One of the villains in the Marvel Comics universe is Venom, an alien organism that seeks out a host and attaches itself to whatever person is closest to it. Venom starts out as a black, tar-like substance that adheres to and then quickly spreads and covers the head and body of the person it has targeted. When Venom has completely enveloped the head and body of the person, it looks like the person is wearing a tight, black, form-fitting, slimy rubber suit.
After Venom has successfully attached itself to a person’s head and body, the person possesses enhanced powers. Venom has the ability to exercise a certain amount of control over the mind of the person it attaches to, which leads to the person committing evil, violent acts against others.
Venom was originally introduced in the May 1984 edition of The Amazing Spider-Man comic book series. In 2007, Venom appeared as one of the villains in the movie Spider-Man 3. Early in the movie, Venom attached itself to Spider-Man, which gave Spider-Man enhanced powers and turned him into an uncaring and evil person.
After Spider-Man caused harm to others and ruined the relationships that he had with the people he loved, he realized that he needed to do everything in his power to separate himself from Venom. After Spider-Man was able to figure out a way to free himself, the alien organism took control of Eddie Brock, Spider-Man’s archenemy.
Every person on Earth has experienced or will experience the equivalent of what Venom does to people. At one time or another, each of us will be overwhelmed by something that has the power to destroy us. While we will not be overcome by an alien organism like Venom, we will be forced to deal with something that could be potentially worse: intense suffering.
Every person who has been born since the dawn of time has had to endure spiritual, intellectual, and emotional suffering, including the Son of God and His blessed mother, Mary. It is how we respond to suffering that will determine our final eternal destination.
If we respond to our suffering with frustration, anger, selfishness, hopelessness, and/or despair, then we will be covered by the equivalent of the black slime of Venom, and there will be a high probability that the suffering we endure will take over our very being.
If we respond to our suffering the way that Jesus taught us to respond — with humility, acceptance, love, gratitude, and an acknowledgment that our suffering is a gift from God that is meant to lead us to salvation — then instead of being covered by the equivalent of the black slime of Venom, we will be adorned with the glowing light and grace that emanate from the merciful heart of the Son of God.
There is a crisis that is occurring in our country right now that is having a Venom-like effect on a large share of our population. This crisis has led to a 28% increase in suicide rates since 1999. Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death among young people.
Earlier this month, two famous and successful people who appeared to have everything — Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain — committed suicide. In a subsequent USA Today article, Kirsten Powers wrote, “Why are so many more Americans getting to this level of emotional despair than in the past? Something is wrong with our culture.” Suzanne Venker of WashingtonExaminer.com wrote that the “elephant in the room” is the breakdown of the American family and the “shallow interactions of social media” are not a valid and legitimate replacement for true relationships. An article in The Week magazine stated, “Community and family bonds are broken down, as people work endless hours in pursuit of material success and numb their loneliness with drugs, alcohol, TV, and the internet.”
But these are only symptoms of a much deeper sickness — a sickness that can only be cured by prayer, faith in God, and adherence to the principles that were taught by our Savior and have been handed down to us through the teachings of the Catholic Church.
The depression, despair, and hopelessness that Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain experienced were so overwhelming that they finally came to the conclusion that the only way they could deal with their suffering was to kill themselves. There are millions of people like them who suffer from severe depression and despair.
While there are some people who for various reasons do not have the mental capacity to willfully and voluntarily choose to kill themselves, there are millions of people who do have the mental capacity to make the decision to end their lives. And they end up giving in to the depression and despair that are ravishing their souls.
Are you suffering from depression? Do you feel as though your life is not worth living? Are you in constant physical pain or severely limited as to what you can do physically? Are you frustrated and angry about what you have become or what your future holds for you?
If you suffer from any of these conditions, you have a choice. You can either choose to allow yourself to be dragged down the dark cavernous tunnel that could lead to suicide, or you can choose to make your way to the tunnel of light, love, mercy, and eternal salvation.
Next week, I’m going to give you some suggestions on how you can break free of the Venom-like vice that may be crushing you and replace it with hope for your future here on Earth and in Heaven.