Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena
Psalm 93:1ab, 1cd-2, 5
In his conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus reveals to him that he will be lifted up from the earth: he is lifted up on the Cross, raised up from the dead on the day of his Resurrection, and lifted up to heaven on the day of his Ascension. We share in Christ’s death and resurrection through our Baptism, since our baptism is both a dying with Christ and a rising with him to glory. We lose our old life of sin and receive the gift of grace, the beginning of eternal life. Through Baptism, we become members of the Church, the Body of Christ.
The first reading gives us an example of the communal life of the early Church. Barnabas sold a piece of property and gave the money to the Church. He is the “son of encouragement” and will accompany us throughout our reading of the Acts of the Apostles. He will vouch for Saul before the community of Jerusalem (Acts 9:27) and spend a year with Paul in Tarsus, where he was known as a prophet and a teacher (Acts 13:1). He accompanies Paul on his first missionary journey to Cyprus (his native land) and parts of modern-day Turkey. It is possible that he wrote the Letter to the Hebrews, since he belonged to the priestly tribe of Levi. In any case, Barnabas joined the Apostles in their mission of bearing witness to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Today’s reading shows us that Barnabas followed the counsel of Jesus to the young man: “Go, sell what you own and give the money to the poor; then, come, follow me” (Mark 10:21). Because of the generosity of the members of the early Church, there was no needy person among them.
Today, we also celebrate the memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena. In her book, The Dialogue, she reflects on some of the verses from today’s Gospel about Jesus being lifted up. Saint Catherine sees Jesus Christ as a bridge so that man can cross over to God. The bridge reaches from earth to heaven and has three steps, which signify the three states of the soul. Two are made with the wood of the Cross, the third concerns the bitterness of the gall mixed with vinegar. The pierced feet of Jesus are the first step that leads to the second step, the side of Christ, which manifests the secret of his heart. The soul is filled with love and reaches out to the third step, the mouth of Jesus, where the soul finds peace. On the first step, the soul is stripped of vice and detached from sin; on the second, the soul is filled with love and virtue; on the third the soul tastes peace. On reaching the third step, the soul is lifted on high, above the river of the venom of sin. Christ himself is the Bridge lifted on high, yet joined to the earth. Christ’s divine nature remained joined to the lowliness of the earth of our humanity. In this way, Jesus, who is true God and true man, restores us to the life of grace.
In brief, the liturgy presents the example of three saints for us. We should imitate Nicodemus, who sought heavenly wisdom from Jesus; we are called to be like Barnabas, who gave up everything to follow Christ; finally, we can learn from Saint Catherine how to know and love Jesus Christ and his Church.
Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.