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Yucky, or Just Plain Earthly?

By Father J.D. Zatalava ©Catholic Online 2005

Which, dear reader, do you think at the gut level is the defining difference between Protestants and Catholics? Is it the Sola Scriptura issue? How about that Transubstantiation thing? May be the Mary matter? What about Papal supremacy?

Personally, I think Sunday's Gospel uncovered the defining difference. It's the yuck factor, a.k.a. the Incarnation. Spittle, dirt, mud, skin to skin contact ... yuck, indeed!

Prissy Protestants just can't get comfortable with the notion that an aristocratic God really and truly gets down to the messiness of our plebian existence. Cruddy Catholics, on the other hand, obsess over the fact that Jesus makes his real Presence really present in yucky things like bread and wine (Eucharist), water, (Baptism), skin, (Holy Orders), sperms and ovums (Matrimony), sin (Reconciliation), rubbing oils (Confirmation and Anointing of the Sick). Yes, we Catholics love our seven earthly and earthy Sacraments.

What is a Sacrament? CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE. Below is the absolute best and most concise answer given in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1210: Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law. There are seven: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The seven sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life: they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian's life of faith. There is thus a certain resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life.

What's the first thing you notice when you walk into a Protestant church? A large sterile (empty) cross dominates the worship space, right? Inside most Catholic Church buildings the first thing to catch your eye is a large crucifix; a cross with a pretty gross battered and bloody, nearly naked body hanging on it. This infamous gibbet is usually hanging over the Altar of Sacrifice.

The Protestant statement seems to be that Jesus has risen above and beyond the yucky human condition. The Catholic statement very definitely is that Jesus has dragged all that human debris into a sharing of the Divine life of God Himself.

A little over a year ago I found myself being berated by a Fundamentalist Preacher friend for our (all Catholics) failure to get on the band wagon in a big way for Mel Gibson's movie about the Passion. The Minister made the claim that no experience in his lifetime had made Jesus so "present" to him. I honestly tried to resist the temptation, but I couldn't. I said to him, "Why don't you come to Mass tomorrow morning and I'll usher you into His Real Presence, not some theatrical celluloid apparition."

He remained silent.

I went on. I explained the Biblically based Sorrowful Mysteries. I explained Stations of the Cross. I explained Good Friday Services. I explained Holy Land pilgrimages. I even explained the Crusades. I explained all about Fasting and Abstaining. I explained about celibacy and Natural Family Planning.

Catholics are very much in touch with every aspect of their humanity. That's why they not only believe in, but actually acknowledge the real need for the wonderful Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession).

The Incarnation. That's what it's all about. That's what Lent is all about. That's what Easter is all about. That's what our Christian life is all about. Saint Paul says it best in Philippians 2:5.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross.

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