All my life, I’ve dreamed of having some kind of superhero power. When I was a boy, I wanted to be like Superman and have the ability to run around the world really fast and pick up trucks and stop speeding bullets. “Why,” you may ask. Because it’s cool! That’s why!
I bet I’m not the only one who’s dreamed of having some super power. If I were, then there would be no comic book (oh, excuse me “graphic novel”) industry.
We’ve grown up with all this mythology starting with the ancient Greek gods who were little more than super powered humans. Then those of us in my generation had Superman, Spiderman, the Hulk, Batman (well, he really didn’t have a superpower, but he was super rich!), and so many others. We fantasize about having some ability that both makes us special and frees us from some weakness or allows us to do those things that sets us apart.
And I’m convinced this is another example of the image of God in us. This longing to break the constraints of our limitations and achieve what we seem to instinctively know – we were made for more.
But as every hunger in our human hearts, this hunger is usually polluted by pride, and ego. So, even this natural and instinctive hint of our divine origins gets misused and reduced to some self-serving motivation. I want power so that I get ahead or I get what I want or I am loved/feared. And that’s the moment this natural good desire is mangled beyond recognition to actually be used to enslave me deeper in my own spiritual poverty.
It happened to the Lord’s Apostles as well.
Look at our Gospel Lesson for today. In Luke 10:16-21 our Lord’s disciples come back to Him after He sent them out to preach HIs message and they reported some exciting news. They tell the Lord “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17) And Jesus, seeing their joy and excitement at their participation in His power, says to them “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:18-20)
First, the Lord didn’t rebuke them for their excitement. He shared in their joy. God has called all of us to participate in His Resurrection life; to live in that great reality where we act and choose and decide and react to life with the full knowledge that death is dead! This freedom brings with it a joyous participation in the Life of Christ Himself through the divine mysteries of the Church, Her consistent and timeless prayers, liturgies, and worship, and the community life Christ left us to not only experience but share with the world. Heady stuff if we really embrace it and live it. And the Lord rejoices in our joy and freedom in this new life.
But, He offers a deeper perspective that makes sure our joy isn’t polluted by our arrogance or ego.
Second, He calls His disciples to place their joy, not in power but perspective. Jesus reminds the disciples that the joy they are experiencing isn’t from some supernatural power they “possess,” or in some “ability” that they now have, but that “your names are written in heaven.”
The Source of our joy, our peace, our freedom, isn’t some “magic” power bestowed on us by God, as if we were bitten by a radioactive spider and can now shoot webs out of our wrists! No. The Source of our joy has to always be grounded in gratitude that our God has shared Himself with us. Our authority is to be exercised from humility in knowing that I don’t cast out demons; my participation in Christ’s resurrected life is the reality that simply doesn’t allow the demons to remain where I am because I bring the reality of the Lord’s Resurrection to that place!
Do you see, dear one, how this perspective changes everything? No wonder the disciples taught with such authority. They were completely aware it wasn’t their authority in the first place. No wonder the saints lived their lives completely disregarding all the claims that they were holy. They lived with the full awareness that it is Christ’s holiness, not theirs, that made them who they were.
Today, in this glorious Bright Week, instead of falling for the shallow trap of arrogance at our freedom from death, let us strengthen the spiritual growth we have embraced by always turning our eyes and hearts to gratitude that He has rescued us from the slavery of self-centeredness. Because it is only this perspective, not that of having some “ability”, that will maintain and grow the character of Jesus in our lives. And that’s the only “superpower” worth having!