherine’s parents were members of the nobility in Genoa. At 13 she attempted to become a nun but failed because of her age. At 16 she married Julian, a nobleman who turned out to be selfish and unfaithful. For a while she tried to numb her disappointment by a life of selfish pleasure. One day in confession she had a new sense of her own sins and how much God loved her. She reformed her life and gave good example to Julian, who soon turned from his self-cantered life of distraction. Julian’s spending, however, had ruined them financially. He and Catherine decided to live in the Pammatone, a large hospital in Genoa, and to dedicate themselves to works of charity there. After Julian’s death in 1497, Catherine took over management of the hospital. She wrote about purgatory which, she said, begins on earth for souls open to God. Life with God in heaven is a continuation and perfection of the life with God begun on earth. Exhausted by her life of self-sacrifice, she died September 15, 1510, and was canonized in 1737. Shortly before Catherine’s death she told her goddaughter: "Tomasina! Jesus in your heart! Eternity in your mind! The will of God in all your actions! But above all, love, God’s love, entire love!" (Marion A. Habig, The Franciscan Book of Saints, p. 212).
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (8.31~42)
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. They answered him, We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free? Jesus replied, I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it for ever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence, and you do what you have heard from your father. Abraham is our father, they answered. If you were Abraham's children, said Jesus, then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does. We are not illegitimate children, they protested. The only Father we have is God himself. Jesus said to them, If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me.
Christ and His Teaching
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)
It is possible to hold to the importance of Christ, while in effect discounting somewhat the practice of his teaching. In a so-called “Christian country” where the Christian religion is the one accepted by the majority of the population, there is little open opposition to the person of Jesus Christ. To begin with, open opposition would immediately draw the fire of convinced Christians. While this does not eliminate the formal expression of anti-Christian opinion (in the way anti-Islamic opinion would be eliminated in a Muslim country), it usually results in it being expressed respectfully. In a “Christian country” Christ is respected and most people would describe themselves as Christian. But what does this mean? It very often does not mean the acceptance of and holding to the teaching of Jesus Christ. Christ is allowed and a person may count himself a Christian. But he unhesitatingly makes up his own mind as to what teachings he holds to be those of Jesus Christ, and even dismisses those that he recognizes to be of Christ but which happen to be very inconvenient. It is one result of the modern authority of private judgment. In previous eras, cultures accepted authority easily. Now, we make up our own mind — and this approach we apply to religion. In the face of all this, let us notice how our Lord describes the Christian — which is to say, the disciple of Jesus Christ. In our Gospel passage today, our Lord says, “ If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” So to be a Christian, it is absolutely critical that one truly hold to the teaching of Jesus Christ, and a holding to that teaching does not merely mean a vague intellectual acceptance — but a practical living of it. We cannot say that we hold to something if despite this we act in a way that is contrary to it. If we hold to the teaching of Christ, then as Cardinal Newman often pointed out, we must fear lest we be mistaken about it. But not many have this fear. They make up their own minds, with little apprehension lest they not be holding at all to the teaching of Jesus Christ. They do not care.
There are further implications of this, and our Lord draws them out in our passage today. To begin with, our Lord says that his teaching is the truth. If we hold to his teaching, we shall know the truth: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Our Lord is referring to an inner freedom of mind and heart at the very roots of our being. There are, then, two things which affect us at the foundations of our spirit: accepting the truth that comes from Christ, and refusing to accept it. The denial of Christ’s truth will ensnare us in sin, and by this denial we shall be enslaved. “They answered him, We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free? Jesus replied, I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it for ever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” One of the great gains of modern culture and thought is its emphasis on freedom, but co-terminus with this gain is a serious loss. It is the disassociation of freedom from truth. Freedom is considered to be the freedom to do what one likes, whereas true freedom is the capacity to do what is right — which is to say what is in accord with the truth. It takes a great deal of inner and spiritual freedom to do what is right, especially when there are great internal and external pressures to do what is wrong. For example, one’s long-standing memories may constitute a great pressure to be unforgiving. It could be extremely difficult to forgive if we remain in our memories. It takes a great deal of inner freedom to forgive when such memories crowd in upon the imagination. Our Lord tells us that truly holding to his teaching is the way forward to the truth and to freedom. This applies to hatred, bitterness, to lust, to sloth and to all the capital sins leading man to slavery and to death. If we wish to be free, we must hold to the truth of Jesus Christ, which is, as our Lord insists, what is involved in truly being his disciple.
Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the touchstone of true religion and of a true relationship with God. Our Lord tells those who claim to have God for their Father while rejecting him, that “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me” (John 8: 31-42). This is very serious for the person who actually rejects Christ’s teaching, therefore rejecting Christ Himself. It is something that each Christian must bring to the secular world of his everyday life.