As a lifelong fanboy, the recent Marvel reboot was a real treat for Spiderman fans. Set in Peter Parker’s high school years, it’s the “The Wonder Years” of perils of adolescence and teenage crushes. What makes Spider-Man so endearing to Marvel fans is how relatable our friendly neighbourhood superhero is. In Spider-Man: Far From Home, we see the rites of passage for the young spidey as he makes grown-up decisions and grows his courage.
The movie is the perfect anecdote to the Infinity Saga, not just in terms of dealing with Tony’s death in Avengers: Endgame, but how it’s narratively tied to the first installment. Tony Stark was the mentor who sought Peter out, who believed in him or in his own words, “everyone thought I was crazy to recruit a fourteen-year-old kid.”
Since the kid from Queens was introduced in Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker looked up to Tony as his mentor, never quite aware of how much the Iron Man adored and believed in him. The mentor-apprentice continues even after Tony’s death. Peter Parker is without his father figure in Far From Home, but Tony has not quite gone: his influence and presence can be seen all over the film, and the throwbacks to Iron Man are strong.
And there lies also the struggle of the teenage Peter who deems that he is not good enough, strong enough, wise enough or crafty enough to deal with powerful adversaries and villains. Like many of us, Peter has constantly maintained that he is “the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” — he believes looking out for the little guy is what he does best. As an Avenger, Peter struggles with the choice of saving the world Vs saving his high school friends.
In Far From Home, Peter also struggles with self-belief and confidence and thus belittles his powerful superhuman gifts. We see this vividly in the movie when Peter struggles to live up to the legacy Tony left behind, and constantly maintains that “the world needs the next Iron Man,” when what he really needs is faith in his abilities. Afterall, Tony himself believed in Peter, so much so that he entrusted his apprentice with his very own enhanced glasses uploaded with EDITH (aka “Even Dead, I’m The Hero” – gosh it’s so Tony!), his very own natural-language interface to assist him his superhero duties. With this powerful arsenal of high tech weaponry at his command, Tony’s faith in Peter is truly apparent.
Being “not good enough” is a powerful mantra that cripples many of us. We often do not realise our true potential and God-given talents because it is far easier to downplay and discredit our gifts and choose instead to bury them in the sand. We play down our true potential by deferring to others who we think are better or more talented than us.
This is another form of sloth when we do not give our best but choose to stay mediocre and comfortable in our half-efforts. At work, we often feel that others are more skilled or more talented than us so we do not give our best efforts nor do we contribute ideas for fear of being ridiculed. In church, some of us choose not to volunteer or offer our time in service to others, be it by using our vocal talent to sing or play an instrument in the music ministry or by offering our artistic hands and craftsmanship to the various ministries. The “Parable of the Talents”, in Matthew 25:14-30 comes to mind where the servant decides to bury his talents for fear of being punished by his master. The servant is aware that he is called to be a good steward of his talents but chooses to bury his talents in the hope of returning back the same measure of talents when his master returns. This is the blemish of doing absolutely nothing with whatever we are given as stewards of our own God-given gifts.
Peter Parker’s conversion story took place at the climax of the film when Happy Hogan revealed that contrary to Peter’s perception of his mentor, Tony Stark was a second-guessing and decision-making wreck. Tony’s only surety was his choice of heir apparent, Peter Parker. This revelation empowers Peter to accept the leadership and trust placed on his scrawny shoulders. The rejuvenated Spider-Man now faces the cunning and powerful Mysterio with his newfound courage, grit and the Peter Tingle.
We are reminded how his mentor and friend, Tony Stark is likened to our Heavenly Father who believes in us and has generously poured out His gifts onto us. My personal conversion story began with CER29 at the Catholic Spirituality Centre more than 7 years ago. The God experience and His infinite love and peace had a profound impact in my life.
Firstly, discovering my true identity as a beloved child of God and recognising the many blessings I have received from Him throughout my life spurred the beginning of my journey of volunteering and devoting my time to help others know and experience the presence of our loving and Heavenly Father. The seed of grace that He planted in me remains till this day. A germination of gratefulness and being truly thankful for my life, the journey, the people whom I have encountered and the community that I have called my own.
My encounter with God was also a springboard for me to use my talents to touch lives and help others to encounter Him in the most tangible and intimate way. I have received much joy and fulfillment having served at community retreats or volunteering as a paracounsellor and befriender to young people who are just as lost and uncertain as I was during some of the lowest points in my life. In providing a listening ear and a helping hand to those who are struggling in life, God continues to affirm my faith in Him as I make myself available as a vessel through which others may come to know of His true presence.
I believe that when we recognise and accept ourselves as Prophets, Priests and Kings, we can then walk with the assurance and dignity of our true identity – beloved Sons and Daughters of God, empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill our unique mission in this world.
Here are some questions that might help us discover our true identity in the Lord:
- Is there an area of my life where I struggle with doubt and insecurity?
- What is the Lord trying to reveal to me, as I bring these insecurities to Him?
- How can I begin to see myself the way God sees me? Is there a truth that He is inviting me to hold on to?
- How can I move out of that place of doubt and insecurity?
- Having been made aware of God’s belief in me and the gifts bestowed on me, how can I in turn respond to His call to be priests, prophets and kings?