Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Peter and Judas: Similar but Very Different

This weekend is Palm Sunday, and even though we’re all watching Mass on TV rather than being there in person, at the very beginning of Mass we’ll hear the gospel account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The crowds waved palm branches and shouted joyful praise as Jesus rode by on a donkey.

Then we will hear the lengthy Passion account, which describes how that joyful crowd turned quite hostile in less than a week. During this very long gospel, we will hear about many well-known events in the life of Jesus: the Last Supper, the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas’ betrayal, the arrest and trials, Peter’s denial, the scourging, carrying the cross, the Crucifixion, and finally the burial of Jesus.
I’d like to focus on two aspects of the Passion account, more specifically, on two persons in the Passion account: Judas and Peter. On the night in question, Judas and Peter did some pretty bad stuff. Judas betrayed Jesus, accepting 30 pieces of silver as payment to lead the authorities to arrest Jesus. (Professor Peter Kreeft notes that Judas was the first Catholic bishop to accept a government grant. And ever since, whenever a Catholic bishop accepts government money, it turns out almost as badly.)

Peter, after proclaiming to Jesus a few hours earlier, “Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you!” collapsed like a two-dollar tent when a powerless servant girl asked whether he was a friend of Jesus. Chicken-hearted Peter denied it, “Woman, I do not know him!”

Peter’s gutless lack of courage at that moment was even more pitiful in light of his pompous bragging earlier in the evening.

So, these two men, each one a special member of Jesus’ inner circle, committed some grievous sins that night. Their lack of faith in Jesus caused them to do things that greatly hurt the Lord. We can argue about which sin was worse, but the bottom line is: sin is sin.
Shortly after committing these sins, both Judas and Peter were exceedingly sorry for what they had done. Right after hearing the cock crow, which reminded him of what Jesus said in reply to his pompous boast, Peter “went out and began to weep bitterly.”

When Judas realized that Jesus was going to be executed, the Bible says, “He repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver.” Then Judas exclaimed, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”

At this point the two men’s lives took drastically different turns. Peter went into hiding with the other disciples. He stuck it out, did not do anything rash or impulsive, and soon after, things got much better. Specifically, three days later Jesus rose from the dead, forgave Peter, sent the Holy Spirit to empower the believers, and commissioned Peter to be the leader of the Church.

Judas was also distraught by what he had done. But he did not stick it out and wait to see what would happen next. And so, he did not receive forgiveness from the resurrected Jesus—which Jesus surely would have offered if Judas had only asked. Instead, Judas impulsively went out and committed suicide.

How incredibly sad. Two men with very similar experiences, but with very different endings. Despite his earthly failings, one became the leader of the early Church and is no doubt now and forevermore a member of the heavenly Communion of Saints. The other, with similar earthly failings, is presumably not a member of that celestial gathering nor residing for the rest of eternity anywhere near Heaven.
The lesson from the lives of these two men is simple: No matter how badly we screw up, no matter how terrible our sin, Jesus can and will forgive us. All we need to do is sincerely repent and ask for His forgiveness. Peter learned this was possible. Unfortunately, Judas did not.

There is a lot going on in the Passion account this week. As you listen at Mass, try to think about the lives of these two men and what they can teach us about sin and forgiveness.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Expiration Dates on Canned Food

I hesitate to write about the Coronavirus pandemic. There usually is a gap of two or more weeks between the time I write something and when it gets published in the newspaper. Since this health emergency situation seems to change by the hour, whatever I write now, by the time it’s printed, will seem less current than a story about Charles Lindbergh’s flight.
However, there is something I’d like to discuss, which I think will be pertinent for quite a while: the expiration dates on canned food.

If what I saw at Stop & Shop the other day is any indication — completely empty shelves in the canned food aisle — then folks are going to be looking at those expiration dates for the next couple of years. (Let’s at least hope they’ll be looking at those expiration dates years from now. If they have to use those cans of Minestrone soup and Spaghetti-O’s in a few weeks to survive, then so-called clever commentary by me in a newspaper column will be less current than a story about George Washington at Valley Forge.)

The expiration dates on canned food usually say something like, “BEST BY.” (Not to be confused with the place where I recently bought an iPad: Best Buy.)

