Ash Wednesday, Iron Man, Paschal Mystery, and Heroes

Tony Stark, otherwise known as Iron Man, is changed in the Cave. The Terrorist group, the Ten Rings, captures him for a ransom… also with the hope that he will build them the weapon of destruction that they crave. Tony Stark is young, brilliant, and talented mind capable of filfilling their whim. Tony Stark, in the desert, business as usual, demonstrates his guns, drinks his Scotch, parties it up like there are no consequences. The military convoy he travels with is attacked by the Ten Rings, who uses weapons that Stark Industries has manufactured.

He wakes up, trapped in a Cave with Yensin, another brilliant mind that the Ten Rings has captured to ensure the success of their capture. Tony Stark discovers that Yensin has affixed an Electro Magnet to his chest to keep the shrapnel in his blood stream from entering his heart and killing him.

For the first time in his life, Tony Stark has had to face not only his mortality, but also the serious fact that he has contributed to the suffering of innocent people. It is out of this great brokenness that a hero is born.

I bring this up, because the Film, Iron Man, reveals a lot of the Journey through the Paschal Mystery that all Christians must take. I bring this up, because we receive Ashes… We parallel Tony Stark, trapped and sealed in this cave coming to grips with our own mortality: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you have returned…” and our own mistakes: “Repent, and be faithful to the Gospel.” It is in this cave, it is in the Ashes that great things are about to happen. However, it does not come by the means of an easy endeavor.

Tony begins to actively take measures by creating a mini ARC reactor to ensure a more suitable, energy efficient, and comfortable power source in the electric magnet affixed to his chest. He then conceives of a super iron suit to build to ensure that they can escape. He has to, essentially, put on the Iron Man, which is a symbol for us Christians to Put on Christ…

When they near completion of this suit, the Ten Rings Terrorists becomes suspicious, and enters premature to the completion of the Iron Man super suit. Yensin ends up sacrificing his life, a good decent life to say, for Tony Stark, a man who doesn’t care much for his own. Tony Stark escapes and things cannot be the same.

In his annual Lenten exhortation, the Pope reminded us of our Baptism. The Baptism is the moment when we begin the Paschal Journey. It is a symbol of the New Creation and the Resurrection. It is a sacrament, that reminds us of the Future Glory we are to attain by literally uniting to the sufferings of Christ, we quite literally, beyond our ability to comprehend, will unite to his Glory. We literally do that with Forty Days of Fasting, Abstinence, Charity, Almsgiving, Mercy, and Penance. It is not enough that we watch it like we can watch the first Iron Man movie (which I don’t mind recommending.)

Tony graduated with prestige, and inherited company from his Father. He lives in a bubble, of his gorgeous Malibu estate, surrounded by plenty of people who are more then happy to serve him. His bubble is burst, and he has to deal with the lack of comforts.

The Church asks us to burst our bubble a bit. We are called to be kind people, to be outgoing, even outrageous in out kindness. We are not called to be generous within our bubble, we are called to be outrageous in our generosity. By Fasting, we learn compassion for the hungry. By abstaining we learn compassion for those who do not have. By Giving of what we have, we learn gratitude for what we are given.

Tony Stark could not just walk away from the experience of being broken down to ashes and dust in that cave. Nor Can we, when we confront our own mortality: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return…” and our own sins: “Repent and be faithful to the Gospel.” It is there we meet Christ, and should we accept, Christ is ready to give us new life. It is there, in the Paschal Mystery, in entering and participating with Christ in his death and Resurrection, that we are made into Heroes. It is there that we are empowered to do acts of heroism, great or small; heroism nonetheless.

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