How often do you or I take for granted the treasures of our Christian tradition, especially Scripture? Jesus asserts a simple truth that ought to guide our days and our deeds when He says to the disciples, "Not everyone who says to Me 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Mt. 7:21). As Christians, we need to remember our dignity, knowing that we share in God's own nature and in doing so, reject our sinful ways. Remembering our own dignity means that we must not squander it as we pursue fashions or friends.
Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Irenaeus, the great second century Father of the Catholic Church. Unity and peace in the Church were the goals of St. Irenaeus, who lived from the year 130AD to 202AD. He was the priest and bishop of Lyons, France, and a martyr for the love of Jesus Christ and our Faith.
Irenaeus is an important witness to Apostolic succession in that he knew the greatest churches founded by the Apostles. In addition, he compiled a list of the bishops of those areas located in Asia Minor and in Rome. Born and educated in Smyrna - now Turkey - he is an important link with the Apostles through St. Polycarp, who was a disciple of St. John.
In addition to his anti-heretical writings and his simple, clear explanations of the doctrines of the Church, he is a valuable servant of the Faith through his witness to the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, the See of Peter. He insists that one must defer to it as the center of doctrinal unity and sees it as a great symbol of this unity!
He emphasized the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, demonstrating that the "God of the Old Testament" and the "God of the New Testament" is One and the same true God. He also defends the fact that there are four and only four Gospels by pointing out the many examples of the "four" in nature, such as the four winds, and the four covenants (Noah, Abraham, Sinai, and the Gospel). However, he relies more on the description of the four living creatures in Ezekiel 1 (see Adversus Haereses 3.11.8). The faces of these four living creatures - man, lion, ox, and eagle - eventually become symbols of the four Gospels.
As we reflect upon St. Irenaeus' life today, may we value his testimony to the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, for he is a major link in the history of Eucharistic theology. He clearly teaches that the Mass is the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ represented by the sacramental signs of bread and wine. All his writings touch all major areas of theology - Christology, Mariology, and the theology of the Church, which encapsulate the key point of why Jesus became man. That is, to reveal that there will be life after death.
Today in prayer, we ask for Irenaeus's intercession that, "being renewed in faith and charity, we may always be intent on fostering unity and concord" (Collect from today's Mass). And from the Gospel Acclamation, "Whoever loves Me will keep My Word, and My Father will love him and We will come to him" (Jn. 14:23).