While Pope Francis has called for a Jubilee Year of Mercy, 2016 will be known in America as the year of “division.” Competing factions are hurling hateful, often deceitful speech at each other, and people are dying in our streets. Social media has only heightened the ability to wage a virtual “civil war,” with everyone choosing a side. To make matters worse, senseless acts of violence continue to put everyone on edge.
Coincidentally the highest grossing film this year is Captain America: Civil War and providentially the blockbuster contains some profound truths that can help us in these stressful times.
Civil War focuses on the interior conflict of superheroes Captain America and Iron Man, and culminates in an epic battle between the two protagonists. Each member of the Avengers crew is forced to choose a side as they reluctantly do battle against each other. Unlike our reality, their fight scenes are entertaining and comical as it is evident that this is not what they should be doing.
Superheroes, after all, are supposed to fight the bad guys, not each other.
It is later revealed that the film’s antagonist is behind the divorce of the Avengers; his plan was to drive a wedge between the heroes in hopes of destroying them completely. The villain explains the evil plan saying, “An empire toppled by its enemies can rise again, but one which crumbles from within? That’s dead… forever.”
This idea is not a new one; it’s a simple regurgitation of Satan’s one-and-only design: At the very beginning of human history we see the fallen angel successfully drive a wedge between Adam and Eve as they blame each other for their mistake. When questioned about the incident Adam accuses Eve saying, “The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.”
Throughout the remainder of the Bible we see, again and again, the division that occurs when someone falls away from God’s plan and God’s commandments. Often this division plays itself out within the family — as in the story of Cain and Abel. While Satan is not visibly present in most of these episodes, his effects are crystal clear.
It shouldn’t surprise us. One of the translations of the Greek word “diabolos” is “to divide” and that is one thing the devil does best. The devil continually seeks to turn us against ourselves for he knows that is the only way he can conquer. Ever since he was made aware of God’s plan to make humans greater than the angels, Satan rebelled and takes out his vengeance upon us.
Saint John Paul II explained Satan’s evil scheme during a general audience when he said, “Thus, the evil spirit tries to transplant into man the attitude of rivalry, insubordination and opposition to God, which has, as it were, become the motivation of all his existence.”
Pope Francis has not been afraid to remind us of this reality, saying in a homily a few years ago, “But look out because the devil is present! The devil is here… even in the 21st century! And we mustn’t be naïve, right? We must learn from the Gospel how to fight against Satan.’
When we see the division within our own country we shouldn’t look far to find the true enemy behind it all.
Instead of widening the divide that plagues our nation, we need to stand united against evil. We continually point fingers at each other when we should be working together to build a Civilization of Love. Not a superficial “coexistence,” but an abiding respect for each other. We are all human and made in the image and likeness of God. We have that much in common and it is not a small thing.
I needn’t tell you the Avengers eventually regrouped. Because good guys eventually do what they must to come together and defeat evil.