Over the weekend, I had a really weird moment. A really weird, really cool moment.
One of the things that isn’t talked about much in many Catholic circles is that the Church still teaches that angels and demons are real, and that they can really have an impact in the lives of “ordinary people.” (But what is an ordinary person, anyway? Every single person is unique and of enormous consequence in the eyes of God. Every person’s “ordinary” story is a grand drama within God’s masterwork of salvation. Okay, end of lofty tangent. Back to angels and demons.)
Yep, despite the common idea that such ideas are “outdated” or “disproven” by the modern scientific outlook (as if purely spiritual beings could possibly be disproven by scientific observations!), we continue to believe that angels and demons are really REAL. They exist. They are powerful. And they want to have an influence on us, for good—or in the case of fallen angels, for evil.
Last week featured the feast days of the Archangels on Michaelmas, as well as the feast day of the Guardian Angels. How cool is the concept of guardian angels? There is a powerful, immortal, heavenly being dedicated to every single human person, trying to help keep us on the right track and protect us from harm—it’s awe-inspiring. Your guardian angel is reading this over your shoulder right now. For real. Say hi! He loves you!
Now, truth be told, I’m not that great at remembering about my guardian angel, or treating him with the respect and relationship that he deserves. I don’t recognize his influence in my life very often. Still, I believe he’s there, and that he DOES have an influence, and helps me out when he can.
But this weekend, I had a moment where I heard a message. Two messages, actually. And the first message wasn’t from my guardian angel, but from a devil at my shoulder.
I was at Mass with my family at our parish in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Before our pastor began the liturgy of the Eucharist, he made an announcement: there had been a lot of leftover hosts from the Papal Mass in Philly last weekend, and so parishes had been given these hosts to distribute at this weekend’s Masses. So we would be receiving hosts that had been consecrated by the Pope.
My first reaction (along with most of the people around me): Wow, how cool! Eucharist consecrated by the Pope!
But almost immediately, a little cynical voice seemed to whisper in my ear: All those leftover hosts must mean that the turnout for the Papal Mass was WAYYY lower than anticipated. Lame.
And then it continued: And who cares who consecrated it, anyway? It’s not like the Eucharist becomes “more” Jesus if the Pope says the prayers, versus any other priest. All these people are overreacting. Lame.
But then a quieter voice came: You know, that’s true. It’s not that important who says the prayers of consecration. What’s important is what happens when those prayers are said: the bread becomes the Body of Christ. Jesus is present. Every week, at every Mass! That’s not lame—it’s incredibly awesome.
Most people in most places don’t get their hosts consecrated by the Pope, but everybody, every Sunday, is able to see, adore, and receive Jesus. It’s mind-blowing. I mean, no offense to Pope Francis, but I’m sure he would agree with me that his significance pales in comparison to Christ.
So as cool as it was to receive Eucharist consecrated by Pope Francis, we should be much more excited on any given Sunday to be receiving the Eucharist at all. Because there in every humble wafer is our Lord, who sacrificed his Body out of love to offer us a path salvation.
And this little exchange that I heard really jolted me out of my complacency. I had been kneeling there in the pew, just like any other Sunday, any other Mass, any other Eucharist… same old, same old. No big deal.
But that was wrong of me.
It may happen a lot, over and over, week after week in church after church, but every single time—the Eucharist is a miracle. Christ offers himself to us. It IS a big deal.
So the little demon who whispered in my ear didn’t win the day. He tried to bring me into his cynicism, to belittle the Pope and devalue the Eucharist. But the angel at my shoulder found the kernel of truth in the devil’s lies: that the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is the important thing, and worthy of awe even when we are tempted to get a little too comfortable with it. It’s special. It’s miraculous. It’s Christ.
Thanks, guardian angel. I needed the reminder.