To be a Human is to be a Hero

Stories are important, its one of the things I love about our “Irish-ness”, is that we are so imbued with this great sense of story that when we hear a good story it really rings true to us and stirs something in our hearts, and awakens something in us that we had never even considered before and we are changed.  This sense of storytelling forms part of the Irish identity and always has done and please God always will do, so there will be any number of stories in these blogs.

There was once upon a time a man who lived in a single room in Galway town.  One night the man had a dream about a box of treasure hidden in the floors of a room in a building in DublinCity.  The man gathered his belongings together and made the long journey to the capital.  He asked around about the building from his dream and some locals kindly directed him to the building he described.  The room was exactly as he had dreamt.  He searched and searched but found no treasure there.  He sank to his knees disheartened.  The owner of the building asked him why he was so depressed.  The man told him of his dream.  The building owner laughed and replied “Sure pay no attention to dreams! Sure the other night I dreamt of a box of treasure hidden in the walls of a single room in Galway!”  Amazed the man collected his things and returned to his home.  He searched and found a box of treasure hidden in his walls to keep him satisfied for the rest of his life.  He was astounded.  He had had the treasure all along, but had to go on a long journey before he could find it.  Believe it or not, but each of us is on such a journey, searching for treasure.  The real question though, it’s not how close am I to finding my treasure but what is the treasure?  To find our treasure we also have to go on a long journey, not the sort of journey where you physically have to pick yourself up and go, necessarily, but it’s something we’re going to have to dig very deep to find.  That’s what these few days are all about.  It’s about picking up a spade and digging to find where is this treasure exactly?  But to find the treasure we must find out more about this treasure…about Jesus.  Hopefully in these blogs this will come out.

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I love cinema.  For me, movies are our generation’s way of storytelling.  For thousands of years we have been attracted by a good story.  And now, movies are the new way of telling a story.  Would you agree?  Look at the 5 most successful movies in 2011:

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – brought in $1.2billion alone, and the series collectively has brought in $7.6billion…
  2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon – $1.07 billion
  3. Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides – $1.02 billion
  4. Kung Fu Panda 2- $616million
  5. Thor – $448 million

Now over the last decade or so, we see films like the Spiderman series, X-Men, Lord of the Rings trilogy, Harry Potter series, Pirates of the Caribbean, Narnia and the incredible resurgence of Batman…why is this?  Back in the 1930’s the two types of films being churned out by Hollywood were gangster films, and monster movies.  The 1940’s were all about War films.  The late 60’s and 70’s were all about glam and rock and roll.  What could you say about the current era of cinema?  What is it about? Well, I think…we are living in an age of superheroes.  I think in our current time, we have seen technology advance so quickly and we can do almost anything!  But look at this, in the 20th century and into the 21st we witnessed two world wars, a number of other wars, the 9/11 attacks which shook the world, an economic collapse…all of this…and yet somehow humanity prevails and the things that make us truly human have prevailed.  Our sense of love, compassion, forgiveness and many more remain.

            When I first saw the film The Human Experience (watch the trailer here at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctyX5ItSQEI) it just blew me away.  Made me consider my life in a way I had not done before.  The film wants to explore what it actually means to be a human, right?  And for me, what I think is that to be a human is to be a hero.  What does it mean to be a hero?  Is it something as simple as saving a life?  That would be pretty heroic…but the problem with heroism is that it changes, with every culture, with every time.

            Our generation is particularly blessed.  We live in an age where we do not need to worry about the threat of war the way our parents or grandparents had to.  We live in an incredibly technological age where at the touch of a button we can connect with people all over the world.  What constitutes heroism for you?  In today’s society, where generally speaking, we have peace, what makes someone’s actions heroic?  Let me tell you about one of my heroes.  Someone who is in my mind, a true hero.  This is a man called William Wilberforce.  Wilberforce was a politician in the 18th/19th century who campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade.  Now at the time slavery was considered as an acceptable thing.  William Wilberforce was the trailblazer who stood up and said no, this is not right.  Men do not belong to each other as property, we belong to God!  So thanks to his example, and those who followed him, the slave trade is no more.  This story is greatly associated with the hymn Amazing Grace, the words of which were composed by John Newton a former slave ship owner who repented and became a radical preacher.  

Other people’s lives are made better, because of his example, because he continues to inspire! Right to this very day!  

We still talk about William Wilberforce.  When the issue of human trafficking is debated Wilberforce’s name usually crops up. Movies are even today being made about him, Amazing Grace (2006) is one I cannot recommend more highly, and we even remember him when we sing a specific song.  The point is these heroes in our lives are not necessarily people you have heard of.

So to be heroic doesn’t necessarily mean to be well known…take a moment now and watch the last scene from Disney’s Hercules, where Hercules speaks to Meg “People always do crazy things when they’re in love” right up to the end of the film.  It should last approximately three minutes. 

“A true hero is not measured by the size of his strength but by the strength of his heart.  Now at last, my son, you can come home”…and what does Hercules do?  Does he accept his role with the gods on Olympus?  No, he stays with Meg and says “I finally know where I belong”.  He was home all along…to be a true hero is to follow your heart’s desire.  To follow your dreams.  It doesn’t mean you will necessarily get what you want, but as long as you are in the attempt then you are a Hero!  Now Jesus doesn’t say that this is going to be an easy thing to do…if it’s worth following then of course there will be difficulties.  Was there ever a time when you felt like a hero?  You see I think the times when we feel like heroes are those moments when we follow that instinct that what we are doing is the right thing.  Now the result isn’t necessarily going to be what happened with Hercules in that you will have your image placed in the stars, look at Jesus’ resurrection as told in John’s Gospel,

 

John 20:1-9

“It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”

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There can be no doubt; the resurrection is the single greatest moment ever.  Look at the above image of the resurrection by the artist Sieger Koder…this depicts the Gospel you have just read.  Does it look like Mary Magdalene was expecting the resurrection?  No, look at how downcast she appears.  She goes expecting to anoint Jesus’ body, instead finds the tomb empty…look how her right hand reaches out to touch the name of Jesus, hoping that even to touch his name can bring her a bit closer to Him…see the tears running down her cheek?  I think it’s a bit like when someone we care about passes away and we still reach out to touch their photo, or just look lovingly at their picture.  Mary Magdalene went down before dawn, imagine how still and unsettling it must have been.  Then when she returns with Peter and the other disciple, they find the burial cloth on the ground, and here’s the really crucial bit for me, this line: “saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.”  Does this sound like an action that just happened?  Accidentally?  No…it’s a very deliberate, intended action.  Now this says something very important to me, which is the Resurrection, the single greatest moment in history, THE moment of heroism, does not occur with explosions and trumpet blasts and all that pomp, but is a gentle unfolding…little by little.  And when the disciples enter the tomb, they believe…the treasure was there all along…it just took the journey to discover it.

This is what I meant when I said we are all treasure seekers.  We are each, whether you know it or not searching for your hearts desire.  And I could write for hours about how you’re going to find it, your teachers/lecturers could chat with you about how you’re going to find it, your family can talk about it, the priest may even talk about it, but the one voice you cannot block out is God’s.  And you will find that it is in the small everyday actions that you do with great love for those around you that you will find your heroism.  Seek Jesus.  Come to know Him.  Be like Mary Magdalene, be willing to set out in the dark and look with love for your hearts desire, and you WILL find it.  I guarantee it.

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