If you are what you should be, you will set all the world ablaze! – St Catherine of Siena
Today the Church celebrates the feast day of one of the four women Doctors of the Church, Catherine of Siena. Her influence on Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome from Avignon, France was Divine intervention only because she listened to God with deep love and was open to the Holy Spirit.
In her Dialogue she writes about many visions and experiences and conversations she had with God. About midway through her Dialogue she writes about Christ being the Bridge for those on earth to be able to travel to heaven. The bridge has three steps or levels. These levels relate to the spiritual life. Under the bridge are the raging waters of sin. Those who choose the waters of the earthly distractions will drown. Those who take hold of the feet of Christ have begun their journey in the Light. The feet are where the person becomes a servant, a follower and is “lifting her from the affections of the earth”. As the person continues the journey they move higher towards the heart of Christ where “she fills herself with love and virtue”. And then climbing higher reaches the mouth where there is an experience of great peace. The importance of the Cross is that it never leaves the earth but remains rooted so that Divinity remains with the “humanity of the earth”. This is the Bridge that frees those who wish to climb from earth to heaven. Through the suffering of Christ. The stones are what the bridge is made of and are the virtues. These stones are cemented together with the Blood of Christ.
In the reading from Acts, Saint Paul is recounting to the Jews, in Antioch, the long journey that they have taken to arrive at the coming of Christ. Speaking of each step as like a bridge from the past to the present and how they are connected to that very moment of the coming of Christ. This journey is ours as well throughout the centuries. We, as the People of God, recall at the Eucharistic celebration the sacrifice of Christ’s Body and Blood for our redemption. Each time we partake of this celebration and put our faith into action, we climb further up the Bridge of the Cross. When we find ways to feed our soul this too helps us to climb further and not in a way where we are racking up points, but truly deepening our relationship with Christ. Faith and good works, in balance, can lead us to a better understanding of who we are in Christ.
Paul was an unlikely messenger to the Jews but he was called to be an instrument to carry the news to, what was at that time, the whole world. Some received the word of God through him and thus were open to God and the gifts and graces of faith. The reading from the Gospel of John affirms that when we hear the Word through another sent by God then we receive Christ and God. Opening our heart to the Gospel message is not always easy. There are some challenging messages that we might not always be willing to take hold of. The good thing is that we can try and as we try, we are working on our relationship with Christ in becoming the person that God created us to be. Climbing the bridge one stone at a time with the grace of God to guide us.
Linda Schork is a theology teacher at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky.