Saint Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor – Readings

Commentary on 1 John 1:5-2:2; Psalm 102; Matthew 11:25-30

The Gospel reading, taken from Matthew, consists of a prayer of Jesus to his Father. In it he thanks his Father for revealing his message, not to those who regard themselves as “wise and…intelligent”, but to the “infants”. The so-called wise and learned can be very arrogant, so that their minds are closed to ideas which are contrary to their convictions.

This was the situation with many of the scribes and Pharisees who refused to listen to the teaching of Jesus and could not see the Word of God in his words and actions. Rather, it was his disciples, people of little or no learning who were open to hear his message and who, a little further on in this Gospel, will acknowledge their Master as the Messiah, the Son of God and the Saviour King of the new Israel. This was also, of course, because they had been chosen, for:

…no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

But, even those who are chosen to hear the message may reject it or lapse from it.

The passage is very relevant to Catherine. She had received little or no formal education and could neither read nor write. Nevertheless, she was clearly a person of high intelligence who became both a philosopher and theologian. She mixed easily in the ranks of popes, bishops and political leaders, and acted as mediator between them. The writings she left behind earned her the title of Doctor of the Church. She was also, from her early years, a deeply spiritual person, a mystic, in very close communication with God. Her childlike quality was that she saw herself totally as an instrument of God in the service of the Church, and especially in bringing about reconciliation and healing between divided factions.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Her whole life was to bring the Light of Christ into the life of the Church.

As the First Reading today says,

…God is light and in him there is no darkness at all….if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

This was the mission of Catherine – to bring the light of Jesus and his Gospel into the Church so that it might be cleansed of all sin, especially the sin of corrupt power and scandalous division.

The Church still needs people like Catherine, and it is for each one of us to see how we can contribute to making our Church a united community and a source of healing for a divided world.

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