09 Dec 2016: Superhero Syndrome


Friday, Second Week of Advent

Is 48: 17-19; Ps 1: 1- 6; Mt 11:16-19

The world has so many superheroes, not real ones, but fictional superheroes. And probably many of us in our childhood fantasies invented some too. We gave them great powers, made them invincible and they fought for justice, saved people. They lived among us, unidentified, rising when needed. Why, even legends are made by giving ordinary circumstances extraordinary meaning, ordinary people extraordinary powers. In a way, it is true that –  every culture, religion, nation – we all long for a saviour, real ones, the fictional ones and the legends, in Freudian language being projections of our suppressed dreams and desires.

Israelites too longed for one – the promised one and it is true that they were promised a saviour. But, over the centuries, the Israelites developed their idea of the saviour, just like our childhood fantasies, an invincible superhero whose entry would be very theatrical.

John the Baptist made a rather theatrical entry – he had strange costumes and delivered punch dialogues. Surely, many took him for the promised one. And yet, some rejected him, because he was too radical and more than being ‘supernormal’, he was considered ‘abnormal’. He too rejected the claim – to be the promised one. Then came Jesus, the promised one. In a way, his entry too was theatrical, atleast as the evangelists portray it, but, not sufficiently advertised while he lived. He was stamped a Nazarene and nothing good was expected to come from Nazareth. Furthermore, Jesus’ friends were the social outcasts – the taxcollectors, prostitutes, the untouchables (lepers) and he aggravated it, by breaking rules.

The irony in superhero stories is that when we invent our superhero, we also invent worthy opponents – the villains. Villains are tailor made for the superhero. Israelites too fell in this trap. In their conception of a superhuman saviour, they made their own villains or they ‘misidentified’ their problems, often going very far from the real problems. They longed for a political saviour, when the promised one was supposed to be a spiritual saviour. Jesus entered the Israelite scene in the middle of all this confusion and he didn’t fit into the frame they (Israelites) made for their superhero.

In today’s gospel, Jesus is lamenting this very fact. He is surprised that nothing satisfies the mankind because they have lost sight of what they need.It is not too hard to imagine. Just look at the mobile phone market, advertising their new mobile phone on the basis of its RAM, camera resolution, and the number of comparison sites rating them. Ultimately, phones are no more what it was meant to be – to connect people. People are lost in the add-ons and nothing satisfies them  and the companies trade this insatiability of human beings.

When we are sick, we go to the doctor and he tries to diagnose the sickness and prescribe the right medicine for our well being. No one goes to the doctor and tells him what to do, the kind of medicine one wants. We trust that the doctor knows what the patient needs – even if it is bitter, even if it requires a surgery – to make us better.Unfortunately, in the case of a saviour, who knows what is the right course of treatment we need, we tend to decide the how and when, leaving him little or no choice.

And so, we see in the first reading of today calling himself redeemer,telling us “I, the LORD, your God,teach you what is for your good,and lead you on the way you should go. If you would hearken to my commandments, then you would be prosperous.” And he laments the sad fact, that nothing satisfies us. And as long as we are not able to come out of the stereotypes we have created, we have no salvation, nothing would ever satisfy us.

If Jesus doesn’t fit into your frame, then throw it out and make a new one for Jesus.

Picture Courtesy 

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