On October 11th, last Sunday, Pope Francis beatified a new saint, an Italian teenager, Carlo Acutis, who died of leukemia in 2006 at age 15. Blessed Carlo was just a normal teen who loved soccer, but really loved computers. He loved his PlayStation, making videos, had a cellphone and an e-mail address and embraced the web and the internet. Just a modern, ordinary kid.
Carlo attended Mass daily, they say, from the time of his First Holy Communion, at age 7. He fell in love with the Eucharist. He fell in love with computers and began studying computers, graphic design and programming around the age of 9. He created a website to catalog Eucharistic miracles. Carlo learned self control, and would self-limit his time on the computer and other activities to keep them from taking control of his life. He is called the patron saint of the Internet, for the good use he found in it.
He performed many good works for the less fortunate, and brought many to the Catholic faith, including his own mother. Carlo said of the Eucharist, “the more Eucharist we receive, the more we will become like Jesus, so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of heaven”.
Saint Paul, in the second reading today, told the Thesalonians,
For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, ….
So, what exactly does the word “gospel” mean? When St. Paul wrote this letter, no books of the Gospel existed yet. The earliest Christian writings didn’t yet exist. The scriptures were being written, like this letter. The New Testament would not come to be known and recognized for probably another century or more. And yet, here is Paul writing about the “gospel”. He wasn’t talking about a book.
Paul was referring to Blessed Carlo Acutis, and the other 10,000 or so Saints in Christian tradition, of whom Paul is one.
The gospel did not come to us in word alone, but through the Holy Spirit. One of the great distortions that we have inherited comes via Protestant teaching of “Sola Scritura” or only scripture. Martin Luther and John Calvin, the primary Protestant theologians taught that if it couldn’t be found in the Bible, then it wasn’t from God and wasn’t real. “Sola Scritura”, or the idea that God only communicated with us in Sacred Scripture is seriously in error.
God communicates to us in many, many ways, like the Sacraments, or in His Saints, as well as in His Word.
Remember that this teaching on Sola Scritura, and all Protestant teaching is only 500 years old, unlike our sacramental tradition which the Church received from Jesus and has passed on for 2000 years. Over the last 500 years, the Protestant theologians have done away with all teaching of sacraments, with the exception of, perhaps, Baptism. Only in the last 100 years did the Protestant churches cease to teach marriage as a sacrament, and embrace divorce, adapting to modern worldly opinion. They did away with the concept of saints and heavenly intercessors, as they did away with Eucharist and Priesthood and Confession.
But Jesus taught that he would never leave the Church. He gave us the Sacraments and the Sacramental life to allow us to have continuous contact with him. He lives with us in his sacraments and his saints. Carlo Acutis knew this and taught it, as have many saints, like St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, to whom Jesus revealed himself in His Sacred Heart, and encouraged her to receive his body and blood frequently. These appearances to her happened after the Protestant Revolt.
In the Gospel about paying tax to Caesar, the Pharisees are attempting to trap Jesus, putting him between the Roman authorities and the Temple authorities.
… Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
They thought they had him trapped. If he spoke against paying Roman taxes, he would be arrested by the Romans as an insurrectionist. If he taught them to pay the tax to the Romans, he would be condemned by the Pharisees and Temple authorities of being a pagan, because Caesar was considered a pagan God, the son of god. Trap.
But then Jesus turned everything upside down for them, saying,
“Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”
Then they handed him the Roman coin.
He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”
They replied, “Caesar’s.”
At that he said to them,
“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”
Jewish scripture taught that there was only one God, and that God made man in his image and likeness.
Jesus had them in a trap. Whose “image” were they? And they couldn’t answer. They were caught in their own trap.
You, me, Blessed Carlo Acutis, … we are the gospel that St. Paul was talking about. We repay to God what belongs to God.