St. Catherine’s “Stairway to Heaven” Homily, 3rd Sunday of Lent
Ever see those rubber WWJD wristbands? They stand for “What Would Jesus Do.” Well, based on today’s readings, if someone asks you, “What Would Jesus Do,” screaming at the top of your lungs, beating people with a whip and flipping over tables …. is an option!
Are there aspect of our lives that might not please Jesus? We can look at the “sins of commission.” This is about being where you ain’t supposed to be, doing what you ain’t supposed to be doing and rationalizing bad behavior in a way that even you don’t even it. Recognizing these faults and confessing them is a good thing. This forms the basis of an “examination of conscience.”
We can examine the “sins of omission.” This is when I avoid places where I can help, when I avoid virtuous acts that I could perform and not living out the beatitudes. Again, this is not a bad thing. This is a good thing. These thoughts make us uncomfortable and hit us with a sense of guilt. They push us to engage in virtuous actions. This could be college students going on a one-week mission trip or parishioners from St. Monica participating in “Helping Hands.”
But this might be too simplistic. Where does Jesus really want to “toss over tables” during this Lent?”
Jesus did not come to earth to smack people around, point fingers and make people feel bad about themselves. If this is your Jesus, it’s a trap. God does not say, “What I created… it’s good… no, maybe it’s not… oh, I’m just not sure.”
This is Satan’s table. This is the table God wants to toss over.
Here are two points to consider. First, God knows that we fall. Sin has constructed an infinite charism between God and us. God knows that. God know that, on our own, we cannot get to heaven. God knows that we need help.
Second, God created different people. God knows that different people need different levels of help.
In her book, A Treatise of Divine Providence, St. Catherine of Siena writes about God’s solution. She writes, “I told you that I wanted to have mercy on the whole world. So, I sent My Son to the world. By the union of his divine and human natures, He is the Bridge which reaches from earth to heaven. “
The Bridge is built on three sets of steps. The reason that there are three is that people are different. Different steps represent different people in different stages of spirituality. They see Jesus differently and they need different tools.
- There are people who are in “the imperfect state of the soul.” They are struggling with detachment from sin. Their help comes from the feet of Jesus. This phase is about hiking on the trail with the heavy backpack. When we get discouraged, we look next to us. The image that we see are the feet of Jesus, walking in front of us, leading us on. The power that he gives us is the power of memory. He says, look behind you. Look how much progress you’ve made! Remember those places in the past that you found so difficult? Wasn’t I there? Didn’t I help you? Am I not here – walking with you now. Take courage. Keep walking. You’re doing fine.
- There are people in the “perfect state of the soul.” They are people who are strengthening their practice of the virtues. This person asks, “What ought I to do?” I’ve been given charisms, time, goods. How should I steward them? The image of Jesus that we see in this case is the side of Jesus. He’s not walking in front. He’s standing next to us. His arm is around our shoulder. Here we’re talking about the powers of intellect. We’re trying to figure out what to do so that our actions conform to His actions.
- Finally, there are people who are in the “most perfect state of the soul.” The image we see here is the mouth of Jesus. It is the image of two lovers, in the same room, close to each other, experiencing a sweet and loving union, but with God. Here we’re talking about the powers of the will. We decide to do nothing, absolutely nothing! Jesus does it all. Jesus simply speaks our name, and his voice fills us with gladness, joy, contentment.
This week, here are some questions to ask yourself,
- “What does my Jesus look like?”
- Where am I on the “stairway to heaven” as described by St. Catherine?
- What did I hear that tugged at me where I said, “I’d really like to be there!”
- What is your prayer this week to move towards that place?
Audio version of the homily is here: