Why We Still Need Mercy

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Why Do We Still Need Mercy?

The year of Mercy may be over, but as we enter into 2017, we are in need of mercy now more than ever.

Someone once said to me that they would rather go to Hell than forgive the people who hurt them. To my surprise, a friend of mine who converted from Protestantism said that it’s something a lot of so-called Christians say. It’s hard for me to believe that people who claim to love their neighbor can hold on to a grudge so badly that they are willing to go to Hell for it. Believe me when I say this: Hell is not worth it.

There is a reason why CS Lewis said “The doors to hell are locked from the inside.” Hell is not worth staying angry or being judgmental or believing the lies of opportunistic politicians and fake news. Mercy and forgiveness aren’t just part of being a Christian, they are a part of having a healthy life.

I’m not saying to “forgive and forget.” I’m not saying you should reconcile to the people who hurt you. I’m not saying you should act like nothing happened. I’m asking you to let go. Let go of your anger. Let go of the hatred you feel. This is the greatest act of mercy you can do for the ones you and for yourself. The healing can’t begin until you let it all go.

How does forgiveness tie into mercy?

Whenever some bad news about a shooting or certain political groups comes up, volatile reactions on Twitter often follow afterwards. People blame others or buy into false rhetoric. What nobody seems to realize is that mercy is the real answer. Mercy is given to those you don’t think deserve it because they’re the ones who need it most. Without mercy, we are no better than the people who commit those violent acts and the ones we see as arrogant and overly powerful.

Through mercy and forgiveness, we can find the hope and a renewal of trust we have been lacking this year. We may not be able to trust the ones who’ve hurt us, but we can hope for the best for them and trust that we can be smarter going forward. We can avoid the fate of those who lost someone to death without making amends.

I know that right now, practicing mercy and forgiveness can be an unimaginable thing. But nothing is impossible with God.

What can we do?

I know that right now, everyone’s saying that 2016 has been the worst year in history. Believe me when I say that history has seen worse years. It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. The year of Mercy may be over, but since we are in the last week of Advent, I think it would be a good time to start practicing mercy and forgiveness. It even says so in the Bible!

If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

– Matthew 5:23-24

Give someone the gift of mercy and forgiveness this Advent.

Kubo and the Two Strings: Collaboration with Catholic Girl Bloggin

 

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If you must blink, do it now…

Kubo is a young boy who lives with his sometimes-catatonic mother in a cave by the sea. Every day he walks down to the village and entertains the villagers by telling stories using origami that comes to life when he plays his shamisen (a Japanese three-stringed instrument). There is a catch to Kubo’s existence: He must never ever stay out after dark. He soon figures out the reason when he stays out past dark and his evil spirit Aunts come to take him to his “grandfather” the Moon King, who intends to take Kubo’s remaining eye. With the help of a monkey and a beetle, Kubo must find his deceased father’s armor and defeat the Moon King.

This is another collaboration with my awesome friend Amy aka Catholic Girl Bloggin. My friend Amy’s writings will be in blue and my stuff will be in purple.

CGB Hits
I absolutely adore how imaginative this film is! Like the titular character, the world we are introduced to is brimming with creativity. I have always had a soft spot for Asian culture, so I appreciate that the story takes place in ancient Japan.

The first ten minutes has the best use of “show-don’t-tell” that I’ve seen in a long time. Yes, there is some opening narration from Kubo himself, but his dialogue is not an exposition spiel; rather the visuals are allowed to do all the talking. Any time the movie does resort to expositional dialogue, it is kept brief. Speaking of the visuals, the animation is–holy cow–just breathtaking! I turned to the friend who accompanied me and said, “Dude, that looks like real water!” There’s an impressive painting-come-to-life feel with the color palatte and the design of the locations that make the film a beauty to behold.

The story itself is truly inspired! Granted, the “adventures-of-a-half human-half celestial-child” story has been done before, but having him be a gifted storyteller who can bring origami to life with a musical instrument is quite an impressive twist. The most admirable quality of the film are the morals. I really like how Monkey tells Kubo, “Your magic is growing stronger. You need to learn control. But when we grow stronger the world grows more dangerous.” Trust me when I say that her statement holds a lot of truth.

