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 superpower. If I were, then there would be no comic books (oh, excuse me “graphic novels”).
We’ve grown up with all this mythology starting with the ancient Greek gods who were little more than superpowered 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 set 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.
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Luke 10:16-21:
The Lord said to his disciples, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said 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.” In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”
Notice 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 also 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!
Today, 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! After all, it will make you Orthodox on Purpose.