Jane Wants a Boyfriend: Not Your Neurotypical Love Story

janewants

I heard about Jane Wants a Boyfriend from Eliza Dushku’s Twitter. As soon as I googled the movie, I was instantly hooked. And now that I finally got to watch the movie, all I can say is that this movie is perfect!

Jane Wants a Boyfriend is a romantic-comedy that centers on three characters: Jane (played by Louisa Krause) , a 25-year-old seamstress/aspiring costume designer, her sister Bianca (played by Eliza Dushku) , who is an actress, and Jack (played by Gabriel Ebert), Jane’s romantic interest who hasn’t exactly grown up yet.

The movie starts with a lot of changes happening at once: Bianca is preparing for her first major role as an actress in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and is also in the process of moving in with her fiance Rob (played by Amir Arison), who works as a journalist. However, at the same time, Jane and Bianca’s parents are planning on moving from Queens to the Jersey countryside and they want Jane to live with Bianca. Things get even more complicated when Jane meets Jack, who develops a growing interest in her even though he starts out the movie as someone who’s still in the “casual dating” stage of his life.

As someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome, the way that Jane’s autism is portrayed feels realistic. It comes off more like high-functioning autism at times, but technically speaking, Asperger’s and high-functioning autism have become interchangable terms. I saw a lot of myself in Jane, especially during the parts where Jane would act out scenes from her favorite movies, particularly Kansas City Confidential. Props to Krause, who managed to balance out Jane’s wide-eyed innocence with her desire to grow up. Jane doesn’t come off as robotic as one would expect someone with autism to be. At the same time, her oversensitivity to loud noises and new things is shown as a very real issue and I love how the movie portrays these instances. It made sense to me that these things would occur when Jane was under a lot of stress.

I also gotta give props to Director William Sullivan and writer Jarret Kerr. They were able to create a believable love story while also including small thematic choices. This might just be the over-analytical part of me, but I think that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was a perfect play to serve as sort of the background in this film because “The course of true love never doth run smooth.”

Jack’s storyline in the film is equally heartwarming. He starts out as a man in his late 20s to early 30s, out with a different girl every month or so. He works as a sous-chef and feels drawn to Jane as soon as they start getting to know each other. However, Bianca and her friends want Jane to go out with guys who are “safer.” What’s wonderful about Jack, though, is that he goes out of his way to learn about Jane’s autism and makes sure that their first date is special. By the end of the movie, I end up believing that Jane and Jack will definitely work out in the long run because it’s through Jane that Jack learns how to be more mature.

The real love story, though, isn’t the romance between Jane and Jack, as charming and endearing as it was. The movie really centers on Jane and Bianca’s relationship as sisters. Bianca has to balance out all the changes in her life as much as Jane does, but she wants to maintain some sense of control. The director of the play (played by Nick Stevenson) points out that Bianca has to let go of her control issues in order to fully immerse herself into her role as Titania. When Bianca sees how happy Jane is around Jack, she is more than willing to allow Jane to grow up. Because if you really love someone, you gotta set them free.

Jane Wants a Boyfriend is available to watch online or on demand. I highly recommend this to people who want a more grown up, realistic perspective on autism. Just keep an eye out for the vulgar language and the smoking. It’s not completely family friendly. However, I hope that more movies like this come out in the future.

Poster of Jane Wants a Boyfriend is copyright to Copperlight Creative and is used for editorial purposes only.

Batman vs Superman: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (With Amy Salazar)

batmanvssuperman

 

I’ve been a fan of superheroes since I was a kid. I always held superheroes up to a certain standard. While I allow certain levels of cynicism and angst when it comes to Batman, I don’t particularly like it when it applies to Superman. Given how Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Rises left a bad taste in my mouth, I went into Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice with low expectations. Even though it was not as bad as I thought it would be, I still find it to be an overall disappointment in terms of story and characterization. Thomas Aquinas defines evil as having a lack of good, so since I didn’t find Dawn of Justice a complete letdown, I want to go over the good, the bad and the ugly of this movie. Thankfully, I don’t have to do this alone. My friend Amy Salazar from California is also going to give her two cents on this film. (Her stuff will be written in blue.)

