With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Australian Catholics editor Michael McVeigh explains to his niece how baptism is the beginning of a heroic quest for God – for those brave followers who choose to accept it.

Dear Kayleigh,

You won’t be able to read this for a few years, but as I’m about to be asked to welcome you into the Catholic faith I just thought I’d write you a message to explain to you what that means, and why I’m so proud to be your godfather.

By the time you read this, there have probably been many times when you’ve asked why you have to do the things you do as a Catholic. Sometimes it might seem that God doesn’t hear your prayers, and sometimes the things you pray to happen don’t happen, and so you may have even wondered whether there’s any point to going to Mass at all. I just want to tell you, first and foremost, that it doesn’t matter whether or not you believe in God or go to church on Sundays – God loves you anyway. God loves you because you are a special person – a one-in-a-billion-billion person. God loves every person in the universe in exactly the same way.

You know how it feels when your Mum or Dad gives you a big hug, squeezing you so tight that you never want them to let you go? Imagine the biggest hug in the universe – a hug that takes in all the people, all the animals, all the plants and oceans, the moon, the sun and all the stars in the sky. Imagine that hug envelops you from the moment you are born to the moment that you die, and imagine that when you die the hug only gets stronger. Feeling that hug, that love, is what it means to be a Catholic.

There are going to be moments in your life when you don’t feel God’s love. But try to remember that God’s love will always be there, those big arms giving you a big hug, just as your parents and your Uncle Mike will always be there to give you a big hug even after you’ve had a fight with them.

Understanding your mission

Even though God will love you no matter what you do, being a Catholic means you’ve been given an important mission. You’ve probably seen some superhero cartoons about heroes like Spiderman and Batman by now. Being a Catholic isn’t exactly like being a superhero – there are no awesome costumes (unless you become a priest or a religious sister) and no supervillains to fight. But it does give you a mission to help people, just like a superhero. Your mission as a Catholic is to share God’s love with the world. You start by loving your Mum and Dad and your family, and trying to do good things for them when you can, and to listen and respect what they have to say (even if sometimes it gets in the way of having fun). This is usually not too difficult, because your Mum and Dad will love you back. But you also have to share God’s love with other people in your life – your classmates at school, your teachers, and others you meet. You do this by making friends and getting to know them, by listening to them and treating them as you would like them to treat you. This is the message that Jesus (who would have made a really good superhero) passed on to his friends.

But like superheroes, we Catholics also have a mission to help the rest of the world. There are people in the world who haven’t had the many blessings that you’ve had. Some of them are living close to you, and some are living far away in other parts of the world. God doesn’t have hands to help these people so we have to be God’s hands and do his work for him. In your life you’ll have opportunities to help people, to do something for people who are suffering and sad, who are poor and in need, or who don’t have anyone else to help them.

The things we do for these people, these little acts of love, help open their eyes to the love that God has for them, so they too might feel his loving arms around them.

Earning your superpowers

Of course, you can be loved by God and be a loving person without having to go to Mass each week. But what’s special about being Catholic, and going to Mass, is that you have a way to become stronger friends with God that other people don’t have.

When you’re baptised, you’re welcomed into God’s family and given your special role in God’s mission. Over time, you’ll understand more about that mission that God has given especially to you. You’ll find that, like Spiderman, you have special gifts. You might not have super strength or be able to spin webs, but you’ll have things that you can do that make you happy, and that make others happy when you do them.

One way to deepen your understanding of your mission and your abilities is to go to Mass every week. Going to Communion helps you remember that God is part of you. Listening to the stories of Jesus they tell at Mass can show you what to do when you’re faced with difficult decisions. Praying during Mass can give you the chance to share with God some of your own difficulties. Being part of a community also means you get to meet and get to know different and interesting people – and no superhero can do their job without friends.

If you do this often enough you’ll find that you’ll better understand the special gifts God has given you, and that these gifts can help others far beyond what you could ever have imagined. You’ll never feel a hundred per cent ready to take on everything the world has to offer, but the more time you spend with God, the less you’ll fear the awful things the world might throw at you. That’s because when you know your mission, and you’re really following it faithfully, what you’re doing is not just your work, it’s God’s work and has God’s own power behind it.

I’m proud to be your godfather, and welcome you as you embark on your special mission for God. Remember that being loved by God doesn’t mean that you’ll never get hurt, or face difficulties in your life, but it does mean that you’re never alone in those difficulties. Whatever you do, wherever you go, God will be there already. Waiting with open arms.

Republished with permission from Australian Catholics, Jesuit Communications Australia 2015.

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