readings for June 16, 2016.
Gospel of Matthew 6:7-15
In this mornings first reading we see a list of all the amazing things that Elijah and Elisha did in their earthly lifetimes. From raising to dead to controlling the elements, we see these men of God were truly endowed with the Spirit of the Most High. Elijah was of course taken up in the fiery chariots into Heaven and Elisha even continued to perform miracles after his death. We as Catholics believe that to be a sign that the person has gone on into Heaven with God. That's why we name those who have been shown with much evidence to have miracles attributed to their names as Saints.
The thing is Christ said that not only would we do the works that he did, but that if we truly believe we will do even greater things. (John 14:12-14) That whatever we ask, no matter what the task, it will be done. Of course we know that it requires us to be asking in the right Spirit, to be asking for something which is God's will. How though can we expect to be transformed into living Saints? Men and women capable of things beyond ourselves? Images of Christ himself walking among the population of the world, changing our own environments.
In the Lord's prayer, which we pray at every Mass, we ask for our daily bread. This of course has the connotation of being cared for, right? Just as the scriptures remind us that we are more valuable than a flower or a bird, they also remind us that God will provide us for our needs. So, yes, we ask for food to get us through the day. The word there, though, in the original language does not say exactly daily, as much as 'super substantial bread.' Give us this day the bread that is beyond bread, the bread of which it's substance is more than just bread. The bread that feeds us, that makes us grow. The bread that does not get consumed by our body to make it part of us, but rather consumes us and makes us part of it! That's right, the Eucharist.
Christ calls us to be more. He himself comes to us in the form of our most basic of needs, food and drink. He then begins to transform us through Communion, through the Eucharist, into himself. He gives us the power to become living Saints. We have to be ready though, we have to accept that grace and allow it to transform us. What does that look like? What examples do we have of those who have been transformed? That's why the Church gives us a Canon of Saints. These are the men and women who it is clear from examining their lives and the miracles around them, are already in Heaven. Just like Elijah and Elisha, the Saints are those who have lived lives that shout out to God's Spirit living in them, and even after death have been shown to have miracles associated with them.
One of those men was Saint Padre Pio, who was canonized on this day in the year 2002. Padre Pio was known to do many miraculous things. From bi-location (being in two places at once) to seemingly being able to see into another persons heart and soul. He would often tell people in the confessional that they forget "this" sin and then proceed to tell them what it was. Can you imagine that? Being reminded of something that the other person has no earthly way of knowing? Yeah, that would be a powerful moment. He also received the stigmata, the wounds of Christ in his physical body. From levitation to clairvoyance, Padre Pio shows us what being filled with Christ's Spirit can look like here on earth.
Now, of course each of us is called to a different station in life. Some of us might not be Capuchin Friar's like Padre Pio, nor able to hear confessions. The thing is, Jesus also reminds us that miracles were not His primary mission. Rather He was sent to bring forgiveness. Padre Pio offered this in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It should not surprise us at all that miracles happen in that sacred, Sacramental encounter with Christ. What is more miraculous than the Prodigal Son returning or the one lost sheep being found? The angels rejoice when we enter that Sacrament and confess before God himself and ask for forgiveness. How often do we fail to see the beauty and need of that? The most powerful part of it is though, that when we leave there we are challenged to take that into the world.
One of my local confessors always has the same penance for me. "Pray for those you have hurt." That's a powerful moment. Even though someone else might be completely unaware of the thoughts or anger I've had toward them, Christ asks me in the confessional to pray for them. Prayer is a moment that doesn't just change or effect things, but also changes and effects me. It is a moment for me to bring about that other part of the Lord's prayer, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Yes, prayer is a moment for me to bring God's will into my life and to open myself to the grace that can change me into a Saint. It's not something we aim for just after this life, but something we should be aiming for right now... Where to start? By going into the world and offering them forgiveness. The same forgiveness we receive in the Sacraments. What miracle could be more powerful than that? Can you imagine if the entire world were 'infected' with the forgiveness and love of the Father? What can I do? I'm just one person? Remember, it only takes a pebble to start an avalanche. Are you ready to be God's whirlwind of flame to set fire to the world?
His servant and yours,
"He must increase, I must decrease."