Your eyes gaze at the blue light emanating from your hand. You’ve been waiting for this moment for so long. You see the light change and flash before you and feel a rush of excitement overtake your being. Sounds and movement start, causing you to react and try to capture everything that is set in front of you. Of course I’m not talking about anything ethereal or other-worldly, but rather, the sensation that most people received when they opened their Pokémon Go! apps for the first time. I certainly felt these things as an avid Pokémon player when I was growing up. Yet one thing I’ve realized is that the Sacraments in the Church invite us to partake in a similar and more meaningful excitement.
A large part of my excitement comes from nostalgia for my childhood. My brother and I were two of the first kids in our elementary school to own Pokemon Red and Blue (I had Red, he had Blue), and I spent a lot of time training to be “the very best,” as the song says. On the other hand, I think an equally large if not larger part of my excitement comes from the mechanics of the actual app itself. Pokemon Go! operates using what the media and tech developers call “Augmented Reality.” This is when an app takes elements from itself and overlays them onto the real world. For example, a Pokemon player has to walk around particular areas searching for Pokemon, and when the player discovers one, it appears wherever the player is in real time against the background of the player’s location. Pidgeys appear in people’s offices; Charizards live in people’s backyards; there might even be a Pikachu in your closet!
The phrase “Augmented Reality” really strikes me. People are so happy and excited that this fantastic world of Pokémon isn’t only in the game, but in our reality. It’s cute to see a Pokémon as you walk through a park or play in the sand of a beach. It draws people together in this common pursuit of “catching them all.” Indeed, news reports are documenting how people who are depressed have been brought out of their houses, children on the autism spectrum have made new connections, and people are getting a lot more exercise because of this app’s novelty.
Similarly, the Seven Sacraments are opportunities in the Catholic Church for believers to enter into God’s very life and have their reality “augmented”. This is accomplished through unique actions and/or symbols that take place in each ritual. The waters of baptism draw us deeper into the mystery of God’s primordial and unconditional forgiveness. The bread and wine we receive at the Eucharistic feast become Christ’s very own body and blood through ritual action of consecration. Our anointing with chrism oil at Confirmation seals within us the gifts of the Holy Spirit such as courage, reverence, and wonder at God’s creation. These, as well as the other Sacraments of the Catholic Church, demonstrate that the reality where we walk is infused with God’s presence. God desires to be with us through these special ritual actions that we celebrate. God’s life becomes intertwined with human life through the sacraments.
It’s exciting to realize that our God can access and augment our reality through these special pathways. Let’s be excited that God’s love is so accessible to the world! The ethereal, other-worldly enters our midst whenever we celebrate the Sacraments through their ritual movements and symbols. Let’s be challenged to see the things like the bread in our hands and the wine we receive as a way to connect us to the risen Christ, who is past, present, future. Perhaps this excitement will draw us all together and help us to be “the very best” people that God calls us to be.