Wednesday, December 9, 2015

This Angler's Bait: 1660 Years Later

Wednesday greetings on an unusually warm December morning here in Chicago.

For the past several days, I have been re-reading St. Cyril of Jerusalem's Lectures on the Christian Sacraments, which he wrote in the middle of the Fourth Century. Think about that. That's over 1660 years ago.

Surely, pastoral realities are much different today than they were then, right? In my conversations with RCIA ministers throughout the United States and Canada, I find some ministers frustrated with the reasons why many people come into the RCIA process. And studies bear this out as well. Many come because they are marrying a Catholic. I know some RCIA ministers who think that motivation is not a good one, since conversion doesn't seem to be at the core of the decision to follow Christ. My response has always been, "Grace builds on nature. Let God do God's work in that person's heart, despite what you think about their motivation."

In a catechetical session addressed to catechumens who were entering their final period of preparation for the sacraments, St. Cyril discusses the reasons why people came to the Church seeking the initiation sacraments. Remember, over 1660 years ago!

"Perhaps thou comest on another ground. A man may be wishing to pay court to a woman, and on that account come hither: and the same applies to women likewise: again, a slave often wishes to please his master, or one friend another. I avail myself of this angler's bait, and receive thee, as one who has come indeed with unsound purpose, but art saved by a good hope. Thou knowest not perchance whither thou wast coming, nor what net was taking thee. Thou art within the Church's nets, submit to be taken; flee not, for Jesus would secure thee, not to make thee die, but by death to make thee live. For thou must die and rise again; thou hast heard the Apostle saying, Dead indeed to sin, but alive unto righteousness. Die then to thy sins, and live to righteousness: yea, from this day forth, live."

Sure, a few things are different 1660 years later (e.g. the end of slavery). But it would seem that Cyril's words ring true today, don't you think?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

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