Feast of St Irenaeus
Amos 3:1-8, 4:11-12
Gospel: Matthew 8:23-27
St Irenaeus was a great fighter against one of the earliest Christian heresies, Gnosticism, that Pope Francis reminds us this still so dangerous today when our church is so divided by those who thinks they are the perfect Catholics and everyone else has ‘lost the plot”.
These ‘real’ Catholics, Pope Francis says, believe they are better than everyone else, that only they are really Catholics, not because they spend their lives in love and service, but because they keep themselves above everyone else, and judge everyone else, and think “if only everyone else could be ‘perfect’ Catholics like us”.
St Irenaeus and Pope Francis – and Jesus – believe that real faith is ordinary people trying to live lives of love, kindness, compassion and care. Real faith, as today’s gospel tell us, is like being in the boat, out in the storms, calling on Jesus to help us get through the waves, while holding on to each other for dear life. Real Catholics don’t sit on the shore, safe and apart, judging everyone else for not being as good as they are. Being there with others when they are getting swamped, helping each other in the messiness of life, well, Pope Francis says, that is not just what being catholic is all about. That’s what it means to be truly human, to be really ‘alive’. As St Irenaeus famously said, what gives God glory is seeing us fully alive.
Pope Francis is so concerned about this, that this year he declared St Irenaeus, who lived almost 2000 years ago, a “Doctor of the Church” for today. With the Plenary Council for our Australian Church starting next week, today’s feast reminds us of the sort of church Jesus wants us to be. A Church truly catholic because it is really human, far from perfect but trying to be better. A Church that gets through the storms not by being perfect but by clinging onto Christ.
“May the Passion of Jesus Christ be always in our hearts.”
Fr Tom McDonough is the current provincial superior of Holy Spirit province.