Comparing Superman’s Return and the Resurrection of Jesus

Rejoice He is Risen! The Easter Season is a time of joy. Jesus defeated death and promises us the hope of resurrection. During the current pandemic we need as much hope as possible.

Jesus Resurrection

Saint Pope John Paul II proclaimed, “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” Hope is confidence in the uncertain. Uncertainty definitely has prevailed over the past several months. Or at least that is the appearance. Despair, confusion, and doubt are the weapons of our Enemy.

Jesus is a model for the perfect human. God became man. He shows us the way to free us from sins. Literature is filled with heroic figures. But nearly all contain a fatal character flaw. Hubris. Greed. Anger. Lust. Or envy. While  no characters, especially comic book characters, can be matched perfectly with Jesus there is one superhero most commonly associated Christ— Superman.

The Man of Steel embodies everything you want in a hero: strength, a great origin story, and virtuous character. Some may argue Kal-El is too perfect.  Unrelatable even. But I think most can agree that Superman is a symbol of hope for Metropolis and Earth.

Nearly 30 years ago, DC featured a game-changing storyline—The Death of Superman. In an epic fight against Doomsday, Superman fought this villain to the death. This shocked the comic book world when it first debuted. The Man of Tomorrow died. What happened next in The Return of Superman Volume was mysterious. Reading it reminded me of the mystery surrounding the identity of Jesus after his Resurrection.

Who Do You Say that I am?

Before Superman returned several claimants to his mantle appeared.  In the Reign of Supermen, four “heroes” arrive on the scene: The Man of Steel (Steel), The Man of Tomorrow (later referred to as Cyborg Superman), Metropolis Kid (Superboy), and The Last Son of Krypton (later revealed as the Eradicator). All four wear the symbol of Superman, but it quickly becomes clear to the reader that neither Steel nor Superboy are actually a version of Superman.

cyborg superman

Cyborg Superman and the Eradicator initially convince some people in Metropolis that they are the “resurrected” Superman. In Born Again,  Lois Lane encounters the new visored Superman and thinks, “He looks like Clark but he sounds so cold, hollow.” The following exchange between the Last Son of Kypton (Eradicator) and Lois foreshadows the false claim to Superman:

Eradicator: “I am Superman… I am not playing any game.”

Lois: “Superman never hid his face! and he didn’t wear black like an executioner!”

Eradicator: “No, not before, but I have been through so much…I have changed.”

He provided specific facts about Lois’ life to convince her, at first, that he was Superman. But facts alone don’t prove that a person rises from the dead.

Likewise, Cyborg Superman addresses Lois in similar fashion in the issue Alive.  Lois questions the Cyborg, but he claims that most of his memory is lost. To the reader, the story gets more complicated as to the identity of the real Superman when Cyborg has his DNA tested against a sample from Kal-El. It was revealed that the DNA matched perfectly. Professor Hamilton tells Lois, “I’m telling you that all my tests and data have me thoroughly convinced. I would say say with great probability–that this man is Superman come back to life!

Actions Speak Louder than Words

While mystery pervades the majority of The Return of Superman volume, over time the actions of the claimants to Superman’s name show more sinister motives. Lies cannot last forever. The actions of Cyborg Superman and the Eradicator did not line up with the ideals of the true Last Son of Krypton.

superman symbol

In the issue Lies and Revelations, a cult of followers worship Cyborg Superman. A cult member exclaimed, “Look not upon our Savior’s face with fear! For though he bears the marks of his righteous battle against the terrible beast Doomsday–by his deeds you shall know the truth! And his noble and merciful deeds reveal in him the one true Superman!” He goes on to tell the crowd that the “visored Superman” (the Eradicator) is the false one because of his tortuous and violent acts.

At this point in the story arc, the reader knows fairly certain that the Eradicator is not the real Superman. However, the verdict is still out for Cyborg Superman. Later in the issue it is revealed that Cyborg Superman has enlisted the villain Mongul.

In the episode Return of Superman, Cyborg Superman’s plot to destroy Metropolis is revealed in addition to the fact that he is actually the consciousness of Hank Henshaw transferred into a cyborg body with the DNA splicing of Superman. At the end of the issue the true Superman returns in a black Kryptonian armor suit. “Don’t let the outfit fool you. I’m Superman and I’m back.”

Connections with Christ

Superman’s return has a few connections with the true Resurrection of Jesus. First of all, both Superman and Jesus were initially unrecognizable. According to John 20:15, Mary Magdalene did not realize the man speaking to her was Jesus.

Another similarity between Kal-El and Christ involves the battle over evil. Jesus defeated sin with his Death on the Cross. Superman killed Doomsday, a horrific foe, who represents

pure brutality and rage. In a sense—sin incarnate. Now a compelling reason why Cyborg Superman was at first convincing was that he bore the wounds of death and battle. Jesus’ resurrected body also bore the marks of the Crucifixion. The major difference between the two is that Cyborg Superman was part machine. Artificial. Christ’s resurrected body was true flesh. Still fully human while being fully divine.

