One of my favorite superheroes is Daredevil. Perhaps I like him even more than others because he is very Catholic and committed to his faith, even as he struggles with hisown brokenness, has a hard time trying to make sense of evil, and questions his very own self-worth. He goes to confessions a lot and confides to Fr. Paul Latom his secret desires and doubts. As a matter of fact, many people have written articles and reflections, even non-Catholic and secular sources, stating that Matthew Murdock becomes more himself — and his heroic character benefits — when he understands and embraces his Catholic identity and faith. As one article puts it, the Daredevil benefits when Matthew is Catholic. I like the Daredevil and Defenders series on Netflix because they weave in Matthew‘s Catholic faith, the one thing that consistently helps him to see goodness in people, giving them chances as to save them from their own perdition even when he questions his own self-worth and mission.
In The Defenders series, within episode number one itself, Matthew goes to confession about the struggle of having to live a double life, lying and keeping the secret of his heroic life from his best friend and the woman that he loves. Fr. Latom, the wise priest, advises him:
“Acknowledging a lie is often the best path to finding the truth, son. A lie like this one is often the sign of indecision. A sign that your mind and your soul are not yet aligned. The Lord sees not as man sees. Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. Ignoring [reality] doesn’t change anything, Matthew. God knows your heart. Let Him in so He can help… Especially if it [that heart] is damaged.”
This short exchange and the wisdom hidden behind it is an important reminder for all of us, too! We oftentimes worry too much about what is good for us, how we are portrayed, perceived, and received by others. Many even go to the extreme of creating a totally different persona than their very own selves because they want to be accepted by popularity than their very own self-hatred images. We have seen those who spend so much money, time, and effort going to life and career coaches to be trained to present themselves in appealing ways. Yet, all of these things create a ruptured and destructive internal dichotomy for us because we are living a lie, our exterior expressions and interiority are not aligned because we do not know, love, and able to truly embrace who we are deep from within.
Matthew might struggle with his heroic life and its secrecy, but many in this world have a much bigger problem and struggle as they ignore, forget, and sometimes loathe who they are. Some even go to the extent of manipulating or hurting others in order to ease or transfer the subconscious self-hatred to others. The Daredevil continues to desire and chooses the redemptive option for others even in the darkest of time, even if it means to give and sacrifice his own self for the greater good. One of the characters in The Defenders series testifies to his unshaken commitment to good, redemptive purpose and mission: “He loves this city and the people in it… More than he loves himself!” Simply put, to love is to will the good of others, wholly and completely, not just something that is based on temporary passions, passing emotions or sentiments. If we want our city, town, society, and world to change, we have to stop waiting for others, trusting in political movements and policies, or expect everyone else to make it happen and to actually begin to love by willing the good of others. Only in the giving of ourselves totally and completely can we truly love, forgive, and work with one another beyond our own particular goods or individual needs.
We can only be who we are when we humble ourselves and allow God‘s grace to change us deep from within! Instead of worrying about our petty rights and freedom in order to do what we want, or wasting time trying to endlessly identify ourselves as we like, which will always leave us temporarily happy at the moment but unfulfilled and joyless in the long run, we become content and at peace with ourselves when we are able to embrace who we are in God. Pope Francis in his 2019 Pentecost homily warned about the growing culture of insults that makes us hide behind our screens to attack one another. We are in danger of losing the real sense of communion as we begin to focus on ourselves, feed our ego, and attack others to make ourselves feel good. He even went further to say, “The more we use [and become dependent] on social media, the less social we are becoming.” We isolate ourselves when we worry only about ourselves and what we like. We can only become sociable and life-giving when we build our society and world in reflection of His love. True communion between us as people can only exist when we are in loving communion and relationship with God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We can only love one another when we learn how to love as He does because only His love changes hearts — ours and others.
God‘s love is life-giving because it flows from His own inner-Trinitarian love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, outpoured into creation, confirmed with His unconditional love for us on the Cross, and continues to be at work today through the work of grace. God is love because it is who He is! Love is not just one of His qualities, it is His very substance and existence. The inner-Trinitarian love is the real, total self-giving, and genuine love that could not be contained but flows out and gives life through the acts of creation, redemption, and sanctification.
True love gives lives because it is real, genuine, and transparent. It changes life because it cares for all — not just some. It is able to give without worrying about what is in it for the return, focusing only on manipulation, self-centered benefits, or to take advantage of someone. True love compliments, respects, gives, and wills the good of others. Therefore, all true human love reflects the love of God within Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as well as His outpouring and transformative grace that created, saved, and continue to sanctify us in our faith journey.
Unlike many humanistic ideologies or pseudo-religious thoughts that say that we have the power to become lovable and be loved by what we do, how we control, and make ourselves be more enlightened by personal efforts, God loves us not because we are worthy but because He willed, formed, and created us in His own image and likeness. Therefore, we can only love and love fully when we learn what it means to love from Him — in relationship with Him, and from that relationship, to others.
In short, our Christian identity and mission are to love because God is love. Only in the real giving of ourselves can we be free from our very own selves as to become sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, disciples of Jesus Christ, and instruments of the Holy Spirit. We have to do this by inviting Him into our hearts, deep from within, especially where it hurts and struggles the most. Only when we are genuine and transparent to Him, letting ourselves be vulnerable and honest with the One who created us and knows our hearts, can we become like Him in our words and actions as choosing to love with our very own lives and deeds. The love of God is so important in this day and age because we have perverted and lost base on what it truly means to love as a society! As love is becoming more self-centered, individualistic, and lost in the midst of many subjective definitions and interpretations, let us dare to truly love by making our human love a reflection of His own Trinitarian love. We do this through the complete self-giving and courageous love of one another, willing to the good of those who are around us even when it is hard at times.
May the love of God be with you. May His loving grace strengthens and transforms you.