Our son Isaac’s superhero obsession has led to some amusing strolls down memory lane for my husband and me. That stroll has been greatly aided by YouTube, where I believe it is possible to watch any campy 70’s or 80’s cartoon ever made. Mostly, we watch the old Hannah Barbera Super Friends cartoons. On one occasion, we watched an episode where all of the Super Friends, one by one, fell victim to the Legion of Doom’s newest weapon and died. My son’s eyes filled with tears and he shouted, “No! They can’t be dead!” Indeed, in the next scene we found out that they were just robot copies of themselves designed to pull the evil weapon out in the open so they could hurl it into space, yet again saving the human race from the super villains. (Do you see why I love watching this??) Everything turned out okay.
As a child I remember a similar phenomenon when I would watch the old Batman live action show in reruns that came on before dinner. At the end of the first half hour segment, Batman and Robin always ended up tied to some crazy conveyor belt on their way to being cut apart by a machine. Or perhaps they were dangling from a rope over a vat of boiling oil, which was slowly breaking thread by thread. Whatever the peril was, it was certain death! But we never wondered at the end of such episodes if our heroes would survive, we just watched eagerly to see how they would get it done this week.
I believe we know from an innate sense that the good guys always win. We are wired for justice. Even when things get tough, we know that if we just fight hard enough good will come through. But how about the guy who commits a crime and gets off on a technicality? Or the sleazy con artist who rips off a bunch of senior citizens and then disappears? What about when a baby dies from child abuse or even a whole country full of babies dies from war or hunger or preventable diseases? We have countless examples all around us of situations in which the real bad guy really does win. Are we just naïve optimists to still hold on to the idea that good triumphs over evil?
No. And to make my point I want to bring in a very special group of super heroes: the martyrs. These are people who were burned alive, stoned, beaten, starved, beheaded, boiled in oil, flayed, shot, fed to animals… you get the point. Want a stomach-turning Halloween costume idea? Look up a martyr. They are a supreme example of good getting its butt kicked, right? All they did was honor God and serve His people, and they were put to death for it. It kind of reminds you of someone, doesn’t it?
This is of course what happened to the Ultimate Good Guy. The only one who can be properly called good because He is the source of all good. He did not need to come to earth, but he did so, taking the form of a slave, subjecting himself to suffering and the worst possible death. It was precisely his death, a seeming defeat in the eyes of the world that was his greatest victory. He poured out every last drop of his blood, and in doing so poured out his love in abundance. By his death, he conquered death forever.
And of course, he didn’t stay dead! By his resurrection, he reveals his victory to us. Jesus’ death is the moment we see repeated in every good hero story. He seems dead, but, wait, he’s not! He pulled through! Evil has not triumphed after all, even though it seemed as if it had. This is where we find ourselves today in situations that I mentioned above. In this world it seems as if the criminals go free, the innocent are victims and the martyrs are sad fools. But in this world, we are really suspended in that moment in the movie where it seems as if the hero is a goner. This world is a perpetual Holy Saturday. Easter, believe it or not, is just around the corner.
We really believe as Catholics that at the end of our own lives, we will be judged, and if we are found in God’s friendship, we will be given an eternal reward. Our sacrifices and sufferings offered in love will not go unrewarded. And, at the end of time, the Supreme Hero will return in his glory and set all things straight. The good guys will get their reward, and the villains will be put to justice. So don’t feel bad as you root for your favorite childhood cartoon superhero on YouTube. Tell your spouse or coworkers that you are doing a study in the Pascal Mystery.
Copyright 2009 Libby DuPont