A final connection I found between Jesus and Superman’s resurrections is that love led to their closest friends recognizing the truth. The Apostle’s recalled Jesus’ teachings and through the power of the Holy Spirit had faith that their teacher and friend truly returned from the dead. Analogously, Superman’s encounter with Lois displayed the power of love too. He appealed to Lois’ marriage with Clark Kent, his alter ego. Superman told his wife that Clark’s favorite movie is To Kill a Mockingbird. This intimate detail proved his claim. Lois recognized the dark clad man as the true Superman/Clark Kent. Love and truth always go together.

Rejoice He is Risen! Truly this is Good News. More accurately it is Great News!  We live in stressful times. Satan is always on the prowl. God loves us and wants us to enjoy his presence. Reading is proven way to relax. The Return of Superman  was an enjoyable, page-turning story. Add the fact it had resurrection and new life themes and it makes an excellent read (or re-read) anytime.

 

 

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3 Reasons Why Jesus was Baptized

In 2019, Bishop Joseph Tobin tweeted a questionable statement about Jesus’ Baptism,

“Christ stood with all of us sinners seeking redemption” and that “the sinless Redeemer was reborn in grace”.

Whether his intention was heretical or if it was simply loose and careless theology could certainly be up for debate, I wish to write to clarify the reasons for why Jesus was actually Baptized.

Jesus' Baptism

Did Jesus Need to be Baptized?

Contrary to what was purported by the cardinal,  Jesus did not require Baptism for salvation and also did not need to be “reborn in grace”. Already sinless, Jesus first and foremost entered the waters of the Jordan as an example for the new sacramental life of grace for his disciples to follow.

In John 3:5 Jesus taught Nicodemus [and later us] of the necessity for Baptism when he declared, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes the importance of this passage as well:

 Baptism is the sacrament of faith. But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. The catechumen or the godparent is asked: “What do you ask of God’s Church?” The response is: “Faith!” (No. 1253).

Along with modeling the importance of Baptism, though Jesus himself did not require cleansing from sin, three additional lessons may be learned from the Event of the Baptism of Our Lord.

Fulfillment of Old Testament

Several key events in the Bible relate to water. The Flood in Genesis 6-8, the Crossing of the Red Sea, and the Crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land are just a few of the aquatic occasions detailed in the Old Testament.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself. Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament. As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New (CCC 129).

The Baptism of Jesus is a feast to help us realize the fulfillment of God’s promises from long ago.

Prefiguring the Death of Jesus

 Along with being foreshadowed in the Old Testament, Jesus’ Baptism signified an anticipation of his Death. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI describes this perfectly in his work Jesus of Nazareth,

Looking at the events (of Christ’s baptism) in light of the Cross and Resurrection, the Christian people realized what happened: Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon his shoulders; he bore it down into the depths of the Jordan. He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners. His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the Cross. He is, as it were, the true Jonah who said to the crew of the ship, ”Take me and throw me into the sea” (Jon. 1:12) . . . The baptism is an acceptance of death for the sins of humanity, and the voice that calls out “This is my beloved Son” over the baptismal waters is an anticipatory reference to the Resurrection. This also explains why, in his own discourses, Jesus uses the word
“baptism” to refer to his death (18).

Death to sin [original] gives way to a new life in the sacrament of Baptism. A new life of grace occurs through the waters of Baptism.

Door Way to Adoption

According to my favorite reference book– the thesaurus, synonyms for adoption include the following: acceptance, confirmation, ratification, and support. While each of those words convey a strong and position sense of adoption the synonym that stood out most to me was embracing.

Biological birth occurs through the profound act of sex, however, unfortunately not every child is welcomed a gift as a result. The major difference with adoption versus biological parenthood is that the former always seeks out the child to be welcomed into the family whereas that is not always the case for the latter.

Please note that this is not a knock on biological parents as some of the best parents gained children through biology [i.e. MY PARENTS!].

The Catholic Church teaches in the Catechism in paragraph 1265, “Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,” member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.”

Enter New Life

Because of original sin, the biology of humanity is tarnished with a natural aversion from God’s will. Humans naturally seek their own will over the Will of the Father. Through the waters of Baptism, people cleansed of original sin and enter into the door of the sacramental life of the Church.

While Jesus did not require rebirth into the sacramental life of grace, he was baptized by John in the Jordan River to fulfill the Old Testament, prefigure his Death and Resurrection, and be a model for God’s faithful. German Catholic philosopher Josef Piper declared, “Adoption is the visible Gospel.” The graces received through the sacrament of Baptism truly brings good news as we become adopted children of God!

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Related Links

Remember Your Baptism

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 6- Destructive Waters

The Sacrament of Baptism: Gateway to New Life

US Cardinal, Jesus Was “Reborn in Grace” – What?

 

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Transformation—Power of the Resurrection this Easter 2019

Saint Pope John Paul II declared, “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” The Enemy utilizes despair in an attempt to disable hope. Good Friday’s horror is not negated by Easter, but rather suffering is transformed. Transformation occurs when we take up our cross.