This simply means the food inside the can will taste best if you eat it by that particular date. It does not mean a can of chicken noodle soup will be fine to eat on, say, JUN 4 2022, but will turn into a fetid pool of deadly botulism on JUN 5 2022. 
By the way, when I use terms like “will taste best” and “be fine to eat,” I understand there are many people who would rather starve than eat canned food. I’m not saying, for example, that canned soup tastes as good as Momma’s homemade recipe, or that Spam tastes as good as, well, as good as anything you can dig out of a Dumpster behind a restaurant. I’m referring to canned food as something that will provide basic nourishment, with the understanding that freshly prepared food always tastes better. (Unless I’m doing the cooking. Then you might want to track down a Dumpster.)

Various internet articles claim that canned food will last roughly twice its listed shelf life time, especially if stored in a cool, dark place and the cans are not dented. And as we all know, if it’s on the internet, it must be true!

I’m convinced the expiration dates printed on food cans are designed mostly for two purposes: first, to give retail stores information so they can rotate their stock — that is, sell the older stuff first and put the new stuff on the back of the shelf; and second, to scare consumers into throwing food away if it’s close to the expiration date and buy new stuff, thus increasing sales.

That second reason might be a bit cynical on my part. But on the other hand, I’ve run into a lot of sales and marketing people over the years, and “Do whatever it takes to get the sale!” is not just a slogan, it’s a way of life.
So, for all you folks who stocked up on canned food, keep an eye on those expiration dates, but don’t panic if you go a few months past. And for all you folks who did panic and got into fist fights at Walmart while purchasing a two-year supply of toilet paper, you should be ashamed of yourselves!

And by the way, the expiration date on toilet paper is next week. So, you should bring one of those 12-packs over to my house, since I’m running low on old newspapers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

No Masses: A Surreal Situation

I hesitate to write about the Coronavirus pandemic, because the situation changes from day to day. Whatever I write today usually doesn't get published for two or three weeks, and so what I have to say right now will be really old news by the time anyone sees it.

However, this is such an unprecedented event, I deleted my original essay so I could offer my views on the stunning announcement by the Archdiocese of Hartford that all public Masses are suspended until at least April 3rd. It’s March 24th as I write this, and soon we might learn that the Mass ban gets extended much further, including wiping out Holy Week and Easter.
Back in early March (which seems like a lifetime ago now), I gave a talk at a church in Waterbury. My topic was the Eucharist, and I made this observation: “If someone does not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, then I can understand why he may not want to go to Mass every week. After all, it’s the same old ritual every time, and if nothing miraculous takes place on that altar, then it can be kind of boring. But on the other hand, if someone does believe in the Real Presence, and knows in his heart that a genuine miracle takes place at every single Mass, then how can he stay away? In fact, how can just once a week on Sunday be enough?”

Suddenly, we’re being forced to stay away, whether we want to or not. (During my entire childhood I was forced to go to Mass every week, even though I didn’t want to go. Now, I want to go, but I’m not allowed. Too weird.)

For now, we cannot receive the Eucharist, at least for a few weeks and possibly much longer. A couple of days ago, when my wife and I watched Sunday Mass on TV, it was surreal. I suspect when the Mass ban reaches its third or fourth week, it will really hit home, especially if Holy Week and Easter Sunday are cancelled.
During my talk in Waterbury, one of the key points I emphasized is the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s declaration that the Eucharist is “source and summit of the Christian life.” Why is this so? Because the Eucharist is the genuine body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. This is not a teaching that some scheming pope made up in the Middle Ages, over a thousand years after Jesus walked the earth. This belief comes right from the mouth of Jesus Himself, and was understood and practiced by Christians from the very beginning. (For the details, you should’ve attended my talk!)

So, now the “source and summit” of our faith life has been taken away from us—at least for the time being. It is a very bizarre feeling.

What we need to do is take advantage of a concept that is rarely discussed: the “spiritual communion.” Whenever people are unable to receive the Eucharist, for example, because of illness, they are encourage to enter into a “spiritual communion,” that is, focus on the reality of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, and ask God to give them the same graces that are available when people actually eat the true “Bread of Life.”

