Just recently I went to the movies and saw X-men. I know, I know what you are thinking! Or at least I know what I was thinking, “Why waste my time and money on something so irrelevant.” But I invited a friend, turned it into a men’s night out and asked myself a couple of questions. First, why are movies about superheroes so appealing? Second, what’s the real difference between a villain and the hero? Third, how do these stories relate to our story, the Gospel story?
Let me start off by saying that very few ideas are original. That’s true with us and it’s true with screen writers. What we are witnessing right now in the movie industry is the recycling of old stories that are filled with good and wholesome ideas and ideals. So what makes Marvel’s superheroes so appealing is not the unbelievable but the believable; that which we can all seek and strive for.
What captures the audience’s attention watching X-men is this inner yearning deep inside the characters to be accepted and loved. It is much more moving than the suspense, high paced action or high-flying dare devil stunts throughout the movie. The question thrown out there is this: I can either love unconditionally or hate ruthlessly. What will it be? I can either give all or demand more! What will it be? I can either live selflessly or selfishly. What will it be? We know love. Even the most hardened of hearts know for it is ever-old and always-new in all of us and in all things. This is everybody’s story. And like it or not, we will never stop seeking it. Love is the fountain of youth, the source of all that is good and powerful. Hate can move people and things, but love will move the highest of mountains and displace submarines deep below the ocean. It can move the most stubborn of souls and change the course of world events. It can make things new again and make them better than before.
Our superheroes, we are told, were the result of random genetic mutations. Let’s not forget the prevailing attitude back in the forties and fifties when our X-men were first drawn up on paper. Science had replaced God and man had become deaf and blind by his own arrogance. The inventor of our superheroes and villains can easily tell us how they came about and why some are evil, but he never gets around to tell us why most are good? We know the answer to this question, and it has nothing to do with mutations or genes; but rather with virtue, the virtue of humility. In the end, this is what distinguishes the villain from the superhero - nothing more and nothing less, for nothing more is greater than that and nothing less will get you there.
Love who you are. This is a theme that replays itself over and over again in the movie X-men. It is a novelty - foreign in the original comics. It represents modernity’s latest secular creed, and a bad one at that! For in the movie (as in real life) it doesn’t seem to resolve the agonizing problems and challenges of the day. In fact, those who repeat it often turn bad at the very end. Intentional or not, “Love who you are” is an idea that gets lost in the movie. How? By training. The villains never train, but the X-men begin to train in mind, body and soul. Yes, we can be better than our raw material and we should be. Just like in today’s Gospel, we really don’t want the centurion to love himself. We want the centurion to love Jesus Christ. We really don’t want little Billy to grow up loving himself. We want Billy to grow up loving Jesus Christ.
Near the end of the movie, the latest Marvel comic begins to look a lot like the greatest Gospel commandment: Love your enemies and neighbors as yourself. Our X-men, after having trained, gradually become more and more like men of the Cross. Let me remind you that an X is by definition, a cross.
Humility is man’s strength and it will never be a sign of weakness. Christ took away our infirmities and bore our diseases. True, and as a result, he changed our lives forever. Now little Billy can love someone more than himself. He can love his neighbors, step-mother and step-father because he loves God more than himself, and if you can love the One who is above you, then you will always be able to love the love that is beside and below you. This is the story of the centurion. This is the story of every single conversion. This is from God’s marvel book!