On St. Polycarp- Jesus and Me, Jesus and We

Christian faith is a deeply personal thing. At its heart is a personal relationship with a personal God. We’re unique, as is the story of our friendship with the Lord.

At the same time, Christian faith is more than “Jesus and me.” It’s also a matter of “Jesus and we.” Faith in Jesus involves our being joined with Jesus’ body- the Church. And that Church has particular beliefs about who Jesus is.

These days, however, it’s tempting to think: “I’ll believe about Jesus what I want to believe. You can have your beliefs, and I’ll have mine.” That seems like such an inclusive and reasonable approach. Unfortunately, it leads many to have a “mistaken identity” about Jesus. And that’s not good, because to see the face of Jesus properly is to see the face of God himself.

Confusion about Jesus’ identity is nothing new. It was certainly true of the earliest centuries of the Church, when beliefs about Jesus were being ironed out. Those involved appreciated how critical that process was. One opinion was not considered as good as another. Some were correct, others were not.

St. Polycarp, a second century bishop, found himself in the midst of those debates. He was a gentle and kind man. His teaching about Jesus, however, was uncompromising. St. Ignatius challenged him to be “firm as an anvil under a hammer” about those beliefs. St. Polycarp took that advice. He ultimately died for it.

As St. Polycarp’s witness reminds us, our personal faith in Jesus, and what the Church says is true about Jesus, are meant to go hand-in-hand. After all, as Jesus himself taught- only the truth will set us free.

Readings for today’s Mass: http://www.usccb.org/nab/022311.shtml