First Sunday of Lent

At certain moments, many people have wished, as a child or even older, that they could either disappear or fly away. Such imagined abilities are often called “superpowers,” and we ascribe them to beings that we dream up whom we often call “superheroes.” We delight in imagining such superheroes and their superpowers, and this can be a harmless—perhaps even helpful—diversion. But if we are honest with ourselves, many of us may realize that we most want to be invisible or to fly away in moments when we felt embarrassed, humiliated, trapped, or powerless in a given situation. We may have wished—as a child—to have some “superpower” that would either get us out of the situation or resolve it by showing to those around us that we had a superpower that they didn’t. All of which is just a fantasy, of course.

God does not offer us “superpowers” as an easy fix to situations or to help us “show up” our tormentors. Miracles are entirely different realities, ones which do not flinch or flee from worldly realities but endure them in love, through the cross of Jesus Christ from which they flow. The devil’s tempting of Jesus in the desert (Mt 4:1-11) unmasks the lie behind our childish flight from the messy realities of the world towards facile “superpowers.” As the eternally begotten Son of the Father, Jesus could live his God-manhood any way he wants (cf. Mt 26:53), but instead he chooses to live his divine life as a man who is truly a man, with no tricks and no superpowers. Jesus truly fasts, and he uses no tricks to try to make his fasting easier. As a result, he is weary in the desert and is truly tempted. The devil tempts Jesus to use “superpowers” to solve his problems, as he tempts us to long after such “superpowers” to flee from our own problems. But Jesus rejects such “superpowers,” because they do not express the life of God. This is shocking to us, because we tend to associate God with power. But on the cross, the ultimate revelation of God comes in Jesus’ stripping himself of every power except that power which is the most complete revelation of God’s own identity: Love. This is the greatest and most divine of all powers, for what can exceed the Son’s power to love the ones who are blaming God for all their sins, indeed, for the evil of the whole world, when He has himself committed no sin? This is the love from which miracles flow. These miracles flow from the gratuity of a love willing to pay the price itself so that the recipient pays nothing.

Unlike “superpowers” which are always somehow a flight from our creaturely limitations, Jesus expresses this love by embracing the “creaturely” reality of his life as a man. He does not grasp for superpowers, because precisely as a man, in human nature, Jesus has all he needs to live the divine life. And so do we, if we, embracing our creatureliness, say “yes” to the life that Jesus offers us: not a life of superpowers, but one of love and therefore of miracles.

March 5th, 2017