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  • Writer's pictureFr. Paul MacNeil

Homily, 5th Sunday of Lent, 2024

Fr. Paul MacNeil

The myth of the superhero

There are only three kinds of superheroes, based on where they get their power: 

  1. They come from an alien world where things are different, but they live in our world to help it. Superman, Thor, and Wonder Woman come to mind.

  2. They received power because of accidental contact with an alien or powerful substance of an alien or otherwise mysterious origin: Spiderman, my favourite, Captain Marvel, the Incredible Hulk, and Captain America.

  3. They also received power through effort, discipline, human resources, resourcefulness and genius: Ironman, Antman, and Batman also come to mind.

All of these kinds of superheroes, and I'm sure there are too many others to mention, share a few things in common:

  1. The world they inhabit is in trouble and under threat.

  2. They are saviours

  3. They are also just stories. They are myths; they are not true.

But like all stories, they contain some truth; otherwise, they would not be so popular. Our world is certainly in trouble. Deep trouble. There are too many wars, there is too much corruption, there are too many people without food, there are too many people without shelter, yes, even in our region. The question is how to save it. We are tempted to look at the world and say, "I can’t  save it; I don't know what to do." So you give up. "I’m not Superman, I’m not Ironman, I’m not Spiderman. I’m just me; what can I do?" 

But what is missing in all those superhero stories is one element available to us today that can save the world, and all of us can share it. Let me describe it this way.  

In 2010, I visited a place in China called Kunyu Mountain. I stayed there for two months. ( It was great; we worked out for 6 hours a day. Every Friday, we had to hike up to another temple, high up in the mountains, and then from there, we had to run up approximately 350 steps to the top of the mountain, then back down again, and then back up six times. It was amazing! And difficult at first. But here's the interesting thing: On the way up the mountain, the stronger students were on the way back down, and they were telling us as they passed us, "Keep going... you're almost there.... you're doing great." And do you know what? It was working. And on our way down, we said the same thing to those on the way up. It was one great cycle of encouragement. I think this is the greatest superpower we have - the ability to encourage each other through the difficulties we face. What got us through that experience was not an alien superpower, some inherent dormant thing like "chi," or even the resourcefulness of some technology, not even self-discipline. What got us through it was the support we gave each other. This is our greatest superpower.

You look at our world out there; yes, we’re in trouble. Our greatest superhero is Jesus, at least, He is to me, but not in the way you might think. Jesus is not some alien powerful or superhuman force like Thor or Superman. I challenge you to believe that Jesus's greatest superpower was not his divinity, but he was divine. It was in his humanity. Jesus drew all people to himself by being fully human so that together, his disciples, including you and I, can change the world. 

This is our greatest superpower: not force of will, not strength of violent attack, not individualistic heroism or superheroism. Our strength is in our ability to come together. And not just a few of us who have that ability; it is in all of us.

I conclude with a quotation from Teilhard do Chardin: 

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, humanity will have discovered fire.

Today, on this solidarity Sunday, I invite members of our development and peace team to speak and share how we can work together to set our world on fire with Christ's love and love for each other.

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