Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.

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Catholicism is the oldest and the fullest expression of Christianity. Under the inspiration and protection of the Holy Spirit, this small mustard seed has spread its branches through every facet of human life. It so permeates the life of its followers that everything is sacred, everything is sacramental, everything is a visible sign of the invisible God.

This great fecundity which is the glory of the Church, unfortunately, can also become a snare for its members. Not all of the truths are equally important. There is a hierarchy of truths. At the center is the essential truth, and then fanning out from the center are the peripheral truths, diminishing in importance as they distance themselves from the center. The snare and the danger is that we could make one of the peripheral truths the center of our lives and thus become eccentric. This would indeed be a tragedy because we only have a limited amount of time and energy, and we don’t want to spend it spinning our wheels on the periphery. Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for doing just that. “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity…Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow a camel.”

To avoid this rebuke of our Lord we must get back to the center, to the essential truth. This essential truth is the Incarnation. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus is the center and the heart of Christianity. Jesus is the final and definitive revelation of God. The entire content of Christianity has been abstracted from the person and life of Jesus. Jesus is the greatest expression of both the love of God for us and at the same time the greatest expression of the human response to that love.

Jesus is the medium and the message. In Jesus the medium is the message. “I am the way, the truth and the life.” “Come follow me.” “Learn of me that I am meek and humble of heart.” “Come to me all you who labor and I will give your rest.” “It is I, be not afraid.” “My peace I give to you.” “No one comes to the Father but by me.” “When I am lifted up from the earth I will draw everyone to myself.” “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” The Church is the Mystical Body of Jesus. The Eucharist is the Body and the Blood of Jesus. The Sacraments are the actions of Jesus. It is Jesus who binds together and unifies all of the different books of the Bible.

The New Testament reveals graphically that to be a Christian is to be committed to Jesus. The Apostles were not captivated and transformed by abstract ideas but by the person of Jesus. The faith of Simon Peter was in Jesus. “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe that you are the holy one of God.” The faith of Paul also was firmly rooted in Jesus. “I have been crucified with Christ; yet, I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; in so far as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” Even the doubting Thomas confessed that Jesus was, “My Lord and my God.” At the Coronation of Simon Peter as the first Pope on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias Jesus did not ask him if he was more virtuous, more learned or more productive than the others. He asked, “Simon, do you love me more than these?”

The faith of Ignatius was in Jesus. At Montserrat he transferred his allegiance from Charles, the King of Spain, to Jesus, the King of Kings. He insisted that the Society be called the Society of Jesus. In the First Week of the Spiritual Exercises he asks, “What have I done for Jesus, what am I doing for Jesus and what ought I to do for Jesus.” Throughout the Second Week he petitions for the grace “to know Jesus more intimately, love him more ardently and follow him more closely.” His followers were called Jesuits a word whose root meaning is Jesus. Pedro Arrupe in “Called To Be Companions of Jesus” writes, “Our deepest satisfaction and the source of all other satisfactions is to know that Jesus Christ is the center of our lives and our ideal.” Karl Rahner in an interview for America was asked what was the center of his theology. He answered, “Lord that can’t be anything else but God as mystery and Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen One, as the historical event in which this God turns irreversibly toward us in self-communication.”

The tragedy is that we can get so overwhelmed by a lust for knowledge, for abstract truths and such a concern for orthodoxy, canon law, liturgical rubrics, reconfiguration and trying to strategically discern the magis that we forget Jesus. Our moral life is influenced more by significant persons in our lives, and how closely we identify with them, than it is influenced by explicit moral laws and instructions. The commitment to Jesus structures our lives, unifies our day to day decisions and brings with it a sense of fulfillment. It is not only expressive of the person I am, it is also creative of the person I will become. It is the kenosis, the secret of our happiness, which comes from losing our self in the love and service of Jesus. What an inestimable grace to be called, even though a sinner, to be a companion of Jesus, to be a Jesuit!


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