A few years ago as I drove to Moab, I stopped in Price to get some gas. While there I was surprised to see a line of teenagers a mile long beside a street. They were not only standing up, but also sitting in lawn chairs reading books, playing cards or huddling in circles talking to one another.
My first question was, “Why are all these teenagers camping out on Main Street in the middle of December on a school night?” But then I noticed the movie theatre. They were there to see the latest Harry Potter movie “The Goblet of Fire.”
Seeing the teenagers bundled up on this cold, winter night, I was witnessing the Season of Advent right before my eyes. The Season of Advent tells us to “stay awake, to be alert, to be prepared and to look for the coming of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior!” But I am sure if I had walked up to some of those teenagers and told them they were living out the expectations of the Advent Season, they would have said something like, “Are you out of your mind? We don’t even know what Advent is, and to be honest with you, we are not preparing for the coming of Jesus, we are preparing to watch the Harry Potter movie ‘The Goblet of Fire.’”
Not wanting to miss an opportunity to witness, I would have stressed my point to them all the more by saying, “I am serious — your mind tells you that are waiting here to see Harry Potter who recognized his powers at the age of 11. But what your heart is really longing for is to see the supernatural hero, Jesus Christ, who at the age of 12, was in the temple, in his Father’s house, in the “Potter’s House,” sitting in the midst of all the teachers, listening to them and astounding them with his great words of wisdom.”
I would have tried to let the teenagers know, “Your mind tells you that you are standing here in line to see Harry Potter, an English school boy who advances from grade-to-grade at Hogwarts school to be trained in witchcraft and perform magical powers, but what your heart is really longing for is to know more about Jesus, who is the Word of God, who is the source of all Wisdom and who is the power behind all the miracles of the world.
“Your mind tells you that you are standing here in line to see Harry Potter, who is the target of attack by the worst of evil wizards, Lord Voldemort. But what your heart is really longing for is to know more about Jesus who is the target of attack by the worst of demons, the devil himself.
“Your mind tells you that you are standing here in line to see Harry Potter and that ‘Goblet of Fire’ which arbitrarily chooses a champion. But what your heart is really longing for is not the ‘Goblet of Fire,’ but the fire of Christ’s love that can be found in his goblet, in his chalice or in his cup of blood that he presented to the Apostles and to the world there in that Upper Room at the Last Supper.”
If given the chance, I would have tried to impress upon the youth that movies can inspire our minds, hearts and souls to long for a supernatural hero who has the power to “save the day” or to bring peace to a world that is filled with war, to bring love to a world that is filled with hate, to bring light to a world that is filled with darkness and to bring immortality to a world that is filled with death. In reality, our souls are longing for a supernatural hero just like the “hero” the Israelites waited for during that period of 800 years in order to encounter the Messiah spoken of by the Prophet Isaiah: “They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful.” (Isaiah 9:5-6)
Yes, fiction definitely has the power to take us to other worlds. But sad to say, the hunger that we have for other worlds, for invincibility and immortality, can still leave our souls feeling hungry, thirsty and empty, if we haven’t been willing to follow the advice that God (the Heavenly Potter) gave to Jeremiah and the whole house of Israel.
God didn’t tell them to go to Harry Potter’s house, but to go where? “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me, “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? Says the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” (Jeremiah 18:1-6)
During this Advent and Christmas Season, may we hunger and thirst for the One and only One who has come into the world to save us from our sins and to form and fashion us into His image, the image of the living God. He can take us to another world far, far away from here, there in the Kingdom of Heaven where there will no longer be any more wars, violence, murders, sickness and death, but perfect peace, happiness and eternal life, unlike any invincibility and immortality that our superheroes have been able to show us here on earth.
Between now and the Lord’s Second Coming, may we continue to pray with the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “But now, O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou are our potter, and we all are the work of thy hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)
Rev. Vialpando is the priest at St. Marguerite Catholic Church in Tooele.