Jesus: Our Starting Point
Father Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.
Catholic starts with Jesus Christ. In fact, everything begins with Christ.
Jesus is the "the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last,
the beginning and the end" (Revelation 22:13). He is "the firstborn of all creation"
(Colossians 1:15). He is the "Word through whom [God] made the universe" (Preface,
Eucharistic Prayer II). Everything starts with Jesus.
I wasn't around the day before the first day of creation, but
from my human perspective I can imagine things happened something like this:
God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—was sitting at the breakfast table when God
the Father said, "Being God is wonderful but, you know, eternity can sure get
boring." The Son replied, "So, let's do something different. Let's create!"
"What's —create'?" asked the Spirit. "It's —to make something out of nothing,'"
said the Son. The Father asked, "Can we do that?" "Sure," said the Spirit, "we're
God, aren't we?" The Father said, "O.K., what shall we make?"
And (this is the crucial point) what did God make? Jesus Christ—the
beginning of all that is, the firstborn of all creation, the Word through whom
God made everything else that exists.
If you are not accustomed to thinking of Jesus in this way, perhaps
an analogy will help. Forty years ago when I was teaching at the Franciscan
high school seminary in Cincinnati, one of the hobbies popular among the young
students was making model airplanes. On long winter evenings the hobby shop
would be crowded with boys gluing together various sizes and shapes of balsa
wood pinned to the diagrams on the table before them.
When asked, "What are you making?" the seminarians never said,
"I am gluing piece A7 to H5." They would always respond, "I'm making a P-51
Mustang" or "I'm making a B-25 Mitchell." From the very beginning of the project,
their mind's eye was on the finished project. Similarly, if you asked God at
the very beginning of creation, "What are you making?" God would have responded:
"We're making Jesus Christ."
Jesus Christ is God's masterpiece. God, who is Love itself (1
John 4:8), created Jesus Christ out of love. And Jesus Christ returned perfect
love to God. We can see this in everything Jesus said and did while walking
among us here on earth. We see this most clearly in Jesus humbling himself,
"becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8). And on
the cross "he handed over the spirit" (John 19:30) to the Church so that we
who are baptized into Christ put on Christ and become his body. We are taken
up into the Christus totus (the whole Christ) to use a favorite expression
of Pope John Paul II's.
At Mass we ask God to grant "that we, who are nourished by [Christ's]
body and blood, may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one
spirit in Christ." Our incorporation into Christ is the principal petition at
every Eucharist. We pray that we (in the words of St. Augustine) "be what we
see on the altar and receive what we are—Christ's Body" (Sermon 272). Through
Christ, in him and with him, our lives have meaning. We live for more than ourselves.
We are taken up into that great and mysterious plan of God that is Jesus Christ.
And what is our role in God's great plan? We see our vocation
as a mission of reconciliation. While God has definitively reconciled all things
in Christ, "making peace by the blood of his cross" (Colossians 1:20), with
our incorporation into Christ God has "given us the ministry of reconciliation"
(2 Corinthians. 5:18). We are to free creation from slavery by working to improve
the quality of life for all, to alleviate hunger and disease, injustice and
And while this task may appear so large and complicated that it
may seem impossible, we Catholics know that it is possible. In fact,
we are certain that it will be achieved because it is God's plan. This is what
gives us our inherent optimism—another mark of Catholic identity. We Catholics
are optimistic because we know that grace is more original than sin. God's great
plan of love did not start with Adam and Eve, or the apple, or the snake, but
with Jesus. Everything starts with Jesus.
Father Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., S.T.D., has a doctorate
in liturgy and sacramental theology from the Institut Catholique
of Paris. A popular writer and lecturer, he teaches courses
on the sacraments at Saint Meinrad (Indiana) School of Theology.
His latest book is The
Sacraments: How Catholics Pray (St. Anthony Messenger
Next: The Catholic Community
How does the statement,"Everything starts with Jesus," alter your worldview?
Have you ever been part of a community that experienced being "one body, one spirit in Christ"? Share the experience.
Is the Way
By Judith Dunlap
of my favorite Scripture passages about Jesus is from John's Gospel. Jesus tells
his disciple, "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6). It is a
powerful summation of all that Jesus is. Each word holds so much meaning and
significance. Consider the statement, "Jesus is the way."
Jesus is the Way to find out who God is. Jesus was God
in person. When he spoke and acted, it was God speaking and acting. If you want
to find out about God, find out about Jesus.
Jesus is the Way to the Kingdom. The Kingdom is not just
something in the future. It has been with us since the beginning of time, most
decisively in the person of Jesus. The Kingdom is also now, wherever we see
someone acting in Jesus' healing love, offering reconciliation or working for
peace and justice.
Jesus is the Way to all that is true and all that gives life.
Make Jesus a reality for your children. Let them hear you talk about him as
if he were a member of your family. Let them know that he is their champion
and that his love for them will never end. But also make sure they understand
that they share Jesus' mission and they are called to champion others. They
are asked to share Jesus' love in very practical ways with everyone they encounter,
especially those in most need. Help them understand that they are called to
be the way for others—the way to find the Kingdom, the way for others to find
out who God is.
Jesus is the Way Maker. Let your children know that Jesus
will clear the way for them. With his help, no matter the obstacles, nothing
can stop them from finding his love and sharing that love with others.