I once dated a guy who everyone warned me was, “off-putting, pretentious and simply no fun.” Wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt, I dated him anyway. “What could possibly go wrong?” Well…If there’s one thing that this person and Batman v. Superman have in common, it’s that they both made me want to throw myself in front of a truck. Moral of the story: If everyone warns you that something is going to be bad, they’re probably right.

Prior to the film’s release, I readily defended BvS to my friends who had already decided that they hated the idea. The trailer actually looked promising to me. Rivalry stories are one of my favorite narratives, so I couldn’t wait to be able to explore the ideological divide between the virtuous Last Son of Krypton and the morally-gray Bat of Gotham. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor had the potential to either be a comedic (which, if well-written, can be very enjoyable to watch) or gradually evolve from a harmless weirdo to a sinister foe. Those two hopes alone is what got me to go to an 11:30 am screening of Batman v. Superman.

One hot dog, a bag of Welch’s fruit snacks and a Coke slushie later (to fight off the boredom), I was so disengaged that I turned to my friend and asked, “Am I still alive and watching a movie or have I died and am currently waiting for God’s final verdict?”

The Good

Ben Affleck brings a seasoned, burnt-out Bruce Wayne/Batman. I actually did like how when the robber points a gun at Martha Wayne, the gun catches her pearls. That was a pretty intense camera shot. Putting the destruction of Metropolis through Bruce Wayne’s perspective was an excellent narrative choice. It gave me hope that Bruce/Batman would be the film’s emotional center and the one to guide us through the story. Sadly, that was not the case.

Jeremy Irons and Ben Affleck do have pretty good chemistry. I love Jeremy Irons’ sardonic humor delivered in his epic voice. Any time Affleck and Irons were on screen, I was able to care about what was happening.

Gal Gadot definitely looks the part of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. While the writing of the Wonder Woman role is haphazard, Ms. Gadot does carry her character as a mysterious woman who belongs to a higher social standing quite well.

I’ll give credit where credit is due. Most of the female characters in this movie are actually the most interesting characters. Gal Godot’s version of Wonder Woman plays off like a Bond Girl at first, charming Bruce Wayne while trying to get something back from Alexander Luthor. When she finally made her appearance as Wonder Woman, the people in the theatre and I applauded. She fit in naturally, working with Batman and Superman to take down the real villain of the movie, Doomsday.

I also liked Alexander’s right hand woman, Mercy, played by Tao Okamoto. She’s a good variation of Luthor’s sidekick Tess Mercer and it’s awesome to see Asians play a prominent role in mainstream cinema. I also liked Holly Hunter as Senator Finch. To me, she represented the audience who wanted to know where they stood with this darker version of Superman who is willing to kill and doesn’t take into account the collateral damage that results from his actions.

I agree with Amy about Jeremy Irons’ performance as Alfred and the how Ben Affleck’s perspective of the Battle of Metropolis actually brought something unique to the story. And Ben Affleck was not as bad a Batman as I thought he would be, but I still would’ve chosen another actor for the role.

The Bad

The least developed character, aside from Superman, is Lois Lane. Like in Man of Steel, she doesn’t do much in this movie outside of her designated role as Superman’s girlfriend. I also didn’t like the characterization of the Kents in this movie, especially Martha Kent who tells Superman that he doesn’t owe the world anything. I get that the “Great power, great responsibility” trope has probably been overused, but there needs to be some way to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. Batman’s use of firearms felt out of character, given that one of Batman’s central character points is that he never uses guns.

