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December 2, 2017 - Jesus Uncloaked

Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Those who have interacted with me for at least 30 minutes have likely gathered that I have some nerdy tendencies. One clear indicator is my love for The Lord of the Rings.  I was reminded of a scene from the movie version of The Lord of the Rings as I read today's Gospel.

There is a part in the movies where, Bilbo Baggins is reluctant to fulfill his end of a bargain to surrender his magical ring that seems to possess him as much as he possesses it (which is actually the 'Ring of Power' an evil artifact that allows the persistence of the main villain, Sauron). As he is pressed by his friend, Gandalf the Grey, to give up the ring, Bilbo grows angry.  Gandalf, a wizard, then begins to reveal some of his true power as he warns Bilbo to remember that he is not merely "a conjurer of cheap tricks."  To further set up the parallel, he says in the book, that if Bilbo continues to call the ring his precious and refuses to give it up, then he will see "Gandalf the Grey uncloaked." To bring this into connection with the Gospel, we need to look at the last words in which Jesus says, "Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man."

Like Gandalf is to Bilbo, Jesus is our friend, our counselor, our voice of wisdom and a guide in peacemaking. Gandalf is cloaked in grey and age, Jesus is cloaked in his incarnate flesh. Like Gandalf, Jesus calls us to lay down the sins and habits that have gained too much sway over us. He fights alongside us against the worldly things or vices we would cling to and call "my precious." Like Gandalf, he took on flesh to be among us and with us, to offer us a preciousness that doesn't cause us to curl around ourselves and fight others off, but a preciousness that opens us to others by opening ourselves to God.

Like Bilbo to Gandalf, we also would do well to remember that it will take strength to stand before Jesus 'uncloaked' as the Son of Man, but not a strength that comes from us. Unlike Gandalf, who is rich in his Christ-like characteristics, Jesus doesn't just call us to be strong, but is our strength. This is why the cloak of Jesus' incarnation is threat to the proud and arrogant. He takes on our weakness to give us his strength. He is the arbiter of the Great Exchange, that in sharing in our death we may share in his Life. It is not weakness we should fear, but our inability to admit either our need for Jesus' strength or his desire to strengthen us and thus we fail to ask.

For all of my nerdiness, and my love for Tolkien and his creation, Gandalf is great, but Jesus is better. Gandalf reassures Bilbo that 'I am not trying to rob you, but help you." Christ's reassurance is far greater, He is offering us the fullness of life and more than trying to help us, he is the very help and strength upon which we rely both in tribulation and to stand before him 'uncloaked.'

- Spencer Hargadon