Thursday, August 27, 2015

We are Being Watched

Dear Theophilous,

I always liked the aliens on The Simpsons. The drooling one-eyed monsters with glass bubble helmets that continually laugh at humanity’s ineptitude. Can you blame them for laughing; they’re watching Homer Simpson after all.

This gives me to wonder, though, if they were watching me, what would they see?

If I were being observed by Martians, what would they hear me say? What would my day-to-day actions tell these extra-terrestrials about who I am and what I believe? If an outsider’s only glimpse of my life was during Sunday Mass, would they know I was in the presence of the most sacred; the Real Presence?

Believe it or not, this notion is not as far fetched as it may seem. It may not be aliens, but we are being watched. As Catholics, and more so as practicing Catholics, we are held to a higher standard; and much of the world is watching, either waiting for us to trip up, or, more hopefully, waiting and wanting to follow our lead.

This was made very evident to me at the Easer Vigil this year. Since I had helped out a couple of times with the RCIA classes, I was fortunate enough to get to know the catechumens entering the Church. I was flattered when one of them asked me to stand in for his absent sponsor, but I was even more floored by the comments another catechumen made to me at the reception afterwards. I was told that although this new friend had learned a lot about the faith from our conversations, it was from watching me at Mass that he had learned about the sacred.

It was then that I realized that it wasn’t in talking about Christ that we lead others to Him (though it can help); it’s by being a witness to His love and loving Him back. A deep genuflect entering the pew, saying a prayerful hello. A deep bow of reverence before receiving Communion. Taking time with a reading to pronounce the Word of God, not just racing through. Adoring Christ in the Tabernacle as though my life depended on it, because it does.

Other little encounters have reminded me that this reverence of the sacred, witnessing my life in Christ, goes beyond Mass.

Recently at the pharmacy the cashier commented, “Don’t I know you from 9am Mass?” After I explained that 9am on Sunday morning was way too early for my family to get to Mass, we exchanged a quick yet pleasant conversation. Imagine the image I would have given her as an involved-Catholic (lector and extra-ordinary minister of the Eucharist), had I been grumpy, surly or if my purchase had been less than moral.

On another occasion I met up with a young dad at the park. I could tell this guy was looking for his kids and their home-daycare group. I asked who he was looking for, realized they were the kids that my son and I had just asked to join our soccer game the other day. Knowing the boys’ sitter, I directed him to another neighbourhood park where I knew they would be playing. Once more there was the conversation on recognition from Church, and once more I realized the importance of having taken the time to include these kids in our game and to help another dad out.

It may not be aliens, dear Theophilous, but we are being watched. Whether it’s at Mass, at the store or at the park, others are watching to see what we treat as sacred, waiting and wanting to follow us to Christ. Since we are the Body of Christ, a high standard has been set for us in Christ, a high standard that we have been called to live up to, a high standard we can help others to achieve through our witness.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Numbers and the Bread of Life Discourse

Dear Theophilous,

I’m not someone who superstitiously puts a lot of faith in numbers. I don’t play the lottery. I won’t go out of my way to avoid the number 13. I don’t really have a favourite or lucky number (although throughout my entire recreational athletic career I have worn the number 7, that’s due more to the fact that when selecting my first ever hockey jersey I chose the sweater with the captain’s C on the front in a moment of 6-year-old vainglory). It’s just that I feel life is too short to spend my time worrying about how the numbers in my life will affect how my day plays out.

All this being said, I do love finding symmetry and patterns in the world around me; something that usually involves number games. One of my favourite number games is to find numerical links throughout Holy Scripture. A few of which (both obvious and obscure) include:


The Holy Trinity
The number of persons involved in Original Sin
The number of times God called Samuel
The number of persons involved in the Transfiguration
The number of angelic visits during the Nativity story


Tribes of Isreal
Elect for Paradise (12x12=144x1,000=144,000)


Years the Israelites wandered in the desert
Days that Elijah spent on his journey
Days Christ spent in the desert
Days between the Resurrection and the Ascension

This list is very incomplete. I’m sure there are biblical scholars that have spent their careers looking at these numbers, interpreting them, commenting on them and sharing the wisdom these numbers impart.

As we work our way through the Bread of Life Discourse (Year B – Weeks 17-21 of Ordinary Time), there is another numerical coincidence that I find interesting, to say the least.

As a highlight of his teaching through the entire Bread of Life Discourse Jesus tells the crowds (and us):

Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever. (Jn 6:53-58)

The Bread of Life Discourse remains as difficult to swallow today as it was in the time of Christ:

Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” (Jn 6:41)

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (Jn 6:52)

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” (Jn 6:60)

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and walked with him no longer. (Jn 6:66)

It was during my meditation on the Bread of Life Discourse a couple of years ago that this last line caught my attention for it’s numeric value, for which I feel it bears repeating, but with a slightly different emphasis:

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and walked with him no longer. (Jn 6:66)

I doubt that it would take much commentary to make the link between the Scripture context and its numeric value. Disciples no longer walking with Christ in a verse numbered 6:66 … a number associated with Satan (the Beast) in the Book of Revelation (cf Rev 13:18). It is Christ who calls us to abide in Him through the Eucharist, His very flesh and blood; and Satan who pulls us away.

More telling is the exchange Jesus has with His Apostles immediately after the other disciples left Him:

“Do you also wish to go away?” (Jn 6:67)

To which Simon Peter replied:

“Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Jn 6:68)

Through His loving grace the Father has given us the gift of freewill. When Christ calls us to Him in the Eucharist it is for us to decide whether we will fall away and walk with Him no longer, or will we turn to Him because He has the words of eternal life.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Our Spiritual Ebb and Flow

Image result for ebb and flow ocean

Dear Theophilous,

I have not forgotten you my friend. It has been to my great chagrin that I have wanted to write, but have not been able to. My silence has pained me. Chalk it up to being overwhelmed by the ebb and flow of life. There have been a few tumultuous storms, but for the moment, all seems to have calmed.

Wouldn’t life be great if we could constantly live in euphoric joy? Wouldn’t life be easy if we had a continual happiness with our lives and surroundings? Wouldn’t life be perfect if we could maintain an everlasting feeling that God was not only close by, but infused in us with each passing moment?

Wouldn’t it be sad if this joy were reserved only for the fleeting time we are here on earth? That is why God saves it for eternity.

We are constantly moving through our earthly journey, our sight set firmly on God, yet buffeted by the storms that arise from our freewill. In the choices we make we find ourselves moving either closer to God or further from him. Yet, He remains constant and it is us who are moving. This is the ebb and flow of our spiritual journey.

There will be times when we feel we are jet propelled towards our Lord, coming closer to Him with each breath. We can recognize, feel and see His real presence in the Eucharist at Mass. We can hear Him whisper to us in our silent prayer. These are moments we want to capture and keep in a jar, cherishing them as a prized possession.

Then there are other times when He seems far away, distant, unattainable. Mass seems rote and mundane and our prayer life barren, incapable of bearing fruit. These are the times that St. John of the Cross called the Dark Night of the Soul.

Do not despair, dear Theophilous, as the Lord is not far. It is at these times that He is closest to us, carrying us, keeping us buoyant on the treacherous seas. It is when the ebb seems greatest that our faith will bring us closer to Him. It’s in that moment of hopelessness, when He gently whispers to us, that we will have the greatest joy in knowing that He loves us.

At this time we will rejoice in God’s love and laugh at our own despair. It is then that we will realize that with His grace we have conquered the Dark Night of the Soul. We come to trust that the ebb and flow of our spiritual journey always brings us to our final destination of eternal life in Him.

Pray for me, dear Theophilous, as I will for you.