Thoughts on Superhero Jesus and Baptizing Martians

So, let me start by admitting that I’m a bit of a nerd.  But, believe it or not it’s the Pope who’s raising these issues not me. Both of these subjects actually came up last week during Pope Francis’ daily Mass homilies.  On May 15th the Pope said, “Jesus Christ did not fall from the sky like a superhero who comes to save us. No. Jesus Christ has a history. And we can say, and it is true, that God has a history because He wanted to walk with us. And you cannot understand Jesus Christ without His history.  Jesus is precisely the final end towards which this history moves and journeys”.  

So, …in fairness the Pope is actually saying that Jesus isn’t a superhero. Bummer. But I’m still not entirely convinced. After all I saw the movie. The one where Keanu Reeves played the part of Superhero Jesus complete with black leather trench coat and resurrection super-powers.

Then again, maybe Superhero Jesus isn’t so much the point. Pope Francis went on to say, “one cannot understand Jesus Christ without history,” and that is also why “a Christian without history, a Christian without a people, a Christian without the Church is incomprehensible: it is something invented in the lab, something artificial, something lifeless.”   At this juncture, I’m going to try and resist the urge to go off on another tangent about Frankenstein Christians created in a laboratory and devoid of life – although I have copyrighted the movie rights just in case…

Movie analogies aside, I think the point is this.

The Context of Christianity.

There is a context not only for the life of Christ, but also for the lives of his disciples within the visible organization which he founded, i.e. the Church. Pope Francis went on to say, “”It would do us good today to think about our Christian identity.  Our Christian identity is belonging to a people: the Church. Without this, we are not Christians. We entered the Church through baptism: there we are Christians,” Did you catch that? We entered the Church through baptism and it is there that we are Christians. In other words, saying, “Semper Fi” or, “Ooh-rah!” doesn’t make you a Marine anymore than saying, “Praise the Lord.” makes you a Christian. If you’re not a part of the Corp, you’re not a Marine. It’s that simple.  And in the same way, Pope Francis argued that, “A Christian without a church is something purely idealistic, it is not real,” . He said that one cannot “understand a Christian alone” any more than “Jesus Christ alone” can be understood.  Bottom line?  No Lone Ranger Christians.

“And for this reason, we should be in the habit of asking for the grace of memory, the memory of the journey that the people of God has made; also of personal memory: What God did for me, in my life, how has he made me walk.”  You see, as Christians, we are in desperate need to find the context of our faith.  This context is historical, but it is also a context which comes from the whole.  The big picture of the forest rather than the individual tree.  We are much bigger than Me.  And the Church needs you.  And the Church needs me.  And we need the Church.

The Theology of Interstellar Baptisms

On to Martians.  During Mass on Monday, Pope Francis also theorized about alien life forms.  “If – for example – tomorrow an expedition of Martians came, and some of them came to us, here … Martians, right? Green, with that long nose and big ears, just like children paint them … And one says, ‘But I want to be baptized!’ What would happen?”  It’s a good question.  And according to Pope Francis, baptism is open to everyone.  He recalled to the audience the words of St. Peter who said, “If then God gave them the same gift He gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?”  Who am I to hinder God indeed?

And that is a movie I would pay to see.  War of the Worlds – Vatican Edition.  Pope Francis leading the charge, armed with the Holy Waters of Baptism, as the Church militant – the Christian Corps – follow him on his newest evangelization into the very heart of Martian territory.  “Ooh-rah!” indeed!

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