If there’s anything we’ve learned from 4,000 years of Judeo-Christian history, it’s that God is much more concerned about our hearts than our external actions. (See Hosea 6:6.) In other words, someone who sincerely trusts the Lord and loves Him with all his heart and soul, will receive more grace from God through a “spiritual communion” than someone who physically receives the Eucharist at Mass, but does so in a distracted, bored, and irreverent manner. 
Maybe something good will come out of this unprecedented pandemic situation. If we cannot physically receive the Eucharist for many weeks, maybe our hunger for Christ will increase. Maybe focusing on the graces available through a “spiritual communion” will improve our prayer life.

During this time of trial, let’s pray for God’s blessings to be on our families, our parishes, our nation, and the entire world.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Silence is Never Off Key

At church choir rehearsal a few days ago, this idea popped into my head: “Silence is never off key.”

Our choir director was explaining to the grunting herd, er, I mean, the men in the back row, that if there are notes out of our range, instead of making screeching or growling attempts to hit those notes, it would be best not to sing at all until subsequent notes are back in our personal comfort zone.
This in not a new concept for me. I’ve been lip-syncing through about half of the Bass section music for many years. And since there are guys in the choir with much broader ranges than mine, when I go silent for the really high or really low notes, no one notices. Best of all, no one hears me struggle to make sounds that not only are nowhere near the correct pitch, but also are so physically stressful to attempt, I’m likely to pull a hamstring muscle (or whatever other muscles are in one’s throat).

Since all this takes place in a church, I recall the wise words of my favorite Old Testament prophet, Clint Eastwood, who said: “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

However, being a slightly below average church choir singer is not my main point — although based on my experience attending Masses and church services in many parts of the country over the years, it seems there are a whole bunch of folks who can relate to my level of melodious mediocrity (or should that be mediocre melodiousness?).

My main point is that the idea I mentioned at the beginning, “Silence is never off key,” showed up with ZERO matches on a Google search. Over the years, I’ve been convinced many times that I thought up something really clever and unique, only to discover via Google that people had been using the exact phrase for decades. In one case, my so-called original thought was actually a book title from the 1960s.
Maybe you don’t appreciate what it means to have zero matches on a Google search. Google has collected and compiled EVERYTHING that has ever been written, spoken, and most likely even thought during the entire history of humankind. If someone had made the statement, “Silence is never off key,” before I thought of it last week, it surely would’ve shown up in a Google search. (A few years ago, I thought up a variant, “Silence is golden,” but it turns out someone else already beat me to it.)

I can’t believe I’m the first person in history to string together those five words in that particular order, but after years of being disappointed when doing Google searches, I’ll take it. I wonder if I should have the phrase copyrighted? Or maybe I’ll write a book with that phrase as the title, so it will get its own ISBN number and be “carved in stone” forever. (I also thought of the phrase, “carved in stone,” but again someone else thought of it first.)

With the Easter holidays coming soon, I’ll get to put my lip-syncing talent to good use. During Holy Week, our church choir is scheduled to sing on Thursday night, Friday afternoon, Saturday night, and Easter Sunday morning. Good thing I only sing about half the notes, or my voice really would be shot. (I mean, more shot than usual.)
When I’m pretending to sing, I’ll try to think of something just as original as, “Silencer is never off key.” Here’s one that just popped into my head: “Music soothes the savage beast.” That’s appropriate for my fellow grunting wildebeests in the back row, and I’ve never heard it before. I wonder if Google has?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Blind Man Sees in More Ways Than One

In this week’s gospel reading, Jesus healed a man born blind. As usual, the Pharisees had a conniption. Their anger was due partly to the fact that the miracle was done on the Sabbath, but mostly because, well, because it was Jesus.

The Pharisees had decided long before this event that Jesus was a threat to their power and prestige and so, no matter what the evidence, they had to stop Him. No matter how many things Jesus said or did to prove that He was sent by God, the Pharisees would not be persuaded. They had made up their minds.
On the other hand, the man born blind had nothing to lose. He survived by begging. Everyone assumed his blindness was punishment for some awful sin and treated him with disdain. He had no power or prestige. Therefore, his opinion about Jesus was not clouded by jealousy or selfishness or pride, like the Pharisees.

As this week’s rather long reading progresses, the blind man’s understanding about Jesus grows. First, he refers to Him as, “The man called Jesus.” He’s just a man. The blind man didn’t know Jesus from Adam. (That would be Adam Finklestein from Brooklyn.)

