Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Parable about Transubstantiation

When Mr. Anderson who is the director of religious education at St. Mary’s in Metamora teaches catechism he has a saying which he repeats so much that the school children can finish the sentence for him. He says, “English…” and they say, “..is a terrible language for theology”. One of his examples is the word substance. He says that its Greek origin stands for, “that which lies under the appearance of”. He says its use in English (mainly in physics) totally obscures what the word really means. So, transubstantiation means changing that which lies under the appearance of bread and wine.
That, together with an episode of “The Suite Life on Deck” and the live size (human size) statues of angels by the altar at St. Mary’s, gave me an idea for a parable on transubstantiation. In the episode of Suite Life, Zack and Cody pretended to be statues of some ancient Roman figures. They dressed up in togas and then sprayed themselves completely with a white dust. I Put all this together and came up with this parable.
I was walking around the art museum the other day with Jesus. We were talking about transubstantiation and the meaning of the word ‘substance’. We passed by a statue of an angel and he asked me, “What is this?” I said, “I am not sure what you mean Jesus. Are you asking what it represents? It’s supposed to represent an angel.”  He said, “OK, so it has the appearance of an angel?” I said, “Yes just the appearance and really only from a distance”. He smiled and said, “That is fine. But, what is its substance?” I said, “Stone”. He said, “Exactly. What lies under the appearance of an angel is stone. How do you know that?” “Well you can feel it.” I said, “It’s hard as a stone.” 
He then walked up to another statue and asked, “Who is this.”  I said, “This represents Julius Caesar. But what lies under the appearance of Julius Caesar is stone.”  He said, “Well this time you are wrong. This is someone pretending to be a statue. So under the appearance of Julius Caesar is a statue but under the appearance of the statue is a human being.”  ‘Wow, he’s doing such a good job standing so still” I said, “and holding his breath. I couldn’t tell.”  Jesus said “squeeze his arm”. I said, “No, Lord I believe you. I don’t need proof”. He said, “I want you to feel his arm”. I squeezed his arm and it was obvious that it was a human arm.
Next, came a statue of King David. Jesus asked, “How about this one?” I said, “I don’t know. It has the appearance of King David, and under that, has the appearance of a statue. But, what is under that?  I can’t tell.  Is it another person pretending to be a statue?”  He said, “Yes. Feel his arm.”  I said, “Jesus I believe you and I trust you. I have faith in you. I don’t need to test what you tell me.” He said, “Good. I need you to have that faith. You will need it here pretty soon. Now, feel his arm.”
I started to squeeze the statue’s arm but it was solid as a rock. I said, “Jesus I can’t squeeze his arm. Why is that?”  He said, ‘It’s because this man has put on such a thick layer of stone that you can’t squeeze through it.  Are you having doubt now?” 
I said, “No, I will never doubt what you say. You said there is a live person underneath. And that is that.  I am sure that a stronger person can squeeze hard enough to crush the stone layer and feel the person underneath. “
Jesus: “No, there is no human being strong enough to do that.”
“How about we just watch or listen for him breathing, or do some kind of x ray or ultrasound or a biological activity scan or something of that sort?”,  I asked.
Jesus: “Actually, there is no human sense or device that could see through that stone and feel the live person underneath.”
“So, Jesus, no human will be able on his own to sense or prove that there is a live person underneath?”
Jesus:  “No, quite the opposite. All your human senses, tests and devices will “prove” that there is nothing but stone.”
“So how would anyone find out?”
Jesus: “They don’t find out. They know.”
“How do they know?”
“I tell them and they believe me. There is no other way. Do you remember what I told you before I asked you to feel that statue’s arm?”
 “That I will need faith?”
Do you still have it?
 I said, “Yes, Lord.”

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