“Forget lab safety, I want superpowers!” —saying on the latest geek T-shirt
Wanting superpowers is a sentiment with which many people could agree — think of all the problems that could be solved, the people who could be saved and the fun we could have.
Unfortunately, being a superhero comes with a price: loss of a loved one, near death experience or a sudden conviction of a clear destiny. If this crisis is not balanced with compassion then the potential superhero could just as easily become a supervillain.
With great powers come great responsibility — and great problems that all need to be overcome. It’s not easy being a superhero, being constantly under attack, receiving complaints, misunderstandings and bad press, and that’s just from the people they are trying to save.
As Christians, we all have the potential to be superheroes. Christian history is full of stories of superheroes, only we call them saints. These are people just like us who overcame a crisis or two in their lives, found love and compassion and decided to do the right thing by following God unwaveringly.
Some were monastics who lived separated from the daily crowd, in the desert or on the mountains, trying to attain perfection in Christ, free from distractions. One such saint is St. Mary of Egypt who lived in the fourth century. She was a young woman who was consumed by sexual passions. One day she tried to enter a church but was prevented by an invisible barrier. She was overcome with remorse, prayed for forgiveness, promised to give up the world and then found the way unbarred. After communion, she entered the desert taking only four loaves of bread, which sustained her for the next 40 years. In the last year of her life she met a priest-monk, Zozimas, to whom she told her story. Mary had spent her time in repentance, praying for the world and communing with God. Zozimas witnessed her walking on water and levitating above the ground while she prayed.
Some saints are called the Just. These are the ones who lived in the world, leading exemplary lives with their families and becoming examples for all to follow. St. Elizabeth the New Martyr was a German princess who married the czar’s brother, Grand Duke Sergei of Russia, in1884. Despite her family’s disapproval, she chose to join the Russian Orthodox Church in 1891, even though it was not required. In 1905, Elizabeth’s husband was assassinated. She visited the assassin in prison and forgave him. She then devoted herself to God and become a nun. She sold all she had and used the proceeds to start a monastery and a hospital help the poor and orphans. In 1918, she was killed by the Bolsheviks. Elizabeth, with other members of the extended royal family, were thrown down a mineshaft to die. Witnesses said they could hear her singing hymns and praises to God until she died of her injuries.
Ultimately, the goal of every Christian is to imitate God. Through constant struggle and obedience to God, saints are sanctified both in soul and body, and are glorified in this world, as well as the next. Many have performed miracles and all pray and intercede for others. They are the church triumphant who continue to help and pray for us, their younger brothers and sisters, saints in the making.
Jesus rose from the dead not just to give us victory in the next life but in this life, as well.
“In the world, you will have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” he tells us in John 16:33.
God’s blessings are present when we encounter tribulations in this world: illness, sorrow, poverty and earthly death. The world considers these to be curses because the world wants a carefree life without struggle and suffering. We will suffer as we strive to overcome these tribulations but these are the lessons we need to learn as we strengthen our faith in God and develop love, compassion and forgiveness for others. These are the powers of the Christian superhero and these are the powers available to all of us, if we want them (no lab accident required).