Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us!” (Daniel 3:16)
Have I mentioned that I love superhero movies? Okay, to be fair, I like all sorts of movies, but I think the superhero genre is probably my favorite of all – I love stories of good versus evil, with clear cut heroes and villains (NB: I’m not a huge fan of the anti-hero, though I think some have their place. But I digress…). At this point, you might be asking yourself, “what do superheroes have to do with Lent?” I’ll try to explain.
I have a strong favorite among the pantheon of superheroes, but more on that in a moment. I’m mostly a Marvel lover, though I dabble a bit in the DC universe. I mean, you can’t claim to love superheroes and not pay some attention to Superman and Batman. But I’m really more of a Marvel fan. And while Ironman is awesome, and I enjoy Thor and Hulk and Spiderman and others, my favorite superhero is Captain America.
While I could tell you my reasons, I think it is simpler if I let Father Mike Schmitz do it for me, since he’s already done the work, and I pretty much agree with him 100 percent.
So, Captain America represents the best of humanity – he represents what I think we all wish we were – doing our best to be the best we can be, all the time, every time. Captain America is as close to being a saint as we come in the superhero universe. Ideally, we would be striving to be our best – to be saints – at all times, but we would also remember what we all know – that being our best requires God. Sometimes our attempt to be our best becomes a temptation to sin, and specifically it tempts us to the sin of pride. When I’m feeling good about myself, I am tempted to believe that I can do it all for myself (or that I did it all by myself).
Sometimes, when we’re feeling really good about our accomplishments, our strength, our talent, our intellect, we can start to believe that we are the source of our own salvation. We pretty much all remember how limited we are when we’re struggling, but when we’re doing well, so often we start to pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves for how awesome we are. Okay, maybe this is just me – maybe you can all keep ahold of your humility, but I need reminding from time to time. Oh, not too much reminding, please God. I know better than to pray to God to make me humble – I don’t really want that much reminding. But I need those little reminders that he puts in my way on a regular basis – those opportunities to remember how much I need Him in my life. Those little things that remind me how much I need him.
So, what about Lent? Lent gives us an opportunity to practice humility and refocus our lives on God. Lent reminds us of how we should be living all year long, when it comes right down to it. Through the deprivations and extra prayer and other disciplines of Lent, we are given a great opportunity to focus on how much God Loves us, and how much we need Him in our lives all the time. And this is a great opportunity to focus on our temptations and challenges.
One of the greatest sources of humility for me comes from my temptation to procrastinate. I know, you guys are students, so you think you have the lock on procrastination. You think adults have it all figured out, know how to use their time wisely, know how to prioritize and fit it all in. But, I’m about to let you in on a secret: some [many!] adults struggle with these things too. My big struggle is that I believe I can do my work faster than I really can. I’m often convinced that it takes 1 minute to write that e-mail to my boss. Or that I can write a 100 page court filing in 2 hours. (In case you’re curious, the answer is it takes a lot longer than 2 hours to write 100 pages of anything, and even a ‘quick’ email takes time, especially when you’re trying to impress your boss!). So all this reminds me that I’m not super-powerful on my own – I need help. And when I need help, I need to turn to God.
Oh, don’t get me wrong – God won’t write my pleadings, and won’t take my phone calls. That’s on me. But God will help me to avoid the temptation to read another 100 tweets, watch another ‘try not to laugh’ video, or do some ‘research’ about what bike I really, really ~need~ next. (N.B. I have a perfectly good bike … I have several perfectly good bikes. I don’t need a new bike.)
If I keep my focus on Him, and pray regularly, and partake of the sacraments regularly, then my life is filled with His grace. Grace is (should be?) my super-serum – it is the source of my power to be righteous and do good works. And those opportunities for grace through the sacraments and through prayer are what make me the superhero of my own story. Okay – maybe not much of a superhero, but I’m working on it, especially through Lent. I’m doing my best to focus on Jesus, so that I can continue to grow in faith, holiness, my love for Him and my appreciation of His love for me. And through this relationship of love, I can keep my priorities in order, keep my mind right, and be the best me I can be.
Through His grace, I can resist the temptation to procrastinate, and do the things that need doing, when they need doing. Will that make me a superhero? Maybe not in the eyes of the world, but in the story of my own life, I think it will, and if you open yourself to His love, his Grace, you too can obtain super-powers to overcome your struggles, challenges and difficulties.