But by far, my least favorite part of the movie is Alexander Luthor, Jr. I refuse to call him Lex Luthor because he doesn’t embody any of the qualities of previous Lex Luthors such as the ones from Smallville or Superman The Animated Series. Jesse Eisenberg plays him more like a mad scientist and a straw atheist and plays the character of Alexander Luthor in a completely over the top manner instead of the more subtle but sinister characterization of the real Lex Luthor.

Jesse Eisenberg’s overacting combined with painfully obvious poor direction makes his performance cringe-worthy at best and insufferable at worst. If this had been a Batman v. Joker origin story of how the Joker became, well, the Joker, then I would have had no issue with Eisenberg, but we already had a better Joker through the late Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight.

At some point, there’s a scene where Bruce/Batman has a dream where he is overcome and taken into custody by Superman Nazis (they have Nazi-esque armbands that have the Superman symbol). We see a chained Bruce looking up and seeing Superman, who approaches him and rips off his [Batman’s] mask. This scene was the straw that broke the camel’s back and prompted me to give up on the film entirely.

What should have been a powerful scene ends up being a weird sequence with plenty of style and no substance. Typically, when a main protagonist has a nightmare about being captured by another character, the implication is that the protagonist is haunted by said character. This usually occurs in a story about rivals or if one character is being pursued by another. This scene upset me because Batman and Superman’s “rivalry” is completely botched. There is no exploration of their differences. Batman and Superman are two angst-filled, bruiting dudes whose only difference is that one wears all black and the other wears a red and blue. Because of this, the dream sequence has no impact and is boring action scene.

Also, I don’t know if anyone else caught this, but Doomsday’s lighting effects seemed seizure inducing to me. I don’t have eye problems, but his lighting effects made my eyes water. There are quite a few camera choices in the third act that made me concerned that someone in my theater was going to have a seizure. My last complaint is that this movie has more endings than Return of the King! The epilogue goes on for an eternity.

The Ugly

While the movie teased at the future Justice League members, the fact that Wonder Woman didn’t get much of a role in the overall movie and the implication that the Justice League is created from the ashes of Superman’s death feels very pandering. Too little, too late, DC.

The other thing I hated most about this movie is the underlying anti-religious themes. The overblowing parallels between Superman and Christ are still prominent in this film, particularly the fact that Superman died saving metropolis and it’s implied at the end of the movie that he will rise from the dead.

Alexander plays the role of the Straw Atheist, determined to defame Superman at any cost. Say what you will about Maxwell Lord in Supergirl, but his motivations are at least understandable. The entire Batman/Superman conflict hangs on the audience believing that Batman, the world’s greatest detective, could fall for Alexander’s clearly over-the-top schemes. I’m not buying it!

I have no flippin’ idea what this movie was about. Yes, things do happen, but there’s no central plot. I guess one could make the argument that the filmmakers were attempting to connect the plethora of storylines, but if that is the case, then their efforts backfired. Instead of interconnecting smoothly, the plot points feel jumbled and convoluted.
There’s a scene that shows a portrait of Saint Michael defeating Lucifer that has been turned upside down so that it looks like Michael is the one who is falling. If you’re a fan of Saint Michael, this might not sit well with you.

As stated before, I hated Eisenberg’s version of Lex because he makes real-life atheists look bad. I have friends who are atheists and I have never once heard any of them say, “Devils don’t come from Hell beneath us; they come from the sky.” Seriously, who talks like that?

Batman v. Superman’s frenetic editing, zero focus and a grossly-neglected rivalry between the titular characters tried my patience and led me to the brink of going back to the snack bar to further drown my sorrows.

12939231_1140187732681420_1185357575_n

Amy Salazar is also known as Catholic Girl Bloggin’ (CGB for short). She reviews movies, writes biographies about Saints, and posts about pro-life and animals rights. She is also slightly obsessed with Star Wars, puppies and fangirling over Padre Pio.
Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is copyright to DC Comics and Warner Bros. Images relating to the movie are used for editorial purposes only.

