Just last week at the end of a sequence of calamitous happenings in the country and world, someone remarked that if he had one wish it would be that when turning on the news he’d hear something other than bad news. His wish caught the dark and heavy feelings of the past months. In such times, where is the light, where is goodness and authenticity and truth?
It’s not hard to project that same mood back into biblical times. With Jesus in Lk (11:15-26) you detect that dark feeling in the air when demons are at work and just as dire that demonic suspicions are being cast about Jesus. “Satan is amongst us and the only reason this man has the power to cast out these demons is because the Prince of demons is supplying that power. Isn’t this still one more sign that God’s power is on the wane, that God is leaving us.
Long before this menacing scene was the disturbing time of the Israelites’ captivity in Egypt. All sorts of ominous events were happening throughout the countryside – swarms of frogs and locusts, contagion, together with the growing resistance of the Jewish people to their oppression.
Injected into both these dark times comes a striking and light-filled figure of speech, ‘the finger of God.’ It’s a phrase to communicate that in the midst of all these threatening events, something else is at work. Something other than the evil and downward pointing forces is in the mix, though because of all the gloom that certain something has been mostly hidden.
And so the Jews in Exodus. The Egyptian wise men, the magicians, are beginning to get anxious because certain abnormal things are occurring in the countryside (locusts, plagues, hail), things out beyond anybody’s control notably the Pharaoh’s. Rubbing his chin, one of them suggests, “Could there be something else operating here down below what we can see? Could it be that ‘the finger of God’ is in this somehow?”
And then Jesus in his dust up with his opponents. “It’s Satan at work on the scene here,” they say. “He’s the evil power pulling all the strings.” Listen to Jesus’ read of the phenomenon: “You’re saying it’s Satan operating here, controlling things. On the contrary it’s my Father appearing here, His power overpowering Satan’s power.” And the phrase Jesus uses? That very same one we heard in Exodus, — the ‘finger of God,’ again at work in the midst of all these murky and frightening things.
And so the challenge is put before us disciples, we who also live in decidedly anxious times. How do we go about presenting those ‘signs’ that the Kingdom of God is present and at work in the world? How do we do the kinds of things that put body and starch into that phrase, ‘the finger of God’? How do we turn that expression from a platitude into a fleshy reality so that it radiates some of the power that both those magicians in Egypt and the detractors around Jesus felt spilling onto the scene? Especially in darker times are we asked to make this case that the God of Exodus and of Jesus is present and alive and continuing God’s care in the present.
In one of his writings, Karl Rahner comments on this exact phrase, “We can, with the finger of God, show signs that, here and there, the Kingdom of God has come into the world in the form of something bright and wholesome, something sound and true.”
Doesn’t his affirmation and so many others like it lay out the backdrop for all we in Vincent’s Family would do with our time, talent and everyday lives: show signs, here and there, that there’s more in the air than evil, that there’s much more in the story than dark motives and destructive acts. Along with Jesus, we would show signs that the finger of God is present and is touching our world. We would show living and breathing testimony that the Kingdom of God is here in our midst and is ever more steadily bending toward goodness.