A little later when the Pharisees were grilling him about the healing, the man said of Jesus, “He is a prophet.” By making such a big deal about the whole thing, the Pharisees caused the man to think more about it, and he realized that Jesus was more than just that “man.”

Then, after the Pharisees insulted the blind man and threw him out of the synagogue, he recognized Jesus as the “Son of Man.”

Finally, we read: “He said (to Jesus), ‘I do believe, Lord,’ and he worshipped him.”

The man born blind called Jesus “Lord” and worshipped Him. The Pharisees, religious scholars supposedly devoted to serving God, called Jesus evil and plotted to kill Him.
At the end of this week’s reading, Jesus explained, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”

People who seem to have it all—looks, brains, wealth, power, prestige—are often blinded by their success. Everything is so wonderful, and they don’t realize their need for a savior.

People who are down and out—lacking acclaim, influence, or prosperity—often understand their weakness quite well, and know they need a savior.

Some years ago, I read that Bill Gates said going to church on Sunday mornings was an inefficient use of valuable time. Does Bill Gates think he needs a savior? I can’t say for sure, but if someone asked him that question, I suspect he would reply, “A savior from what? I’m a multi-billionaire.”

In Bill Gates’ world, it may be true that time is money. But it’s also true that time marches on. And at some point in time—a lot sooner than we usually expect—everyone, including Bill Gates, will reach his or her deathbed. At that moment, it won’t matter how many billions you’re worth. At that moment, your eternal fate will depend upon whether you were able to see your need for Jesus.

It really doesn’t take much to avoid spiritual blindness. Faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains, Jesus said.
Just before Jesus healed the man born blind, He proclaimed, “I am the light of the world.” For those who are spiritually blind, such as the Pharisees and some of our modern-day celebrity billionaires, this pronouncement makes no sense. All they can see is darkness.

But to those with spiritual vision, Jesus is like a 10,000-watt spotlight piercing the midnight darkness. Being able to see His light leads to eternal life.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Car Horn Courtesy Honk

The other day I was behind a car at a stop light. When the light turned green, the car in front of me did not move. I could tell the driver had his head tilted down, no doubt looking at his smartphone.

So, I did what I always do in this situation: I stepped on the gas and slammed into his rear bumper, which sent the clear message, “Hey pal! The light’s green! Get moving!”

No, of course I did not do that, since I’m not from New York. Instead, I did the polite Connecticut thing: I slowly counted to three, and then when the car in front of me still was not moving, I beeped my horn. I saw the driver’s head look up quickly, and then he drove away.
I’ve been on the other end of the “Hey pal!” car horn beep many times. After all, when you get stuck at a red light, it’s crucial to find out how many new emails or text messages you’ve received since the last red light four minutes earlier. Whenever I’m surprised by a car horn beep, and look up to see the light is green, I always offer a sheepish “I’m sorry” wave to the car behind me and drive off.

Well, the other day, when I was the beeper rather than the beep-ee, as the car in front of me started moving, the driver flipped me off — that is, he gave me the famous “We’re Number One!” hand gesture, also known as half of the peace sign.

I was shocked to see this rude display, and for an instant I wanted to accelerate and slam into his rear bumper. But obviously I did not do that, since I am a calm and collected law-abiding citizen, who understands that pouring gasoline on a fire will only escalate the confrontation and lead to serious violence. Also, his car had New York plates, which meant he already was a powder keg behind the wheel, and I really wasn’t in the mood that day to get beaten to a pulp and then run over a few times.
It bothered me that Mr. Hot Head New Yorker completely ignored the last remaining bit of courtesy on the highways. Everyone understands that driving a car nowadays has turned into a survival of the fittest, gladiatorial competition. Drivers ceased being polite decades ago. (Well, I live in the Northeast. Maybe there is a little roadway politeness down south. If you have any information about this, let me know.)

But there still is one aspect of driving with some remaining sense of courtesy: the “Hey, green light” beep. We understand that everybody behind the wheel is distracted in our modern world. If it’s not smartphones, then it’s the radio and CD player, or putting on makeup and combing hair that keeps our eyes off the road for multiple seconds at a time.

