Category Archives: Conversion

The Real Transformers

I never had a Transformer toy when I was a kid.  I spent some time playing with the ones my nephews had, though.  Some of them were easier to “transform” than others.  I remember watching some of the cartoons.  I liked the Transformers movies pretty well.  The mechanically inclined part of me always thought is was cool the way all those parts shifted around to create new machines with different appearances.  Appearance is generally what we think about when we hear the word “transformation,” like a magician changing a rabbit into a dove or something.  It’s different because it looks different.

A friend of mine shared with me how happy she was that her son had recently accepted Christ and was going to be baptized.  I rejoiced with her.  There is nothing better than eternal life.  After all, finding eternal life is what this present life is all about.  The next time I laid eyes on her son I saw a Christian where previously there was no Christian.  But, he looked like the same person.  He may have had a different expression on his face.  Maybe he got a haircut.  He may have been making better choices in his life.  He may have shown more joy than he used to, but I still recognized him as being my friend’s son, even though he had been “transformed.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 reads, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  He is a “new creature?”  Some translations use the words “new creation.”  Wow!  That is a major transformation!  In other words, what he “is” is not what he “was.”  But, to the human eye he still looks like the same person.  In fact, I would bet that, if looked at under an electron microscope, his skin, blood and bone cells would look like regular human cells.  He would still smell the same after a hard day’s work.  He would still taste like a man to any dog that bit him.  His vocal chords would still produce the same voice that his friends and family recognize.  And yet, he is “a new creature?”  That’s a more impressive transformation than Optimus Prime!  This must be some kind of supernatural process that changes the substance of something without changing the appearance of it.

I have yet to meet a Christian (Catholic or non-Catholic) that has a problem accepting Paul’s words “he is a new creature/creation.”  However, I have met numerous Christians that have a problem accepting the words of Jesus, “this is my body, this is my blood.”  Why do we take Paul at his word but dismiss the words of Christ?  Why can we so easily accept that we are transformed when we are saved but hardly accept that God transforms bread and wine?  Does Paul’s “is” have more power than Christ’s “is?”

We are transformed by Christ and made into new creatures, even though our outward appearance remains the same.  Bread and wine are transformed by Christ into himself, even though their outward appearance remains the same.  Both require faith in Christ to believe.  That which “is” is not what it “was,” even though it still looks the same.  This is the stuff of miracle, not metaphor.  The Spirit gives real, eternal life through faith, not symbols that we can only regard with “the flesh” of our mind and our senses (See John 6:63, 8:15).  Contrast what Jesus calls “the flesh” with what he calls “my flesh which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)

There is nothing better than eternal life.  Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:54)  At the Catholic Mass, the bread and wine looks, feels, sounds, smells and tastes just like bread and wine, but it is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ.  Jesus instituted the Catholic Mass at The Last Supper (Mark 14:22-24).  Christ’s transforming words still have the same power today.

Do we believe we are transformed into new creatures?  Why not believe the bread and wine are transformed into our Lord?  Lord, I believe; help my unbelief (Mark 9:23-24).

 

(This reflection was inspired by this post by Stacy Trasancos)

Please Don’t Pick Me, Please Don’t Pick Me…!

Have you ever experienced the feeling of being called out in a crowd?  Do you remember hiding behind the head of the student in front of you so the teacher wouldn’t call your name to answer a question or solve a problem on the board?  Perhaps you have avoided eye contact with performers at a show as they scanned the audience for volunteers.  Maybe you have participated in a prayer group and secretly hoped the leader wouldn’t ask you to lead the group in a closing prayer.  There can be comfort in anonymity.  We sometimes prefer to be lost in the crowd and not called out.  The shadows feel safer than the spotlight.

There have been occasions when my enjoyment of a show turned to dread as the performers left the stage to wander the audience looking for a “victim” to become part of the show.  My mind was screaming, “Please don’t walk over towards me!”  All I wanted was to enjoy the show, not become part of it.  Of course, if I ever was chosen I would play along and make the best of it.  I’m a bit of a ham when I want to turn loose.  The discomfort is in that initial feeling of being plucked from the security of my shadow.  The heat of the spotlight burns a bit at first.

Think about all the crowds that followed Jesus around watching him perform miracles and listening to him teach.  Imagine being one of those people in the crowd.  There you are, listening to the power and impact of his words.  Maybe you were close enough to actually see him heal someone or drive out a demon.  What if you were among the crowd of five thousand people who were fed from a few fishes and loaves of bread?  Wouldn’t that be amazing?  What a show that would be!

As you stand on your toes and crane your neck to get a better view, you notice that Jesus has turned to face your direction.  He begins to slowly move towards where you are standing and you wonder where he is going.  “Wow,” you think to yourself, “He’s headed this way!  I’ll get an even better look at him!”  (You would be wishing you lived in the 21st century so you could pull out your smart phone and get a picture or even a video of him as he passes by).  The crowd separates and opens a path for Jesus as he draws ever closer to your location.  Now you can see the whites of his eyes.

As he comes closer you realize his eyes are looking towards where you are standing and you are curious about what he is looking at.  You look around and behind yourself to discern where he may be headed.  When you look back at him again it seems as if he is looking right at you.  At first you are somewhat amused.  Then, as it becomes apparent that he has made eye contact with you and is not looking away, your face become flushed and a sense of dread comes over you as the blood seems to drain from your body.  Slowly, yet quite intentionally, Jesus comes face-to-face with you.  He gazes into your eyes, raises his hand and says, “Come.  Follow me.”  The crowd is now staring at you.  They are waiting to see what you will do.

Now, let us travel to the present day.  You are sitting in a pew in a church.  There are many other people around you.  You sit through the service.  You listen to the readings and the preaching.  You sing a song or two.  You watch the activity in front of you.  Perhaps you even feel inspired.  When the “show” is over, you leave and go home.  Once again you have taken your place in the shadows.  You have remained anonymous.  You are comfortably lost in a crowd.  Or, so you think.

Jesus calls all of us by name.  He calls us out from the shadows.  As surely as he stepped into Peter’s boat, he steps into our lives and beckons us to follow him.  He calls us, not only to open our hearts to him, but to live life with him.  He calls us to participate, not to observe.  It is not a moment of acceptance he asks for, but a lifetime of conversion.  Do we avoid his gaze?  Do we hide behind the person in the pew in front of us?  He shines the light on us and says, “Come.  Follow me.”  What will we do?  The harvest is rich and the labourers are few.

What will you have me do, Lord?