by Paul Robson sj
(Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen the superhero movie Aquaman, and are planning to see it, and don’t want to know how it ends, then you might not want to read the next paragraph!)
In the movie, Aquaman is half-human and half-Atlantean (where an Atlantean is someone from the underwater kingdom of Atlantis). Orm is an Atlantean, a half-brother of Aquaman, and the ruler of Atlantis. Toward the end of the movie, Aquaman defeats Orm in battle and has the opportunity to kill him. In fact, Orm encourages his half-brother to kill him, and says that showing mercy is not the Atlantean way. Aquaman replies that, well, he isn’t one of them, he isn’t Atlantean.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus gives his disciples, and gives us, some good but challenging advice. He says: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
No doubt Orm would have gladly killed Aquaman, had he had the opportunity. Aquaman does not do what would have been done to him. We might say that it would have been fair, that it would have been just, for Aquaman to kill his half-brother. The hero of the story goes beyond that kind of justice, though, and shows mercy instead.
When Jesus asks us to love our enemies, perhaps he is asking us to do something along the lines of what Aquaman did. If people don’t like us or even wish us harm, or even do us harm, we are asked to respond with love. Such a response might seem odd, might seem surprising – and it might be beyond the usual human way of proceeding. (According to the movie, being merciful is more of a human than an Atlantean thing to do; but maybe it isn’t too common among humans, either!) If mercy is beyond our usual human way of doing things, well, perhaps it is something that is more a part of God’s way of doing things. And if we find ourselves loving and being merciful and forgiving, it might be because God has enabled us to do so.