When cars are lined up at a red light, way more than half of the drivers don’t look at the light, as they attend to other things. Beeping the horn is actually a polite way of saying, “OK, my friends, we’re all in this together. It’s time to start moving again.” Most of the time people understand, and offer congenial “thank you” waves.
I think it would be nice if cars were equipped with different horn sounds, so there’d be no misunderstanding. There could be a cheery “beep beep” for courteous reminders, along with the more typical blaring “HONNNK!” for real emergencies. But if there were optional horn sounds, someone eventually would develop a sound that incorporates actual words. The loud horn blast that includes profane insults would be called the “New York option.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Fake Bible Quotes

There are over 31,000 verses in the Bible. So, obviously there are more than enough Scriptural verses that can be quoted. However, a lot of people like to offer quotations, and claim they’re right from the Bible, when they actually are not.

Here are just a few: “God works in mysterious ways.” “Love the sinner and hate the sin.” “God will not give you more than you can handle.” “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” “God helps those who help themselves.”
None of those sayings are found in the Bible. Now, to be fair, some of them are acceptable summaries of biblical concepts. For example, “God works in mysterious ways” is a true statement. The prophet Isaiah wrote that God said this to mankind: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways” (Is 55:8). Anything we don’t understand is mysterious to us, and there is so much about God we don’t understand. So, mysterious is an appropriate word. God does indeed work in mysterious ways. It’s just there is no verse in the Bible that says it exactly that way.

Another one is, “Love the sinner and hate the sin.” This statement does a great job of summarizing one of Jesus’ main messages. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offered this command to all of His followers: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). To the woman caught in adultery, Jesus said, “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore” (John 8:11).

The Lord has the perfect balancing act of love and forgiveness on the one hand, and righteousness and justice on the other hand. Sin is real, and God condemns it. But He also offers mercy and forgiveness to sinners, because He loves us so much. “Love the sinner and hate the sin” describes the divine balancing act, one we must strive to achieve. But just don’t waste your time trying to find that phrase in your Bible, because it’s not there.
There are other non-biblical phrases, which many people think are in Scripture, which do NOT summarize any clear Church teaching at all. For example, “God helps those who help themselves.” This expression might motivate someone to work a little harder, but it’s really the opposite of the Gospel message. The reason Jesus came to earth in the first place was because we human beings are unable to help ourselves. We’re stuck in our sin, and we need a divine Savior. We can’t earn our way into Heaven. Salvation is a completely undeserved gift offered by the Lord. As St. Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9).

In a general sense, we know it’s true that people who work hard and don’t give up during difficult times end up much better off than people who get discouraged easily and throw in the towel. But from a theological point of view, the saying really ought to be, “God helps those who CAN’T help themselves.”

There are so many legitimate Bible verses that express important points. There is simply no need to make up fake verses. If people read the Bible more often, then maybe there would be less confusion about what is and is not a genuine quote from the Scriptures.

The Bible is the most important book in the world. It is the Word of God. We need to get more familiar with it, so we don’t get fooled by fake quotes. It is that important. As Jesus Himself said during the Last Supper, “To be, or not to be? That is the question.”

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Gravity Must Be Getting Stronger

During the past few decades, it’s become obvious that the force of gravity has increased significantly here on earth. Back in the 1970s and ‘80s, when I was a young man, the gravitational force had enough power to keep us from drifting up into the air and floating off into space. But in those days, gravity was not nearly as strong as it is today.

For example, in my school days, if I got a good running start, I could jump up high enough to dunk a tennis ball on a regulation basketball hoop. Unfortunately, the referees insisted that we use actual basketballs during games, so I couldn’t show off my slamma-jamma skills. But being able to get my fingers above the rim still was an impressive feat for a flat-footed suburban kid.
Also, in those days, I could jump up and grab the branch of a tree, pull myself up, and then climb 20 or 30 feet up into that tree. For a while one of my friends lived in an apartment on the third floor. I would run up those two flights of stairs, two steps at a time, and reach his door without even getting winded. That’s how weak the force of gravity was back in those days.

However, the power of gravity today is far stronger. Nowadays, I don’t think I can get high enough to touch even the net on a regulation basketball hoop. And when it comes to climbing trees or running up stairs two steps at a time, it’s pretty much impossible. The gravitational pull has gotten that much more powerful.

