The Great deceiver

13 Feb 2019 by Mark Trudeau, Comments Off on The Great deceiver

“Of all the divine attributes, only god’s omnipotence is named in the creed: to confess his power has great bearing on our lives” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #268)

In the award winning motion picture, “The Wizard of Oz”, a marvelous adaptation of the novel written by L. Franklin Baum, there are two key scenes in which the wizard appears. Dorothy and her companions, the scarecrow, the cowardly lion and the tin man, turn up in the palace of the wizard, hoping to have an audience with him. Thanks to their friendship with the Good Witch, Glinda, they are permitted to enter the wizard’s presence. The wizard fancies himself as one who is wise and all-powerful, and with no equal. His demeanor is frightful. He appears as a large, ghostly head surrounded by fire and smoke. He bellows and scolds his four terrified visitors. His thunderous voice makes him seem omnipotent.

Later in the story, Toto, Dorothy’s pet dog, exposes the wizard as a fraud, a phony. He is simply a middle-aged man who speaks through a microphone, and not the omnipotent Lord of the citizens of Oz. The so-called “wizard” is humbled.

This wonderful story serves notice to the rulers and the powerful of our world.  Only One is all-powerful and wholly other; only One stands apart from anything sinful: the Holy One of Israel. His glory fills the whole earth.

The prophet Isaiah lived seven and one-half centuries before the birth of Christ. According to scholars, he was a member of Jewish royalty and lived in Jerusalem. While in the Temple, the center of worship for the Chosen People, Isaiah finds himself in the presence of the Lord. He has an unexpected vision of God’s holiness (Is.6:1-8). In all likelihood, Isaiah’s vision occurred during a liturgical service. His calling as a prophet is connected with this vision. God’s divine presence is symbolized by the train of the garments that fills the temple as well as the thunderous sound of the earthquake and the Holy Place being filled with smoke. Overcome by great awe and a feeling of his own unworthiness, he cries out, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips” (Is.6:5). He expresses his solidarity with his own people. They, too, are a people of unclean lips! The holiness of God is a central theme in the book of the prophet. A great chasm exists between God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness. After the prophet is cleansed, he immediately responds to God’s call.

A similar theme is found in today’s gospel. In the face of the miraculous catch of fish, Peter does not throw his arms around Jesus to express joy at his good fortune.. There were no hi-fives. It is significant that he falls to his knees in the presence of Christ and cries, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man”

So, too, St. Paul. Remembering that he had been a persecutor of the Church, he professed himself unworthy to be called an apostle.(1 Cor.15:9)

What lessons can we derive from today’s readings?

First and foremost, no one can “walk with God” or be a disciple of Jesus without first recognizing his unworthiness, his sinfulness. The gulf separating us from God’s holiness is infinite and immeasurable;

Second, the glory of the Temple in Jerusalem pales in comparison to the glory that fills our Catholic churches. Christ dwells in our midst and makes his presence known to us in the “breaking of the bread”. And what must be our response? Recall the words of the centurion, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and my servant shall be healed” (Mt.8:8) May our encounters with the Living God help us to recognize our sinfulness and our need for a Savior to lead and guide us.

Finally, let us recall the words heard by the prophet in the Temple of Jerusalem and sung by members of the congregation immediately prior to the words of consecration at mass, the Sanctus: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord, God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory”. Like Isaiah and later, St. Peter, we kneel in awe, for we realize that we are in a presence far greater than ourselves.

Unlike the fictional wizard of Oz, God cannot deceive us. He is truly all-powerful and wise. A close encounter with Him can transform a life and bring humility and joy in its wake. That should be our daily prayer!



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