Saints and Superheros
In the recent film Captain America: Civil War we are shown once again the amazing world of superheroes. In the film one of the characters, Vision, speaks of the fact more and more ‘enhanced individuals’ as he calls superheroes like; Captain America, Iron Man, and Hawkeye keep showing up on the scene and throughout the movie more and more are added to the Marvel movie universe. Vision also notes that this increase in super people has invited more challenge from evil and thus more damage to the world over.
While on Pentecost we celebrate the birthday of the Church and see the apostles become superhuman in a sense. They are not given superhuman strength, a weaponized suit of armor or the ability to move objects with their mind. Instead, they are given the Holy Spirit which allows them to speak to every human heart and it begins to perfect the apostles in living out the Gospel. Which is a call to become the amazing human being that God willed for each of us to be. In the Catholic tradition we do not give these super humans a title related to an animal or military rank but instead the title of Saint. One who has lived a life of heroic virtue that Jesus calls us to in the Gospels.
This call can be summed up in Jesus’ final command to the disciples in Matthew’s Gospel “Go and make disciples of all nations. Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” So while the Marvel universe gets a few more superheroes it is still clear that these ‘enhanced individuals’ are members a small and exclusive club. On the other hand we as Christians want the entire world to share in our ‘super powers.’ And in many ways Pentecost displays what is perhaps the greatest gift and power that God gives to us as Christians. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit dwells fully in the hearts of Apostles making them bold in speaking the truth while having the skill to deliver that truth in such a way; that on the first Pentecost Peter gave a speech that converted three thousand people to Christ. Imagine that, three thousand people converted in one day and without a sound system.
While to have such success today seems impossible since we are so far removed from the first Pentecost two-thousand years ago. Look at St. Francis de Girolamo. A priest who wanted to go to the missions in Asia but was instead sent to Naples in Italy. Francis would preach on the street, in prisons, and yes even brothels. Every year nearly 400 hardened sinners would convert because of St. Francis.
Imagine if we here at Victory became so inflamed by the Holy Spirit that we preached Christ crucified and risen not on street corners and brothels but in our everyday lives.
At work, we could ask for the Holy Spirit aid us in becoming kinder to our co-workers, not complaining about our bosses, and even by showing in little ways that our Catholic faith is important to us. Such as putting a crucifix, picture of Mary or other saint in our work space. At home Fathers and mothers should be firm in teaching their children right and wrong and about our Catholic faith including its rich tradition while still being forgiving of everyday offenses like spilling a drink or children doing chores incorrectly. Children should learn to respect their parents and trust that their parents want what is best for them. At Church and school we could be welcoming to new families or families that are not usually part of the in-crowd and invite them to activities and events centered around the parish and religious education. Imagine doing all these and every year 400 hundred people began to come or come back to Mass at Victory.
Sometimes we can look at the situation in our world and in our parish and think that in order to bring people back we need to give people a gimmick or make the rules easier to bring people back to the Catholic Faith. When perhaps all we need is to rely on God’s help given to us in the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit given to the apostles on Pentecost was given to us at our confirmation. Pentecost did not end two-thousand years ago. The Holy Spirit is still at work in our world and in our parish today. Come Holy Spirit, enkindle in us the fire of Your love and You will renew the face of the earth. Go make disciples of all nations.