Every morning I will put to silence
all the wicked in the land;
I will cut off every evildoer
from the city of the Lord.
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
Reflection: Christ, the True Hero
By John Tillman
Superhero origin stories often contain a moment of dedication defining the hero’s identity, mission, and philosophy. The simplest, and perhaps most resonant with truth, is the six-word proverb that guides the moral compass of Peter Parker’s universe: “With great power comes great responsibility.” This is a stripped-down, modern rephrase of Luke 12:48.
Superheroes aren’t new. (In terms of culture and Christendom, the 1960s are still new.) Spider-man, Batman, and other heroes are throwbacks in both style and purpose to the tales of flawed, human-like Greco-Roman gods, intended to inspire stoicism and virtue as well as entertain.
Though this lens, we often see biblical figures as superheroes. In that vein, Psalm 101 (from yesterday’s readings) reads as if it is David’s superhero oath.
Charles Spurgeon called this Psalm a, “Psalm of Pious Resolutions.” Some scholars, including Spurgeon, believe this Psalm may have been written by David just prior to or just after being made the king of Israel.
Our cultural “superhero” lens can cause us to see ourselves as the “hero” in biblical accounts. However, imagining that God might use us to defeat a giant as David did isn’t much more life-changing than imagining that we might be able to lift a bus or fly through the air. It’s just moralism dressed in a super-suit.
The deeper truth of Spider-man’s proverb is that the powerful are seldom responsible. Most of the villains in Spidey’s universe are men or women with great power, who start as Peter’s friends and turn to evil. Even Peter fails to live up to his own beliefs.
We cannot live up to oaths such as Psalm 101. Neither could David. David would eventually bring corruption, rape, murder, and the ravages of civil war to the city which in this Psalm he pledges to protect.
It is not that we cannot be used by God in miraculous (or super) ways. Rather that, as Christians, it is more important that we realize that we need a hero than that we pledge to be one. It is Christ, the Son of David, who ultimately will fulfill David’s pledge in this Psalm.
When we pray prayers like this Psalm, we are praying that Christ, the true hero, will fulfill these actions in us. We are not the saviors, but the ones in need of saving. It is Christ, not us, who is the hero of our cities and our world.
Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Your strengthen me more and more; you enfold me and comfort me. — Psalm 71.21
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.
Deuteronomy 15 (Listen – 3:20)
Psalm 102 (Listen – 2:45)
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