Cynicism Vs Idealism in Heroism

Justice_League_Group

We live in a pretty cynical world at the moment. The cynicism in our world is reflected in a lot of shows that are currently popular: The Walking Dead, How to Get Away With Murder, Game of Thrones, etc. This love for cynicism especially applies to movies like Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises, and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. While Batman vs Superman currently has a 28% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the audience rated the movie 72%, which means that there is a good number of people out there who are willing to defend this movie. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Agents of SHIELD are garnering great praise even though they’re all set in a darker, grittier side of the verse.

Superheroes weren’t always dark and gritty, though. It’s just a trend that has been occurring in the various film and television adaptations of popular comic books. People mistakenly think that if a show is dark and gritty, people will take things more seriously. However, choosing to go with a dark tone comes at the cost of the audience possibly losing interest.  That’s not to say that all tragedy sucks. According to TVTropes: “A good tragedy works because the characters involved are given a chance to escape their downer ending but, for whatever reason, fail to do so; take away this chance, and usually what will happen is that the story just ends up being a lengthy description of unremittingly unpleasant things happening to someone.” But even so, there is evidence of adaptations that keep a more realistic or idealistic tone while still being well-written.

The shows that go under the DC Animated Universe shows that came out in the 90s and early 2000s mostly vary in tone. Batman:The Animated Series and Batman: Beyond had a dark and gritty tone, but the major characters shine a light of hope in the corrupt city of Gotham. That shining hope is something that the current lineup of DC movies lack. Ask any fan of the DC Animated Universe and you’ll learn that most of them compare the current adaptations of the DC shows to the animated series that came before. Yes, the writing was that good.

That sense of hope was there in Daredevil season 1 and was sort of promised towards the end of Jessica Jones. It’s also a driving point of Arrow, but one major problem all three of these shows suffer with is that the sense of hope gets clouded by the characters’ various issues. Daredevil suffers from a martyr complex, Jessica Jones has issues with connecting to people, and Oliver Queen would rather keep secrets from everyone.

The current lineup of films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe has more balanced tones in terms of idealism and cynicism. On the more cynical end, we have Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Age of Ultron. However, the dark, angsty tone of the movies make sense because it builds up from real consequences to the actions established from the previous films. The Avengers went out of their way to make sure that they create as little collateral damage as possible, but as the trailers have shown, all the collateral damage from the past several movies have added up to a lot. I’m seriously looking forward to seeing Civil War, even though I know that there may be characters who will probably be killed off by the end of the movie, because I know that eventually, these heroes will put aside their differences to defend the world again when Thanos tries taking over the world.

A good example of a group of anti-heroes that still maintains an optimistic tone is Guardians of the Galaxy. The titular Guardians aren’t heroes in the conventional sense. They’re not good in essentials, but they are willing to do the right thing when the situation calls for it. The movie maintains a humorous tone in spite of the fact that the team consisted of “a thief, two thugs, an assassin, and a maniac.” The reason the movie is enjoyable is because the movie has tons of humor and characters that everyone can relate to. Legends of Tomorrow has a similar premise in that the members of the team aren’t all straight-laced heroes and the lighthearted, humorous tone throughout most of the episode.

On the more idealistic ends of the scale are The Avengers, The Flash, and Supergirl. The Avengers has the most idealistic tone out of all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even with Coulson’s death, because the show’s conflict was simple:  All of the Avengers want to stop Loki from taking over the world, but they had conflicting ideas on how to stop him. Coulson’s death became the reason that the Avengers came together to take down Loki. Tie it all together with Joss Whedon’s humor and the fact that Coulson wasn’t actually dead, and you have the basics of a perfect superhero movie.

The Flash has moments of cynicism, especially with the new multi-verse story arc, but overall, the show maintains an idealistic tone. Flash, up to this point, has never killed anyone in the series. Instead, the various villains are either kept in the Pipeline or in Iron Heights. Since Barry Allen is a scientist, he and his friends work together to find smart solutions to the various problems.

