Be Not Afraid (Of Bums and Rocky Movies)

*This is the fourth entry in my series “Be Not Afraid,” in which we quest for the mystery and identity of the human person.

Well, anyone who watches TV (so, most Americans) has probably seen the previews for “Creed,” a new movie which continues the saga which began decades ago with the movie “Rocky.” Are these just fun pieces of the pop cultural tapestry, or do they have something more to teach us?

Obviously, the central theme of the series is “Root for the underdog!” Rocky is an inspiring story. A depressed, down and out fighter who gets a miraculous opportunity to box for the world title. Then, over the next half dozen movies, he repeatedly demonstrates his grit and determination, always game for a comeback.

The thing I love most about these movies is that Rocky doesn’t always win. Actually, he loses three different times, including at the end of the classic first movie. Everyone always seems to doubt Rocky, and he always feels like he has to prove them wrong in order to show that he isn’t a bum or a screw-up.

Isn’t that how we feel a lot of the time? Like bums or screw-ups? We always seem to be falling down and coming up short. We know that there is a certain way that we should behave, but we never quite seem to follow through. Sin always seems to be knocking us down.

Falling down is the center of a classic Rocky movie. If I remember correctly, he gets badly knocked down, beaten and bloody, in every single film. The opponent thinks he has won.

We always fall down. We want to despair. We want to admit that the devil will inevitably win.

But then, Rocky gets up and takes another beating. Sometimes he wins. Sometimes he loses. But he doesn’t give up.

“It aint about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.”

Catholicism and life are not about not falling down. We are going to take a beating. We are human. Inevitably, we will fail. We will get our spiritual noses broken, our ribs will crack, and we will tumble down and hit the canvas.

The miracle of Catholicism, the miracle of the human person, the strength given to us by Christ our Redeemer, is the power to get back up and go another round, even when we don’t think we can. Even when we are so tired that we just want to stay down.

Falling down is inevitable. It doesn’t tell us much about the meaning of our humanity. But falling down, and then getting back up? That, right there, is a clue to the meaning of human personhood if I’ve ever seen one.

A bum stays down on the ground after he falls. A human person gets back up.

You are not a bum.

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