Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Memorial)

 

Whose glory is equal to yours? 

 

Superheroes may be the stuff of fiction, but if we turn to the Bible, we find plenty of people who perform incredible feats that are out of the ordinary.   Take Elijah the prophet, for example.   If we could assign him a superpower, it would probably involve fire.   Today’s first reading (Sirach 48:4) describes how Elijah “three times brought down fire,” and how, at the end of his life, he was “taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses” (Sirach 48:3, 9).

But did you notice a shift in tone in this reading?   From the powerful and somewhat scary images of fire and judgment, the passage ends on a softer, more hopeful note.   Elijah is destined to “put an end to wrath before the day of the Lord, to turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob” (Sirach 48:10).   What should we make of such a switch?

Well, we all know that Elijah’s “superpowers” didn’t come from Elijah himself—they came from God.   God can create something out of nothing;   he can manipulate the natural elements.   His might and power are beyond our wildest imagination.   So the shift in tone tells us that God is not just some “super-superhero” who goes around striking down the wicked with lightning bolts.   He is a God of just judgment but also a God of mercy.   He is the Creator of the universe, and he cares about each and every one of us.   He knows the most intimate details of our lives, including our failings.   And he wants to make them right.

During Advent, the Church invites us to fix our eyes on Jesus.   But the image we see is of a helpless baby, born in obscurity two thousand years ago—who is also fully God and fully man, the author of all life who has come to destroy sin and death.

God could have come into our world in a blaze of glory, like Elijah riding on his fiery chariot.   But he chose a different path.   He inserted himself into our lives in the most vulnerable way imaginable.   He didn’t come to intimidate us but to get close to us.   And he does that by using the greatest superpower of all—his love.

“Jesus, you are awesome in your deeds and loving in your heart.”

Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
Matthew 17:9-13

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