Saturday, June 25, 2011

Jesus and Superman

Growing up in the 1950’s, I loved watching the Superman TV series with George Reeves starring as Clark Kent and the man of steel. Many of the plotlines involved around Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane trying to uncover Superman’s real identity. While I was on the edge of my seat, my father was laughing hysterically that these hotshot reporters at the Daily Planet were completely baffled when Superman donned a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. How could they be so blind? Just to get back at my dad, I used to pretend I didn’t recognize him when he put on his reading glasses.

Jimmy and Lois did occasionally suspect Clark Kent might be Superman, because Clark always managed to disappear just before Superman arrived, but not because he looked exactly like Superman with glasses. I do remember one episode where Superman was able to bi-locate, a trick he may have learned from Padre Pio.

It occurred to me that we are often similarly blind to God’s existence in our daily surroundings. I was at Eucharistic Adoration looking at a candle flickering near the Monstrance, and thinking about fire. We take it for granted, but how mysterious it looks in giving off its light and heat as it consumes combustible matter. I envisioned God saying, “Watch this!” to the angels as he ignited the first flame. “Woe!”, an angel may have replied in awe. “My creatures are going to need this”, God may have stated. How is it that fire does what it does, that it exists, that certain matter is combustible?

How is it that tons of wood can come from a little acorn? Why do things grow? Most of us take these things for granted without questioning why they are possible or what would happen if they did not exist. We grow up observing things the way they are, often without realizing the supernatural origin behind it all.

What would happen if matter did not attract matter? How would we live without gravity? What if we did not develop eyes that detect light and allow us to process clear visions of what is in front of us? Why do we have two eyes giving us depth perception instead of one or three? What exists that we did not develop sensory organs to detect? Now, that’s an interesting question. Is there a sensory organ to detect spirits that we never developed?

I have similar thoughts while listening to the radio. How is it I can hear what someone else is saying so many miles away? We understand man’s ability to develop new technology by exploring the sciences, but where did we get the properties that allow these things to work for us? We uncover these abilities often without recognizing their supernatural origin.

Considering man’s propensity for missing the obvious, having difficulty recognizing Our Lord disguised as a piece of bread becomes somewhat understandable. His Real Presence is certainly not evident by appearance. Perhaps it is no wonder that many people treat the Eucharist lightly.

This Sunday, we celebrate the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. John chapter 6, verses 51 to 58 will be read at Mass, where Jesus explains with emphasis that His Flesh is real food and His Blood is real drink. Unless we eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, we have no life in us. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Yet, even as Jesus Himself explained this reality to his followers, many doubted and walked away. There are many among us today who have done the same.

We as Catholics have this great gift, yet many of us turn away or take it for granted. This is a great time to dust off our Bibles, and ponder what Jesus says in John 6. Unlike Superman, the identity of the One disguised as bread is no secret.