There are other tell-tale signs. A lot of my skin, especially on my face and neck, is sagging noticeably downward. It’s that darn gravity. And my doctor recently told me I am a full inch shorter than I was at age 25, because my spinal column has compressed. Well, you’d compress too if a force as strong as the new gravity was pulling down on you all day long.
This major increase in the power of gravity has created some other significant changes in our world compared to four decades ago. These days, the night sky is much darker than it used to be, especially on state highways. I suspect the strong gravitation force is pulling light waves right out of the air and down into the earth. That’s the only thing that makes sense to explain why I have such a hard time seeing anything while driving at night.

And the new, stronger gravitational pull somehow has affected printing presses, causing all of their type to shrink. When I try to read a book or a newspaper, the print size is ridiculously smaller than it was back in the ‘80s. I have to get a magnifying glass to see the words clearly. Obviously, another instance of the new more powerful gravitational force wreaking havoc in our lives.

This situation has me worried. If someone like me is struggling with the new, more powerful gravitational force, what about old people? After all, I’m in the prime of life (or as my wife tells me, “Let’s call it prime-plus-20, dear”). If gravity keeps getting stronger, what will happen when I get into my 70s and 80s?
Maybe the steady increase in gravity has peaked, and it soon will start going back the other way. That would be nice. If the gravitational force weakens enough, I’ll be able to dunk again, and this time with a real basketball. But just to make sure I can pull off a reverse tomahawk slamma-jamma, I’ll install a powerful spring in the bottom of my cane.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Transfiguration Points to Supernatural Realm

The gospel reading at Mass this weekend is the Transfiguration of the Lord. Saint Peter, along with Saints James and John, had front row seats for this miraculous event. Scripture explains that Jesus “was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” (Hmm, that sounds like a Madison Avenue marketing campaign: “Try new TRANSFIGURE laundry detergent, and get your clothes ‘white as light!’”)

Then Moses and Elijah appeared, and started speaking with Jesus. Peter and the other two disciples were stunned and frightened.
Many decades after the Transfiguration, Peter referred to it in his second epistle as proof of Jesus’ divinity. He wrote, “We did not follow cleverly devised myths…but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. We ourselves heard [God’s] voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.”

It’s interested that Peter cited the Transfiguration as evidence of Jesus’ supernatural power. After all, Peter witnessed all kinds of miracles done by Jesus. He saw Jesus cure sick people, change water into wine, even raise the dead. Peter saw Jesus Himself walking around alive after having been crucified, and watched with his own eyes as Jesus ascended into Heaven. Surely, Peter witnessed many other miracles not recorded in the Bible, such as Jesus solving a Rubik’s Cube in three seconds and then juggling chainsaws without getting hurt.

And yet, when Peter wanted to demonstrate that he had personally witnessed the miraculous nature of Jesus’ life, he talked about the Transfiguration. It must have been quite a spectacular sight.

Now, of course, modern skeptics will say that Peter was, in fact, following “cleverly devised myths.” These folks are called materialists, which means they sincerely believe that supernatural events are, by definition, impossible. They claim all biblical references to miracles simply could not have happened. Unfortunately, materialism has become the predominant worldview in present-day America.
Materialists say that Peter was, at best, hallucinating when he witnessed the Transfiguration, or, at worst, lying through his teeth about it to manipulate gullible religious followers. There’s really no other choice. If supernatural events are, by definition, impossible, then the events described in this week’s gospel reading could not have occurred.

Peter knew there is nothing more important in life than having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Before someone can do that, of course, it is necessary to believe that God exists and that Jesus really is who He claimed to be (“the Word made flesh” and “the way, the truth, and the life”). One of the main reasons the Transfiguration occurred was to convince the apostles beyond a doubt that Jesus really is the divine Son of God. Later on, when they were trying to teach a skeptical world that the Gospel message is true, their sincerity and honesty and passion were obvious to all.

We who live today have not witnessed a spectacular Transfiguration. (Well, at least I haven’t personally, and I haven’t heard of anyone else claiming to have witnessed one.) But we have witnessed supernatural miracles: drunks suddenly becoming sober; thieves becoming honest; prostitutes becoming chaste; managers of Planned Parenthood clinics becoming pro-life activists—all through faith in Jesus Christ. These are miracles that can be explained only by the supernatural power of God.
We may not have witnessed a dazzlingly bright Transfiguration, like Peter did. But we have witnessed lives being transfigured and transformed. Peter used what he saw as evidence of the divinity of Christ. And we must use what we see as proof of God’s supernatural power when we share our faith with others.