Among the biggest news stories this Easter was the terrorist attack in Sri Lanka. Deaths of nearly 300 Christians cause the Body of Christ deep pain. I cannot even begin to image the sadness, anger, confusion, doubts, and despair the victims’ families have to endure. Hope certainly would be the last thing on my mind. Death appears to have the final say. This suffering in South Asia may seem to supersede the joy of Easter. Words cannot do justice to describe their suffering. I can simply provide my prayers for peace and understanding.

Pray for Sri Lanka

 Christ’s victory over death on Easter brings purpose to pain. As Christians, we are called to unite our suffering with Christ’s in atonement for the world. According to St. Maria Faustina, “Suffering is a great grace; through suffering the soul becomes like the Savior; in suffering love becomes crystallized; the greater the suffering, the purer the love.” Only on the OTHER SIDE of suffering does her claim make sense.

During our suffering, we experience all sorts of doubts. We may question our purpose in life. I certainly did during my greatest period of despair—on the heels of losing unborn children due to miscarriage. I questioned God’s goodness about why would he allow a baby to die. The people in Sri Lanka I am sure ask God why their loved ones died in a senseless attack!

Faith tested in suffering

Suffering tested and later transformed my faith—from belief I took for granted to a faith of strong conviction. My capacity to suffer deepened. Because I lost my children, I have a greater ability to emphasize with others who lost loved ones. Far from being an expert in suffering, I became a student of Christ via my tribulations. While I aim to pick up my cross daily, I fail often. The true remedy is frequent reception of the Sacraments.

I hope the Sri Lankans find the strength to rely on God in their time of need. Hope is the greatest defense against despair and doubt. Hope is a gift of the Holy Spirit. When you do not feel hope please do not despair. Trudge forward daily and keep asking God for hope. Hope in Jesus’ Resurrection transforms us. If you are experiencing doubts, fears, or despair please ask for help. Post prayer requests in the comment section.

One Body of Christ


With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones.” –Ephesians 6:18

“As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.g 13For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.h

14Now the body is not a single part, but many. 15If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. 16Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” 22Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, 23and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, 24whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, 25so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. 26If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.” –1 Corinthians 12: 12-26

 

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Death is not the End

Benjamin Franklin once declared, “The only guarantee in this life is taxes and death.” References to our mortality is oftentimes an uncomfortable topic for humanity in modern Western civilization. We do not want to hear, nor discuss, that all things eventually die. Decay of our bodies and deterioration of our minds is a sinister notion. Because of the fall, death [and sin] entered the world. God’s original plan for His greatest creation—mankind— did not involve dying and eventually being buried six feet under.

this is not the end

 Bleakness, death, and despair hounded me over the few months. My wife and I suffered another miscarriage in December and my grandfather suffered a heart attack at the end of 2017—he passed on from this life on January 15th. Along with my personal encounters with suffering, I attended a funeral Mass for a stranger—my first such event! Our parish priest during the close of the Sunday liturgy told the congregation of a tragic story about a young military mother who died of brain cancer. He notified us of the funeral time to see if anyone wanted to attend to support her family.

casket

Such macabre normally causes me pause—and even fright—however, the school of suffering taught me that death is not the greatest fear in this world. Grounded in my faith combined with the teacher of experience, I learned that death is not the end! While moments of despair linger daily, hope persists. Earlier in 2017, I read Fr. Michael Gaitley’s book ‘You Did it to Me’: Divine Mercy in Action. In hindsight, picking up his work at the Lighthouse Catholic Media kiosk in my church’s atrium was a turning point in my spiritual life. For those that have not heard of this title, the premise of the book involves providing practical ways to infuse divine mercy into our daily living.

Chapter Two of Divine Mercy in Action focused on the corporeal works of mercy of paying our respects to the deceased and welcoming strangers. Fr. Gaitley provided pages at the end of each chapter for practical tips to grow in holiness. Attending a stranger’s funeral—one of the suggestions— piqued my interest. I thought I would have to wait until my children were grown-up in order to actualize the corporeal work of “burying the dead” in my own life.

lord is testing me.gif

The Holy Spirit works a mysterious and curious manner. Heeding my priest’s words, I scarified my time, something of myself. In a sense, I died—died to my fear—fear of showing up to an event where I knew no one aside from the presiding priests at the funeral. One caveat on this point, I actually did not stay for the entire Mass and I never was able to enter the church! Instead, I roamed the church vestibules as I brought my two young children with me. Frequently chasing my runaway two-year old eventually got the better of me. Mother Teresa once said, “God doesn’t require you to succeed, he only requires that you try.”

try succeed.jpg

The saint of Calcutta’s wisdom provides us hope. Hope in a better tomorrow. Hope that death is not the end.  The sainted nun stated, “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.” Hearing those words always helps to re-orient my gaze toward hope and aids me in trusting the Lord. Jesus urged his apostles [and us today] in Matthew 16:24-26 to plunge headlong into the suffering of the Cross in order to fully follow Him. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ provides all believers the hope that death is not the end! My grandfather was a humble man of steadfast faith. I confidently hope and pray for the repose of his soul that he is able to experience the joy of the Beatific Vision. I prayer for the souls of my unborn daughter and the young military mother whose funeral I attended as well.

candle.jpg

“Eternal rest grant unto them [these three beautiful souls], O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.” 

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