The Incredibles

With God, we are able to do some incredible things. We know this… but I’m not entirely sure we BELIEVE it. Our saints, those who have lived in union with God, are basically like a holy version of the X-Men. They’ve defeated demons. They’ve healed the sick. They’ve bi-located. They’ve even brought the dead back to life. When I say that we can do some pretty incredible things with God, I mean it!

This Sunday, we heard about Peter walking on the water. That’s pretty incredible (if you don’t think so, go try it). He was able to do this as long as he trusted God. The second he doubted, he began to sink. More importantly than him sinking though, is the fact that he actually walked on water. He did something incredible because he trusted Jesus (even if only for a moment).

To trust is to have the theological virtue of hope. Faith is belief in God, but hope is to trust in His plan. Jesus has called each of us out onto the water. He has called us to trust Him. If we do, we can do incredible things. If we don’t, we’ll sink. Luckily for us, if we sink, He’s there to catch us.

The Mountaintop

We all love retreats. Why? Because we feel closer to God. He reveals Himself to us in grand ways, but He never reveals more of Himself to us than He does in the Mass. The Mass is the true mountaintop experience for Catholics—it’s the Source and the Summit of our faith. It’s the peak.

Yesterday, we read that Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a mountain and was revealed to them in all of His heavenly glory. He does the same for us at every Mass. A seemingly ordinary piece of bread is totally changed, through the process of transubstantiation, into Jesus right in front of us. Then, we get to receive Him into our own bodies. On earth, we will never be closer to Heaven than in the moments where we are at Mass.

After Mass though, we come down from the mountain, but we leave empowered. What we do after Mass matters. We received an incredible gift, and we witnessed our incredible God right before our eyes. This should change us. If it doesn’t, it means we don’t understand Who we receive in the Eucharist. It should empower us to go out and share that mountaintop experience… and bring others to the peak with us.

The Treasure

We spend our lives doing everything we can to accumulate treasure. We have to do well in school, so we can get into a good college, so we can get a good job, so we can have a nice house and a nice car. Then we work hard to get a nicer car and a nicer house… and put nice things into it. We work hard to get the newest and best iPhone—maybe even an Apple Watch. But do we work that hard to get into Heaven?

Heaven is everything. That’s the goal. It is eternity with God. The alternative is eternity separated from Him. We often think that Hell is a myth or that our loving God would never send people there. In a way, He doesn’t. We choose it. We choose it by what we value. We choose it when we value people or stuff more than we value God. In the Gospel this weekend, Jesus was very clear: “The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

There aren’t any luggage racks on hearses. Earthly treasure pales in comparison to what God has in store for us.

The Distractions

In second grade, my classroom windows faced the parking lot. We had this school carnival every year, and as soon as the trucks with all the rides started rolling in, my teacher lost me (we didn’t find out I had ADD until much later). She said I spent the entire week staring out the window.

Second grade me is a lot like Mass me. I step into church with the best intentions, and by the second reading (if I’m lucky), I’m staring out the window or looking around the church. I’ve learned how to refocus myself, but I never fail to get distracted.

As Catholics, we have a pretty bad reputation for our knowledge of the Bible… yet, we read from it at every single Mass. Most of us are either distracted, ill-prepared, or only listening for that “what does this have to do with me?” moment (which is why many people base the quality of a Mass on the homily). Rather than take God’s Word to heart, our minds are elsewhere.

This Sunday, don’t be distracted. Instead, actually listen to God’s Word. Prepare by looking over the readings before. Don’t just hear the readings, but actively listen. Let God speak to you.

The Believers

Have you ever watched “The Santa Clause”? Essentially, all of the adults in the movie stop believing in Santa—not because he doesn’t exist but because they start overthinking things and get upset because he didn’t give them something they wanted. If we were to poll atheists, I bet most of them became atheists for the same reasons—at some point, God either didn’t answer their prayers the way the wanted Him to, or they started overthinking things.

Jesus tells us in the Gospel that there are things hidden to the “wise and learned” but that have been revealed to children. Children just believe on faith. They don’t have to see things to KNOW that they are true. We say that we believe in God, but we question Him. We place conditions on our belief and our love for Him. We even bargain and say that we’ll believe if He just answers this prayer. Or we believe, but not in THAT teaching.

Coming to God like a child means loving and believing in Him for who He is. We don’t need all of the answers. We don’t need Him to perform a miracle. We just need Him to be who He is—God, not Santa. That should be enough.