This method of problem-solving carried over to Supergirl. I’m not gonna lie. Last night’s crossover episode “World’s Finest” was a huge sigh of relief after the disappointment of Batman vs Superman. I love Supergirl. A lot. But I also know that in spite of the fact that Supergirl has all these awesome powers, she’s not perfect. She tends to jump into situations without thinking and her emotions often blind her better judgment. I also love how realistic the show is, even with the idealistic tone. Supergirl is held accountable for her actions and when she finally shows how far she is willing to go to protect National City, the city is more than willing to protect and forgive her.

We need to have shows with idealistic tones to balance out the cynicism we have in this world. I really hope Supergirl doesn’t get cancelled because we need shows like Supergirl to give this cynical world an example of how idealism can change the world for the better.

My Vampiric Spirit, Confession, and Conversion

17th-century_unknown_painters_-_The_Resurrection_of_Christ_-_WGA23478

 

Author note: This is a guest post written by my friend Kristin from Austin and edited by me. Kristin will be received into the Catholic Church on Holy Saturday.  Please pray for her and all others who will be coming Home.

At the time I encountered Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I was fresh out of college, having laid aside my checkered Protestant past for a relativistic agnosticism layered in a pleasant self-deception.  I figured, if any action helped me out within the simple constraint of “not committing murder”, it was certainly without reproach, and I could still consider myself a “good person”.  Then, a pivotal episode in Buffy Season 7’s “Beneath You” tilted my worldview enough to make me uncomfortable—uncomfortable enough to eventually become a Catholic.

In the closing scene of the episode, Spike and Buffy are in an empty, lovely, moonlit church together, and Buffy is concerned that Spike has lost his sanity. Up until this point, the rakish ne’er-do-well vampire was forced by an implanted chip in his brain to do no harm to Buffy Summers, leading him to try and do good out of his love for the Slayer. Unfortunately, his attempts at being good were also mixed in with his complicated, tumultuous affair with Buffy throughout the latter half of Season 6, culminating in him attempting to rape Buffy in “Seeing Red.” His shock at what he was about to do led to him going on a quest to receive his soul so that he can be the man he thinks Buffy deserves. Now ensouled, Spike is uncomfortably, completely conscious and guilt-ridden over his innumerable sins. I realized that there was something true there being spoken about sin and the need for redemption.

It would take me several more years to make my way to the Catholic Church and the lesson I gained from watching “Beneath You” was a crucial reason to why I was becoming Catholic. However, I didn’t fully understand the importance of this scene until I went to my first Confession to prepare for receiving the rest of the Sacraments at Easter. For some inexplicable reason, I found myself terrified of this sacrament.

We are born vampires due to original sin.  Like vampires, we are driven into the black night of our sins and transgressions, subconsciously terrified of being burned alive by the pure light of Christ. Like vampires, we’re driven away from pain and toward hedonistic pleasure, largely propelled by the forces of fear, anger, hate, lust, and greed. We live entirely for ourselves and see others only as a source of food for us—emotional affirmation, physical pleasure, and social recognition—and we’d best eat them before we’re consumed ourselves. We drive our greedy jaws into others without a thought, a care, or a twinge of remorse, and suck them dry, all in a desire to quench our endless thirst, our neverending desire to fill the emptiness within ourselves with something.

In the midst of all this, the deep terribleness of the human heart, Christ the Slayer wants to kill our vampiric selves and ensoul us, which He does so well through the Sacraments. He calls us out of the darkness, and He watches us as we pathetically stagger out from the shadows, crouching, cringing away from the Light.

