It’s funny how sometimes God can help you find meaning in the most innocuous of life’s moments. This is one of those moments where one of the greatest miracles and mysteries of the Catholic faith – the Eucharist – came into focus for me at an entirely new angle.
I remember very vividly this event from a few years ago. I was sitting in the St. Elizabeth Of Hungary parish center, waiting for an event to finish up. I was sitting in the lobby, curled up on the couch with my Nintendo 3DS. I’d finished the faith-related reading I’d planned on for the day, and was enjoying a short bout of Pokemon Omega Ruby. One of the young men I know from the parish came up to me, saw me fishing in-game, and we had a chat about Pokemon. This in itself was pretty special – the young man has always struck me as shy, and I think prior to our very enthusiastic chat that day he may have said a total of four words to me over the three years I’d known him.
While we talked and I fished, I battled and captured with one of the most infamous creatures of the Pokemon universe – the Magikarp. For the uninitiated, the thematic point of Pokemon is the the journey of a trainer who teaches (and transforms through a radical play on evolution) extraordinary creatures how to battle each other. The Magikarp is fairly unique among Pokemon because it’s completely inept at fighting – it’s most powerful move is to slash its opponent and get it wet, an effect that does zero damage. It is the only literally useless Pokemon in existence.
My young friend told me so, and we shared a chuckle. I was then the sage gaming instructor, reminding him the punchline of the Magikarp joke – that this useless little fish beast, when leveled up correctly, is transformed into the mighty Gyarados. Modeled after the Chinese aquatic dragon, Gyarados is one of the most powerful members of the original 151 Pokemon in the original game. The least creature in the world of Pokemon is, by a fashion, merely a guise for one of the greatest.
It was in this moment, a few beats after my young friend had walked away, that it hit me: the relationship between Magikarp and Gyarados could with, very few leaps in logic, be crafted into a parable about the Eucharist. After all, two of the least things in our world – a thin wafer of unleavened bread and a sip of red wine (variations of foods made by every human culture since the beginning of agriculture) are transformed into the greatest two substances of all, the living body and blood of Christ, through the transubstantiation.
Certainly, there are clear differences in scale – the creator of the universe shouldn’t be scaled down to the size of a 22 ft. dragon that shoots torrents of water – but in beginning to understand the mysteries of our faith, it’s an interesting place to start. After all, differences in scale didn’t stop our Lord for teaching about the Kingdom Of God through stories of a man and his two sons or of a vineyard owner and his workers. From this unexpected parable, I started looking at the Eucharist in a new way – as Catholicism’s greatest inside joke.
After all, the best jokes can bring joy to everyone, and end in a way that no one expects. Just how humble wheat and grapes can bring us so close to our living God that he literally unites with us to give life to our cells and refreshes our souls to continue our journey ever onward – facing every challenge along the way, with courage we will face, we will battle every day, to claim our rightful place.