Civil War and Sin

I’m always on the lookout in films for something bigger and deeper than the film itself on the surface. So watching the latest Avengers adventure (“Captain America: Civil War“) was no different. Here’s what I noticed:civil-war-spider-man-fan-poster




—SPOILER ALERT—


—–1) When Tony Stark visits Peter Parker, he interrogates the young Spider-Man, asking the kid why he’s been going around town in his costume doing what he’s been doing. Peter’s answer (paraphrasing): “Because if I can do what I can, but don’t do anything, and something bad happens, then it’s because of me.” In other words, Peter is concerned about sins of omission. We Catholic Christians are supposed to confess this at every Mass when we say our Confiteor (“I confess”):

I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done
and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault,
through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

That’s right, it’s not just the wrongs we actively do that make us guilty, but also the good we could have fully done but actively chose instead not to do, aka: “sins of omission,” since we omitted a good we could have done. Of course, for Peter, he’s probably referring to his Uncle Ben’s death, since he could have easily stopped the armed robber earlier, but chose not to out of vengeance, which then allowed to the robber to rampage and murder his uncle, his uncle who did try to stop the robber (and avoid a sin of omission). So, start thinking, how can you too avoid the sin of omission?

This basic lesson applies to Iron Man also, in the first film when he, through negligence, allowed his weapons to fall into terrorist hands. That negligence then harmed many people, which then led to Tony creating the Iron Man suit so he could rectify his sin of omission. Which leads me to the next point from “Civil War…”

—–2) Later in the film, Steve Rogers (Captain America) tries to convince his once-brainwashed buddy, Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier) that he is innocent of all the murders and violence he perpetrated since he was not free to choose. He was forced under psychological conditioning, which means he was not culpable (guilty) at all. Yet, Bucky says: “But I still did it.” He knows he is still responsible in some way, and he must make amends somehow.

This hope to set things right, to fulfill justice is part of the Catholic Christian’s understanding of atonement, penance: we may not be able to right our every wrong (and we especially cannot when we insult God, since an offense against an infinite being is automatically an infinite offense), but we still want to try and offer something. This is because being forgiven prompts us to respond in gratitude for having been forgiven (see my essay on Luke 7:36-50) in the first place. We want to return the item we stole, pay for the medical care for the wound we inflicted, repair the car we smashed, apologize for the trust we betrayed, learn from our mistakes and improve ourselves for the people we love.

In Bucky’s case, he decides to have himself locked away until he can be free of his brainwashing, in order to keep people around him safe from himself. Justice is served here, though in a little way.

—–3) Finally, the end of the film sees the main villain admitting his life was lost to his seeking vengeance. His confession moves the Black Panther to realize that he also was losing his life to seeking vengeance.

That’s the ironic thing about revenge: it always harms the avenger more than it satisfies justice, always harms the avenger more than the first offender. The principle is simple: the only thing worse than being a victim is to be the victimizer. And once someone chooses to avenge, and thereby be the victimizer, then they themselves have lost–have forfeited their dignity, honor, and soul.

In the film, Black Panther drops his revenge spree and not only spares his father’s killer, but even saves the villain from suicide so that he can serve justice by the rule of law (and hopefully be rehabilitated and redeemed).

—–) So that’s the good I got out of “Civil War.” It was not a poor film at all, better than the other Avenger films of late, actually! And these moral tidbits surely saved it from being a waste.

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The Confessions of the Joker

Confession2

That’s right… even the Joker is serious about the Sacrament of Confession and Reconciliation! Have a listen to his conversion story!

Here’s the transcript:

Hi…

Most of you know me as the Joker. When Evan heard about my conversion, he contacted me and asked I could share my experience on Holy Smack. I said, I’d love to, but only if I could say whatever I wanted. He said okay. So here goes…

Last time you saw me, I wasn’t in a really good mood.
I killed people.
For fun.
I almost destroyed Gotham.
For fun.
And I tore down Gotham’s White Knight.
But her Dark Knight… oh, that Bat Man flipped my life around.
You see, while I was in prison, I was kept in isolation, and for good reason. I was insane.
And I never had any visitors. Except for one man.
He was a Catholic priest.
And he told me something I’ll never forget. In fact, I’m gonna tell you what he said, and I hope you’ll never forget it either:

You see, in confession, all your sins just… disappear.
You go into the confessional, and there’s the priest. Just sittin there. You can be anonymous to him, and he doesn’t care. You can tell him anything, even everything, and he doesn’t care. You think you’re sins are special? Original? Yeah… right… there was only one original sin, and Adam and Eve beat you to it long time ago…

Anyway, the priest can’t tell other people what you confess. What’s spoken in confession, really does stay ONLY in confession. He can’t tell your friends (if you have any), he can’t tell the police (yup, separation of Church and State at its best and original form), he can’t tell a recording device, he can’t tell another priest (not even the Pope!), and he can’t tell even your own sweet mother…

That’s called the seal of the confessional. And whatever you confess stays between you and Jesus. In fact, most priests even forget your sins as soon as you walk out the door. The Holy Spirit gives them a holy amnesia, otherwise, can you imagine living life knowing all the sleaze people do? It’d drive you crazy! Not to mention that confession can even get boring after you hear the same sin for the thousandth time… but don’t go out and try to impress a priest now! Trust me, that’s beside the point.

But in confession, you’re in hand to hand combat with the devil. Satan is a fiend. Worse than what I ever was. And he doesn’t want you there. He doesn’t want you anywhere near confession, because in confession, you’re really near the Lord. Confession is actually more powerful than exorcism! And in confession, you’re humbling yourself, and the devil is one prideful, stuck up jerk. And in confession, he’s hiding in the shadows of your past.

And the closer you get to Jesus, digging up your history of sins (and it might me from 5 years back, 20 years back, or maybe even just 20 minutes back), the stronger the light breaks in. Oh man… that light burns, like 10,000 UVA and UVB. And it obliterates the shadows. That’s when you can see the worst sins trying to get away from confession — they want to hide from being exposed. They first try to convince you that they’re no big deal, small fry, no more sins here, just move on. But keep going after them, and they get nasty. Then they try to convince you they’re too big for forgiveness, way too big to be rid of, way too much and you can’t handle it… you’ll be so embarassed by them.

Don’t listen to those lies. In fact, that’s when you know for sure this festering thing has to be purged. So grab it, and it’s black greasy tentacles will freak out. Like some leprous octopus. So drag it out into the light, spit it out in confession, and it’ll scream: “Let me go! Jesus can’t forgive you! You’re disgusting! Leave me alone!”

But that’s it’s last words. Because Lumen Christi — the light of Christ, that’s right, I know my Latin — His light sears and cuts that demon down, and it fizzles off like a fart in the wind. Nothing left. Just… gone.

That’s the power of the priest’s absolution: Christ working through the obedient and docile man, so he can pluck off and chop up the leeches that sucked on your soul. If you need to know how ugly sin is, just look up images of leeches and lampreys and pelican eels, and remember that sin is even uglier.

And now, why am I telling you this? Well because it worked for me.

I went to confession. And I confessed a sin that was festering in me since I was a little 10 year old boy. No matter how much a tried to stop, I just couldn’t keep clean. It haunted me, perverted me, and I lost control of my childhood. I was addicted; I became evil. But I didn’t want to stay this way.

So thank God. Because after that confession, that sin no longer had any control over me, and today, I’m free. Even in prison, my soul is free. I feel stronger and better today than I can ever remember!

And if it can work for me, it can work for you.

Now, all I need to do is try and talk like a normal person again… baby steps… baby steps…

God love you.