St Catherine lived a deep and intimate relationship with Jesus; an intimacy that is frequently expressed in such pictures as Catherine and Jesus walking along with their heads together talking, or their exchange of hearts. Catherine was also fully aware that such intimacy was utterly vital for the Christian life. In her “Dialogue” we hear God the Father saying:

(Chap. 23) I am the gardener, then, who planted the vine of my only-begotten Son in the earth of your humanity so that you, the branches, could be joined to the vine and bear fruit. … joined and engrafted to this vine … you will produce much fruit, because you share the vital sap of the vine. And being in the Word, my Son, you will be in me, for I am one with him and he with me. If you are in him you will follow his teaching, and if you follow his teaching you will share in the very being of this Word – that is, you will share in the eternal Godhead made one with humanity, whence you will draw that divine love which inebriates the soul. All this I mean when I say that you will share in the very substance of the vine.

This intimacy grows through Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) – spending time with the Lord, listening to His words and watching Him in action in the text of the Gospels. As this passage from the dialogue says, Christ lives more fully in us to the extent that we follow His teaching; but we will not follow His teaching unless we are familiar with it, unless we allow His words to “abide” in us (Jn 15:7). It seems very appropriate that we should remind ourselves of this necessity to become intimate with Christ through the Scriptures today, being the Feast Day of St Mark the Evangelist (something I hadn’t registered when I initially prepared this reflection).

This building of intimacy with Christ and familiarity with His words is particularly important at the present time, with people claiming that the Church’s teaching about ‘X’ or ‘Y’ is wrong and that ‘Jesus would not (or did not) teach that ‘X’ or ‘Y’ is a sin’ – such claims can often be people turning “their own ideals and indignations into an image that they call Christ,”[1]rather than Christ’s own teaching, and only familiarity with His Word equips us to recognise that.

[1] Sheed, F. Christ in Eclipse. (London: Sheed & Ward, 1978), p. 25.