We tend to love superheroes because of their love for justice, their cool superpowers and defense of the helpless, forgotten, abandoned, ignored, and distraught. Yet, for me, I have come to learn and appreciate a hero that has no superpowers. He is just an ordinary guy who has a physical disability. This guy is blind, yet because of his loss of sight, he is able to activate and use his other senses well. He trains himself to defend and protect those who are often affected by the criminals who fall through the cracks of the justice system. Even though he is physically blind, this hero has a more keen and aware sense of sight than those who are able to see around him. His name is Matthew Murdock and he calls himself, “Daredevil.”
I like Matt because he is not perfect. He often struggles to try to figure out what is right and wrong. He struggles often trying to understand the boundaries of true justice and not to become unjust or too excessive in enforcing what is right according to the higher laws and standards. He is a devout Catholic who goes to confessions and seeks guidance from a priest often. He trusts Fr. Paul Lantom and confides in him. He seeks spiritual guidance from the priest as he struggles to make sure that he does not take all matters into his own hand, as if to “play god” with other people’s lives. He does not kill people because he believes in redemption, a second chance to turn one’s life around through personal conversion and the grace of God. His best friend, Foggy (Franklin) Nelson, puts it best when they are contemplating why he always holds himself back when it comes to Wilson Fisk who calls himself, “The Kingpin” of the criminal world. Foggy states: “Matt’s Matt because he believes everyone deserves a shot at redemption. EVERYONE. It’s a Catholic thing. That’s why he doesn’t kill people. If he crosses that line, Matt will never be able to forgive himself.”
I do not know about you, but that is so wonderful, especially, for me, as a priest to hear! In this day and age when it is so easy to seek retributive justice and play god as if we — ourselves — are the only real, effective standard of judgment and criterion of truth. In a time when individualism is the predominant culture and we only care about ourselves and put our own needs or benefits above others, it is important to remind ourselves of the need to follow a higher set of principles and laws grounded in God. Why? Because even with our best intentions, civil or human law will fail because it cannot protect everyone, especially when it is often plagued with misinterpretations and personal interests that manipulate the application of true justice. Even though there is a wonderful phrase outside of the U.S. Supreme Court building that states, “Equal Justice Under the Law,” we have always struggled as a nation to apply equality and justice for all. Even with the best intentions, we tend to use the law (and change it) to fit our popular agendas, lifestyles, and opinions. We often use the law to serve ourselves instead of discerning, applying, and formulating the law to bear a higher standard and purpose. Hence, that is why there will always be people who fall through the cracks, forgotten, and ignored because the powerful can manipulate and use the law to fit their agendas while the poor and less powerful do not always have the same luxury.
Our civil, human law, with all its limitations, cannot just be by itself for itself; it needs to be grounded, not only on the natural law but also on God‘s own divine and eternal laws. Our civil law is much more than one that reflects popular opinions so that we can recognize and protect the dignity of every human being, treat each other as we would like to be treated and taught by the Lord. We hold ourselves to a higher set of standards, ones that are set in the heart of heart and according to the true spirit of the law for the greater good of all. Not only that, our practice and application of the law need to be grounded in God‘s divine revelation and providential will as well, knowing that everyone is loved by Him, deserves to be redeemed and given a second chance even though it is easy to end or handle everything according to our own standards at times.
That is why Lord Jesus Christ warned us throughout the Gospels to be careful of only following the textual letters of the law and miss its theocentric and transcendental spirit, purpose, and intention. Furthermore, as believers, we are called to integrate our faith by discerning and putting into application what we believe so that our social standards are not just of our own likings but serve the higher purpose that is grounded in our faith covenant with the Almighty. In all of our dealings and lawmaking efforts, we are called to shape our social standards and civil laws with real humanity that is formed, understood, and respected in the image and likeness of God.
In his eulogy for Fr. Paul Lantom, who gives up his life to save an innocent person, Matt wraps up beautifully what he believes the life of faith and fullness of humanity are all about:
“Seems like half of Hell’s Kitchen is here today to say goodbye to Fr. Paul Lantom. Seems fair. He certainly welcomed everyone here, Catholics or not. And he expected those who were to looks for ways to do good in our community, not even the kids got out of that requirement. I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers his ‘suggestion’ that we give some of our First Communion money to the poor box. That was his way: to think of the community and the individuals in it, to think in terms of ‘What can I give?’ He gave his life right here in this church protecting others, standing up to a man who used fears [Wilson Fisk] as a tool to set neighbors against one another. If Fr. Lantom had an enemy, I’d say it was fear. For me personally, he spent many years trying to get me to face my own fears, to understand how they enslaved me, how they divided me from the people that I love. He counseled me to transcend my fears, to be brave enough to forgive, to see the possibility of being a man without fears. It was his legacy and now it’s up to all of us to live up to it.”
Too often, we have allowed ourselves to be enslaved by fear, and at times, even use fear to control and manipulate others. It is too easy to use the law to do what we want or get the most advantage for us. However, Matt reminds us that true law and life is not about enslavement or fear! To truly live, for the Daredevil and for us, should not only about ourselves but about the greater good of all. Everyone has value and their dignity is given and found in the Almighty who created each and every one of us. Therefore, we need to rise above the things that instill fear and division in our own interaction and relationship with one another as to learn to care, love, and forgive as the Lord has taught us. Let us, therefore, learn to not just speak about justice and the nice lofty things but to actually live the Gospel values out in our very lives!
As a matter of fact, it is very easy to be “armchair philosophers” who talk much about how the world should change, how life should be, how politics or other things need to be, yet only being comfortable and locked up behind our own lofty ideals. None of that will change the world except to create more ideologies and set of laws that bind and enslave but touch no one in the heart! Those things will just make us feel more egoistically superior, yet always remaining frustrated, angry, and resentful because we are too focused on how things should be instead of looking and embracing life as it is. It is very easy to sit back, analyze, and pontificate our viewpoints by condemning others but none of that is the true relationship nor what we are called to be as brothers and sisters, members of the Mystical Body of Christ. To be Christians mean to be able to feel the hurts, pains, and sufferings of others but not give up; to believe and to hope even in the midst of our struggles, (creative) tensions, and imperfections.
To be disciples of Christ mean to be touched, and at times be hurt, by the people around us but never stop to give ourselves in service of the greater good of all. Even though we know that this world is not perfect and we might end up hurting one another in the struggles because of our fears or selfishness, we never stop to love and to believe in the power of grace at work in each and every one of us. This world is worth loving, faith worth believing, our brothers and sisters worth forgiving, and the truth worth hoping for because Jesus has shown us that evil has no power against the power of true love! He personally showed us what it means to love and manifested the power of divine love against the evil that enslaves and takes away our joy. That is why everything that we believe in, especially the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love are very important and crucial in our daily journey of letting faith be enlivened in our very words and actions, especially our relationship with one another because Christ is living in us and at work through each and every one of us. Therefore, let us try our best, not losing heart, as we try to love, care, and be present to one another just as the Lord who loved and given His life for us, our salvation, redeemed us from the evil, lies, and slavery of this world. Let us try to create and more just and caring society and world with laws that truly care, serve, and point us toward the Highest Good of all so that we can truly be just and practice true respect and equality for all.
May He, Jesus Christ, be praised now and forever.