I spent my first Confession, sitting in very comfortable chair in a cheery, bright, well-lit office, feeling with every fiber of my being that I was about to go up in smoke as I rattled off my list of sins before the priest. And go up in smoke, my ego did. Like the newly ensouled Spike, I stumbled around, slowly realizing for the first time the depths of what I’ve done to Christ and Christ in others. My scarred heart, rife with manipulation, greed, carelessness, and selfishness, was laid bare before me in the harsh Light, no longer fancied up by the clever illumination of the night.

The priest gave me my penance, a single Our Father, and instructed me to meditate on the mercy of God. Not only did I meditate, I was sucker-punched by this overwhelming Divine Mercy toward me.  The emptiness inside of me was filled with the infinite waters that gushed from His Sacred Heart. It’ll be a lifelong process of torching my ego, repairing my heart, and fighting for my soul. I know that even after I am received into the Church, I’ll be in Confession again and again.  But like Spike at the end of “Beneath You,” I embrace the Cross which burns away my sins, and ask “Can we rest?”

Though the episode doesn’t answer the question, Saint Augustine does: “For You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.”

We can rest, brothers and sisters, in the arms of our Lord. As we celebrate Good Friday, let us hide ourselves in His wounds and fill ourselves with the endless fountain of His love and mercy.

Author’s note: If you want to know more about how the theme of forgiveness is seen in the Buffyverse, check out my post from last year.

"It Is Finished. Father, Into Your Hands, I Commend My Spirit." – Reflections on the Seven Last Words Parts 6 and 7

Brooklyn_Museum_-_It_Is_Finished_(Consummatum_Est)_-_James_Tissot

I’m going to combine the last parts of the Seven Last Words because I feel like they go together.

“It is finished. Father, into Thy hands, I commend my hands I commend my spirit.”

Many people mistakenly think that when Jesus said “It is finished,” He was referring to his road to salvation. However, our redemption wasn’t finished at the Cross, but through the Resurrection. So what was finished? The act of the sacrifice. Scott Hahn goes more into this in “The Fourth Cup,” which I highly recommend you listen to.

Venerable Fulton Sheen said that there were only two other times that God said “It is finished”: First in Genesis. after He finished Creation, and then at the end in Revelation, during the creation of the new Heaven and the new Earth. Christ’s declaration of “It is finished” marked the halfway point of this salvation narrative.

Being the Shakespearean fanatic I am, I can’t help but compare the salvation narrative to a Shakespearean play. Act 1 was creation. Act 2 was everything that happened in the Old Testament. Act 3 was the New Testament, Jesus’s birth and death. I like to think that Jesus saying these last words was the cue for the curtain to fall. In Shakespeare’s plays, Act 3 was the climax of the narrative. It’s no coincidence that the Latin translation for “It is finished” is “Consummatum est.”

Jesus was the only one in history who had entire control over His narrative. He knew who would live, who would die, and who would tell his story. He knew exactly when he would die and He had complete control over it. When he said “Father, into Thy hands, I commend my spirit,” he cued for the curtain to be lowered in this third act of the salvation narrative. His resurrection and everything that happened afterwards would be the beginning of what is now Act 4. We are living in Act 4 and we don’t know when Act 5 (the end times) will come. But we all need to be part of the salvation narrative.

As we begin the Triduum, I hope that you reflect on all the 7 Last Words of Christ and count the cost of His sacrifice on Good Friday. Let us put ourselves into His narrative and devote our lives to telling His story.

 

"I Thirst" – Reflections on the Seven Last Words Part 5

Brooklyn_Museum_-_-I_Thirst-_The_Vinegar_Given_to_Jesus_(-J'ai_soif.-_Le_vinaigre_donné_à_Jésus)_-_James_Tissot

“I thirst.” – John 19:28

Out of the Seven Last Words, this one is my personal favorite. I know what it’s like to thirst. Millenials often joke about how “thirsty” someone can be, usually in the context of someone who is starving for affection. We are all thirsty for love, but we have no idea what kind of love would actually satisfy our thirst.

