I’ve been meaning to post this, from my homily on last week’s readings. So, I thought I’d get to it, before I preach this week’s homily!
I am fascinated by the movie genre you might call the “apocalyptic thriller.” Movies about prophecies & the end times, often involving angels or babies that will save the world, or destroy it. I like to watch them partly because, more often than not, they are interestingly bad. But I am also always curious about what they have to say about God.
My latest foray into this genre was just this week, when I sat down to watch last year’s contribution to the genre, Legion. It’s really more supernatural action movie than apocalyptic thriller, with Michael the Archangel two-fisting machine guns, and even shouldering a missile launcher, all to defend the human race against, not demons, but all the other angels. Michael has gone rogue because God has decided, as he did once before, that humankind has become so corrupt they must be destroyed. So, Michael, and a small band of humans take on God’s legions from a truck stop in the middle of the Nevada desert.
The movie never contends, however, with the one fatal flaw in its theology. If you remember the story of Noah and the flood, you’ll remember that after it was all over, God made a promise. God promised that he would never destroy the human race again. Thus, the God we see in Legion is not the God we see in today’s readings. Today’s readings, rather, seek to remind us that our God is a God who keeps his promises. Our God is a God who never forgets us, who never abandons us, and cares for us like he does all creation. Unlike the God that Legion’s Michael rightly rebels against, our God is a God who is trustworthy, who keeps his promises.
In Legion, Michael becomes a surrogate for the real God, and his main goal is to find a way to remind God of who God is, the one who loves and cares for human beings, not the one who destroys them. As Michael explains, when his brother angel Gabriel tries to stop him from disobeying God, “you’re going to give God what he asks for, I’m going to give God what he needs. “ And, again, we see Michael playing surrogate for the real God, our God who doesn’t always give us what we ask for, but who does provide for our needs.
In the second reading, Saint Paul reminds us that we too are meant to be like God, but not to remind God who he is, but to remind ourselves who we are. We are reflections of God. We are the servants of Christ and the stewards of God’s mysteries. And how will people know this? Because they will see that we are like God in being trustworthy. Because we keep our promises.
We all have made, and do make promises to God. If you were baptized, received first communion and were confirmed, you made a promise to be part of this community. When you came here today, you made a promise to worship God. When you recite the Creed after this homily, you will have made a promise to believe.
I don’t think it is simply a coincidence that we describe people who seem well-suited for something as “promising,” or of someone who has talent in some area as showing great “promise.” The implication is that the very fact that you have certain gifts or talents means that you are meant to use them. Indeed, I think that Saint Paul stresses the importance of trustworthiness so much because he saw that Jesus, and he himself, and all of us are meant to be partners with God in keeping God’s promises. It’s hard to believe that God will take care of everyone’s needs unless we know that there are people we can trust to help us. And it’s much easier for us to believe that God wants to take care of us and others, when we see the unique gifts and talents, as well as the gifts of compassion and mercy, which God gives to each of us, so that we can fulfill our promise, and God’s promises.
If we are meant to be the stewards of God’s mysteries, then it seems obvious that we are called to be agents of God’s care and compassion in the world. In doing so, we overcome the darker angels, and show people not the end of the world, but a world more like God intends it—a world free of fear and anxiety, and filled with hope and promise.