As you gather around the dinner table to share a special meal, read the words from John 14:6. Ask each family member to finish this sentence: "Jesus is the way...."
How do you define the American Dream? This is the question raised
by In America, which opens with an Irish couple and their two little
girls entering New York City to the soundtrack of "Do You Believe in Magic?"
The whole family is in awe of the movement and color and size of this city where
they have come to start over following the death of their youngest member, two-year-old
For them it is an adventure, which they face with great optimism,
despite their lack of legal status and money. The only place they can find to
live is a tenement that serves as a haven for drug addicts. As they first inspect
the ramshackle penthouse with a broken skylight, the irrepressible 6-year-old
Ariel (Emma Bolger) dashes about and pleads, "Can we keep the pigeons, Daddy?"
The story is largely seen through the eyes of 11-year-old Christy
(Sarah Bolger), who records their life on a cheap camcorder. She feels she is
ultimately responsible for the family, counting on three wishes she believes
she will be granted by her dead brother. Frankie is the hidden character in
the story, a child whose death has set in motion the parents' search for a new
life and whose unseen presence is key.
The American Dream is redefined in this movie. Here the dream
achieved is not material success, but riches of hope and family, of keeping
going in adversity—and of love.
Christy's father, Johnny (Paddy Considine), is an actor who auditions
endlessly without success. Her mother, Sarah (Samantha Morton), takes a job
as a waitress, and the girls start school. Johnny takes to driving a cab. And
soon Ariel complains that she has no one to play with. In an attempt to keep
the family happily together, Johnny almost blows everything they have at a carnival.
But what truly challenges family unity is that Sarah is now facing a difficult
Sparked by Ariel's absolute trust and optimism that makes everyone
a friend, she and her sister are soon looked after by everybody in the seedy
neighborhood. Two floors below the family lives a reclusive man who acts out
by screaming but who comes to play a key role in their lives.
He has painted "STAY AWAY" in giant letters on his door. But the
ever-friendly girls insist on knocking at the "screamer's" door for a Halloween
trick-or-treat, and discover Mateo (Djimon Hounsou), a threatening giant of
a man, whose anger melts and who becomes their friend, much to the nervous dismay
of their father.
The family's relationship to Mateo, who as it happens is dying
of AIDS, turns out to be a lesson in the importance of opening oneself to others.
Johnny, gregarious as he is, has been blocking his feelings by refusing to accept
the death of his son. The real magic, as each family member realizes in the
end, is not in make-believe, but in accepting the world the way it is with honesty
What values do you find in this film?
AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball
Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto
know so little about them, but their brief lives and their amazing story are
riveting. What better way to describe the young shepherd children to whom the
Mother of God appeared six times 87 years ago near Fatima, Portugal? Since then,
the name of Fatima has become synonymous with devotion to Mary.
And all because of three simple, uneducated children who captivated
the world with their reports of a lady bathed in white who appeared to them
on the 13th of the month from May through October 1917. Within two years, two
of those children—Blessed Jacinta and her brother Francisco Marto—were dead,
the victims of influenza. Lucia, their cousin and the third "seer" (as the children
were often called), a Carmelite nun, turns 97 next month.
The lady's message to the children was profound and powerful:
Pray the rosary so that the world may see an end to war. Pray for sinners. Pray
for the conversion of Russia (which had just fallen to Communism). She also
urged them to honor her Immaculate Heart.
Why would God, through Mary, choose young children—children accustomed
to tending sheep and playing in the fields by day—to convey a message meant
for the ears of the world? How could they do justice to her words? Would the
children even have credibility?
Perhaps the question is: Why wouldn't God, through Mary,
choose young children? Francisco was almost nine; Jacinta was seven; Lucia was
10. Each heard Mary's urgent pleas. All three displayed a love, wisdom and spiritual
depth far beyond their years. Pope John Paul II beatified Jacinta and Francisco
in 2000. Their feast day is February 20.
who has visited the shrine at Fatima 14 times in nine years is...well...drawn
to be there. Or is it called?
To be at Fatima, says Matthew Kelly, 30, is to feel "rejuvenated,
more focused, more grounded." Each visit to the shrine, he notes, is a sacred,
soulful, transformative experience.
It's also one the Australian-born writer and speaker on spirituality
seeks to share with others. Each year, the Matthew Kelly Foundation, based in
Cincinnati, Ohio, hosts a retreat to the world-famous shrine where participants
join millions who have gathered to express their devotion to Mary. "It's a pilgrimage
retreat," Matthew told Every Day Catholic, "not an on-and-off-the-bus
trip." Prayer, Bible study, daily Mass and workshops make up the heart of the
day. (This year's pilgrimage runs August 3-11.)
"In our age," says Matthew, "there is phenomenal skepticism about
anything that can't be scientifically proven." But, he maintains, it's an undeniable
fact that the shepherd children "had an experience of a supernatural phenomenon"
in 1917. The message of Fatima—return to a life of prayer, make it the center
of your life—is as central today as it was 87 years ago.
Pope John Paul II certainly reinforced that when he credited Our
Lady of Fatima with saving him during the attempt on his life on May 13, 1981—the
64th anniversary of Mary's first apparition to the three children.
Despite his own faith in Fatima, Matthew does not try to win over
skeptics. "Fatima is not for everyone. It's not necessary for salvation. You
can make the journey without it. But if you do," he says, "you miss out on a