It was really interesting to me that Jesus chose to ask for something to drink as he was on the cross instead of before, when the Romans offered him a drink. However, Venerable Fulton Sheen pointed out that the drink the Romans offered was drugged with a sedative. Yeah, I wouldn’t drink that either. Instead, Jesus asks for a drink as he is suffering, reflecting the thirst that we all have for God’s love.

And what amazes me most was that Jesus was thirsting for more than just a drink. As Soon-to-be-Saint Mother Teresa said…

Hear Jesus speak to your soul:
No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life; there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change. I THIRST FOR YOU – just as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your belief in My love that will change you. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the cross, look at My Heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood My cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: “I THIRST…”(Jn 19: 28). Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the psalm – verse I was praying says of Me: “I looked for love, and I found none…” (Ps. 69: 20). All your life I have been looking for your love – I have never stopped seeking to love you and be loved by you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to Me, right now, more than you ever have before.
Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear Me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit. “No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake, Come to Me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of your heart and knock. Open to Me, for I THIRST FOR YOU…”

Just think, God is thirsting for you and me to come forward to satiate His thirst. Just think of that!

 

"Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?"- Reflections on the Seven Last Words Part 4

Maria_Taferl_-_Kreuzaltar_2a_Bild

Catholics get mistaken for being masochists a lot. We put a lot of emphasis on guilt and pain and enjoying the sufferings we endure in life. It’s not like we actually get off on the pain, you know. And I think the Fourth Last Word can show the Catholic perspective on coping with suffering.

When Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” it may seem like a cry of despair at first glance. For those three hours, the sky is darkened and Jesus’s human nature echoed the laments of those who feel abandoned by God. But Jesus’s human nature was never separate from His Divine Nature. Venerable Fulton Sheen compares this seeming contradiction to a mountain obscured by clouds, even when the peak of the mountain is bathed in light. Jesus took on the nature of sin and allowed Himself to feel that separation for just this moment.

But there is a deeper meaning to this phrase beyond the words themselves. The words are actually the beginning of Psalm 21 (or 22 depending on your translations), which starts out with a lament of suffering that foreshadows the Crucifixion, but ends with a cry of hope and a triumphant declaration of overcoming the suffering.

My biggest issue with existentialism is that it is centered on the idea that the universe is indifferent. The entire philosophy is built on something that, to me, brings great despair. And those who believe in existentialism admit that the belief is both terrifying and beautiful and that the power to make the world better relies on the choice of the individual.

I’m just gonna quote my favorite Marshwiggle for a minute here:

There is one thing to say. Suppose we have only dreamed and made up these things, like sun, sky, stars and moon and Aslan himself. In that case, it seems to me that the made-up things are a good deal better than the real ones; and if this black pit of a kingdom is the best you can make, then it’s a poor world. And we four can make a dream world to lick your real one hollow. As for me, I shall live like a Narnian! Even if there isn’t any Narnia, so thanking you very much for supper. We’re going to leave your court at once and make our way across your great darkness to search for our land ABOVE!

I would rather try to find light or bring light into the world than spend my life cursing the darkness. My fellow Catholics and I may lament our sufferings, but we also know that, to quote Dumbledore from Harry Potter “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times,if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Behold Your Mother: Reflections on the Seven Last Words Part 3

Niccolò_Di_Pietro_Gerini_-_Crucifixion_with_the_Virgin_and_St_John_-_WGA16550

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.- John 19:26-27

If there was one thing I liked about last night’s Passion on Fox, it was that Mary (played by Trisha Yearwood) played a more prominent role than expected, singing four songs throughout the show. With that said, one thing I wish they showed was a scene where Jesus asks John to take care of his mother.

There is a lot of symbolism and a huge breach of tradition within this scene. For one thing, it proves that Jesus has no biological siblings because if he did, those biological siblings would’ve had the job of taking care of Mary after Jesus died. Another important thing is how Jesus addresses Mary. He calls her “Woman,” the same title he used at the Wedding of Cana.