The Surrender

There’s this button on Google’s home page that says, “I’m feeling lucky.” If you search for something and hit that instead of the actual search button, Google takes you to a site of their choosing based on your search (probably a good idea to be careful with this feature if you decide to play around). Back in the day (like five years ago), you could type in “French military victories,” and it would take you to a page that looked like a Google results page that said, “No results found. Did you mean French military defeats?” It was funny because of the perception that the French lost a lot of wars and did a lot of surrendering.

Here in ‘merica, we’re not about that surrender life. Yet, as we reflect on our Gospel from yesterday, and the independence from Britain that we celebrate tomorrow, we can’t forget where our allegiance should lie. The red, white, and blue are awesome, but we first must pledge our allegiance to God. We need surrender to Him and to His plans. There is grace in this surrender. It is us saying, “God, You are in control of our life.” Let’s never forget that our King comes first.

The Secret

When we were kids, it was well known in my family that NO ONE could trust my brother with a secret. If we were planning a surprise party for someone, it would also have to be a surprise for him because once he knew, he couldn’t keep it in. He would just get so excited that he would just blurt it out!

When we’re excited about something, our natural inclination is to just tell everyone. “Hey, have you seen ‘Wonder Woman’ yet? No? What?! Well.. you need to!” “Did you hear that Twenty-One Pilots has a concert coming up? You better get tickets!” Yet, the one thing that should make us the most excited—our faith—we typically hide from the world and keep secret. Maybe we’re afraid of what our friends might think and being judged.

Our faith and relationship with God should be more evident to those around us than what movie or band we like at the moment. We walk around in concert tees at school and only throw on “Jesus” shirts on Sundays. Our faith shouldn’t be lived and proclaimed only one day each week. It shouldn’t be a secret. We’re supposed to live it and proclaim it EVERY day!

The Body of Christ

As Catholics, we believe something that no other religion nor any other Christian denomination believes: the Eucharist is 100% the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s not part bread, part Jesus. It’s not a symbol. It IS Jesus. We believe in transubstantiation—the process by which the bread becomes fully and totally Jesus.

It’s not something that’s easy to grasp. Most of us are more like St. Thomas than we care to admit. We need to see to believe, so it’s really hard to believe that something that neither looks, feels, nor tastes like Jesus is in fact Jesus. “As a result of [this teaching], many of His former disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him” (John 6:66). His own disciples even struggled with this and abandoned Him.

As Catholics, we have persisted because unlike those disciples and our Protestant brothers and sisters, we take Jesus at His word regarding this teaching. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (John 6:54-55). Without the Eucharist, we do not have life in us. We are starving.

The Spirit

God is pretty awesome. He’s three persons in one—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It’s a great mystery and doesn’t always make sense (kinda like how Jesus is 100% man AND 100% God or how the Eucharist is the Body, Bloody, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus yet looks nothing like Him). God works outside of what we typically think of as reality because, even though He is totally real, He operates beyond our comprehension. The Trinity (Father/Son/Holy Spirit) is difficult for many people to understand.

God, refers to all three Persons, but sometimes we forget about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples like tongues of fire at Pentecost. But perhaps we don’t understand the Spirit because it is in the Church where we get to know the Spirit. Maybe we either aren’t attending Mass every Sunday… and maybe we should even be there for daily Mass!

The Holy Spirit does a lot: He inspired Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium (teaching body of the Church). He also intercedes for us in prayer. When we forget about the Holy Spirit, we forget about one third of our Trinitarian God. So pray with me: Come Holy Spirit!

The Absence

Think for a moment about the worst time or experience of your life. When you were in the middle of it, were you still able to see God working? Were you able to recognize the miracles that He was performing? Or did it feel like He was absent in the situation? It’s pretty easy for people to think God is absent in times like these… or even worse, that He caused it or somehow just didn’t care about you.

On Sunday, we celebrated the Ascension of Our Lord (Jesus leaving earth in His incarnate form). Yet, even though He left, He did not abandon us. He gave us a mission, and He left us the Holy Spirit and His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. It seemed like our God had left, but in reality He had strengthened us!

When we feel like He has abandoned us in moments of suffering, we have to understand that He is just as present as always, and He alone is our strength. Bad things happen because sin entered this world with Adam and Eve—not because of God. The presence of bad does not mean the absence of good. The disciples were not left alone and neither are we. Not now. Not ever.