Friday, February 1, 2019

Invisible Realities

Editor's note: This is another great contribution from the one and only Holly Vaughan. You can follow her on Twitter here! 

Halfway through my third year studying theology I have noticed that there are a few key items that are going to come up in every liturgy class, every catechetics class, and every Sacraments class - attendance is low, Sacraments aren’t taken seriously, or people leave Mass early.  In every one of these particular classes I’ve been in at least one, and usually all, of these subjects come up. Considerable time is spent analyzing why this is the case, sometimes ideas are proposed that prove to be successful, and other times not. In recent months I’ve ran across a few things that lead toward, if not a resolution to these things, at least a reasonable explanation for them.

I recently read a new book that explains the difference of being a “fan” or a “follower” of Jesus in an incredibly relatable way. The consensus is that you can learn everything there is to learn about the faith, but if you are not living it and applying it to your life, it’s kind of all for naught. The whole point of learning about Jesus is to live more like Him. When we miss that point, and simply collect knowledge the way we would collect other objects, we miss the mark. Saint Maximilian Kolbe said: “When you kneel before an altar, do it in such a way that others may be able to recognize that you know before Whom you kneel." Everything we learn should lead us closer and closer to Christ, so  much that we should be living examples of discipleship. Not that we should be trying to be noticed for our holiness (Jesus had something to say about that) but it should be obvious to those in the Church around us that we know Whose Presence we are in.

I’ve also been closely following Father Harrison’s thoughts on Sacramentality, and how it is lacking today in the Church. There seems to be either a lack of knowledge or a lack of reverence for the fact that Jesus is truly present in the Sacraments. Our souls are physically changed - infused with grace - by our participation in the Sacraments, and not just in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source and summit, no doubt about that. We know, as Catholics, that we do not consume bread and wine during Communion - the bread and wine is no longer present in spite of what we see with our eyes.  We consume the physical Body and Blood of our Lord. What incredible grace comes from that.

Grace also comes in other ways through the Mass - such as the penitential rite at the beginning. When we pray the Confiteor and “Lord have mercy” our venial sins are forgiven. They are physically removed from our souls. We can’t see it, but it happens. At the end of Mass when the priest gives the blessing - which you miss if you leave after Communion! Stay! It’s important! 😊 -  he is performing a solemn act that calls upon and invokes the aid of God upon the people, that we may be strengthened to go forth, spread the Gospel and resist evil in our lives. The priest, by his authority to act in persona Christi, is bestowing Christ’s blessing on us. Again, so much grace comes into our souls. We can’t see it, but it’s there.

The same thing happens in the other Sacraments. Baptism literally washes the stain of original sin from our soul. It isn’t just a symbol; invisible realities are taking place in our very being. At Pentecost, after Peter had preached to the people they asked him what they should do. He said: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” He didn’t tell them to be baptized as simply a sign of their conversion, he said that Christ would forgive their sins. This speaks of a real and tangible, albeit invisible, reality. The same also rings true for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When the priest says the words of absolution we can not see the sins leaving our soul and an abundance of grace taking their place anymore than we can see the wind when it blows, but it’s every bit as real.

These invisible realities are present in every Sacrament, every encounter with our Lord. Living sacramentally means to intentionally acknowledge the presence of Jesus and to let Him work in you and through you to change your life and the lives of others. Things that we can’t see are happening all around us - every prayer you say makes a difference in the mystical Body of Christ. Every time you fast or offer something up, you are assisting the larger Body of Christ. More than one Saint has acknowledged that the invisible realities around us - both good and evil - are more real than the visible world that we can see and touch. As Catholics we are called to fight against evil in the world. This is ultimately a very real spiritual battle, which requires spiritual armor. We may not be able to see it, but it’s the strongest protection that exists - and it’s available at your nearest tabernacle.

A non-Catholic visitor to a  New York City Catholic Church is quoted as saying to the priest “If I believed what you believe - that Jesus is there in that little golden box - I would crawl in here on my hands and knees to worship Him. Yet your people walk out as if nothing special is here. Do they not believe?” Maybe it’s time we, as the Universal Church, pause and intentionally acknowledge the reality of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords physically in our midst, along with the seriousness of the words of Saint Luke in his Gospel: “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”

Saint Luke, ora pro nobis.

No comments:

Post a Comment