I’m currently reading Venerable Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ and the awesome archbishop spends three and a half pages meditating on this particular verse from the Gospel of John. By calling Mary “Woman” at the Wedding of Cana, Jesus is faced with the reality that after changing the water into wine, He will set Himself on the road to the Cross. In screenwriting terms, Mary acts as the herald, giving Jesus the call to adventure. By saying “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come,” Jesus is acknowledging that eventually, his hour on the Cross will come and that Mary will be there with him.

When Jesus calls Mary “Woman” at the Cross, he acknowledges her as the New Eve, the new mother of all living. By giving her over to John, He gives her over to all his disciples and, by extension, us. In this small gesture, Jesus made Mary our mother.

Given that I did like aspects of last night’s Passion on Fox, the song I’m gonna share with you is the last one Trisha Yearwood sang as she held onto the illuminated cross:

Today, You Will Be With Me In Paradise: Reflections on The Seven Last Words Part 2

Titian_-_Christ_and_the_Good_Thief_-_WGA22832

During one of my college retreats, I underwent my first Ignatian exercise and imagined myself as the Good Thief. This meant that I imagined myself crucified alongside Jesus. I was hyperventilating and I felt a sharp pain on my back. I could’ve sworn that my hands and feet were pierced because I felt air blowing through them.

When the exercise ended, it felt like I woke up from a very vivid dream. I was still in the dark room, shaking in my seat. And yes, this is a typical experience of the Ignatian Exercises. Proceed with caution because, as someone I met on retreat said, “It’s  lot of Jesus coming at you.”

Aside from the overwhelming intensity, there are some things I remember about that particular Ignatian Exercise. When I was imagining myself as the Good Thief, I imagined Jesus’s face, all bloody and beaten. The image of the Crucified Christ has always made me uncomfortable. Images of the wounds on Jesus’s back make me uneasy. Saint Teresa of Avila had a similar experience with the image of the Crucified Christ.  But seeing the Crucified Christ isn’t exactly an experience that provokes feelings of rainbows and puppies. It hurts knowing that my sins contributed to Christ’s pain. But at the same time, knowing His suffering nature compels me to offer my pain with His own.

I think that people who are undergoing intense pain and loneliness can find themselves in the Good Thief’s shoes. They can unite their pain with Jesus and find a sense of renewal from that suffering.

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Father, Forgive Them: Reflections on The Seven Last Words Part 1

Maarten van Heemskerck, 1550

Maarten van Heemskerck, 1550

 

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”-Luke 23:34

Whenever I heard this particular verse from the Passion narrative, I always wondered if someone snarked “We know exactly what we’re doing.”  In the eyes of the Romans, they were eliminating a threat to the peace. In the eyes of the Pharisees, they were helping to eliminate a blasphemer, a false prophet. John 18:14 says “Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.”

But I don’t think they really knew what they were doing. If they were aware of the fact that they were condemning an innocent man to death, that their Messiah was right in front of them…I think they would be like me and volunteer to take Jesus’s place on the Cross.

I don’t think I can undergo what Jesus went through on the road to Calvary. But the fact that He willingly went through all of it so that humanity can be reunited with its Creator compels me to thank Him and to ask for his mercy.

I often said before that forgiveness often seems like something unimaginable to do. It took me a long time for me to let go of all the pain and anger I held towards those who’ve hurt me. It’s an ongoing process and you never know how much you’ve let go until you look back and realize how little weight you’re carrying.

When I think about those who have hurt me, I don’t see them as evil monsters the way I used to. I realize now that they were all broken in some way and that instead of trying to work through the pain, they instead chose to break me. But they didn’t know what they were doing. I think that the pain they inflicted upon me was not deliberate, but just a symptom of some larger problem they had that I couldn’t fix. It’s why now I pray that they will become aware of that pain and try to find healing in God’s mercy.

Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.