Earlier this year, I reviewed the Jungle Book, in which I pointed out how the film reminded me of something a friend said to me, “Let the angels and the saints deal with the devil. They know what they’re doing.” Kubo and the Two Strings also brought those words to mind! Similarly to how our guardian angels tackle the evil one when he tries to mess with us, any time the hawkish evil spirit aunts come to harrass Kubo, Monkey and Beetle are there to fight them off while Kubo either accomplishes a task or seeks refuge. It is with their help that Kubo becomes strong enough and fully-equipped to finally take on the Moon King himself. Also, the climactic confrontation between Kubo and Moon King does come with an Eden-style temptation. Basically it’s the “join me and you will become like gods” thing, much like how the old serpent told Eve that if she ate the apple, she’d become like God. Between this and the Jungle Book, I’m pleasantly surprised to see that kids films come with an interest in the mysterious spiritual world.

MsOcampoWrites Hits

It’s so refreshing to find a movie for general audiences that has a completely original premise. My brother and I were obsessed with Japanese culture since we were kids and we were both looking forward to seeing this movie. It lived up to the expectations I had and then it blew me out of the water.

The animation is stunning, the characters are all enjoyable, and the writing is a breath of fresh air amongst the remakes and reboots out there. The movie does not play things safe and yet I would totally recommend this movie to basically everyone.

The central themes of this movie are about the importance of family and the power of a good story. Kubo goes on a journey to finish what his father started: to find the armor that will help him defeat the Moon King. Monkey, Beetle, and Little Hanzo all made for excellent travelling companions.

The Sisters were intimidating, frightening villains as well. I also love all the action sequences because there was a variety of them. The townsfolk play a great role as supporting characters who do more than just act as bystanders. I love that they accept Kubo’s gift and don’t treat him like an outsider like other movies would.

CGB Misses

The friend who came with me to see this movie had some questions about Kubo’s scary aunts. “If his grandfather is the Moon King, then are his aunts supposed to be stars or something?” This is just one of the film’s unanswered questions.

Also, is it just me or is the danger Kubo faces at the hands of his tyrannical grandfather lacking some weight? Let me explain: So essentially, if Kubo is caught by the Moon King and the hawk-women, then they will take his remaining eye…and then what? Are they gonna just leave him blinded on earth? Is he going to be made into a freaky spirit person like them? Also, other than being the product of his mother’s disobedience against the Moon King, why is the Moon King threatened by Kubo’s existence? Does the Moon King believe that Kubo being half-human, half-celestial mean that he [Kubo] will try to overthrow him? Now, to be fair, in their final confrontation, the Moon King does offer to take Kubo with him and make him an infinite being, but still, I think that if the threat had been written as “the Moon King’s gonna snatch Kubo’s other eye and enslave him,” or something like that, it would’ve helped.
Speaking of the Moon King, here’s my issue: I totally understand why he is a threat to Kubo, but the movie doesn’t make him seem like a threat to anyone else. The Moon King doesn’t seem to be feared by anyone else in the movie’s universe. In Harry Potter, Voldemort was a threatening presence regardless of whether or not Harry was around; it just so happened that he had his sights set on The Boy Who Lived and anyone associated with him. Here, though, it would have helped to see the Moon King burn down a village or require insane sacrifices or something; anything to raise the stakes of his existence.

MsOcampoWrites Misses
While I will say that all the actors did a great job in this movie, I wish that George Takei had more than just a cameo role. I also think that this movie could’ve been even better with Asian actors in the main roles. Matthew McConaughey’s acting is uneven, albeit has its own interesting brand of charm.
Elephant in the Room

MsOcampoWrites:
Right before we did this collab, one of my Facebook friends sent me an article from a well­ regarded Catholic news source that dismissed this movie and said that it promoted “neo-­Pagan values.” As somebody who grew up watching Charmed, reads Harry Potter, and still watches Buffy, I think that the themes in this movie are just as Catholic as any Bible­-based movie. For one thing, the central theme of this movie is the importance of family. While the main villains are Kubo’s grandfather and aunts, it’s reminiscent of Luke 12:53 “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-­in-­law against daughter-­in-­law and daughter-­in-­law against mother-­in-­law.” The Moon King and his daughters are arrogant because they fail to comprehend things such as compassion and selfless love. Without going into spoiler territory, the ending of this movie shows justice and mercy rendered unto the Moon King, so the movie ends up teaching something that relates to the Year of Mercy as well.

Catholic Girl Bloggin:
Yes, I did see the article about Kubo promoting the occult and I will tell you that I didn’t see a single ouija board, tarot card, voodoo doll or anything occult-like in this entire movie. In fact, the villains were reminiscent of demons while Monkey and Beetle were basically Kubo’s guardian angels. If anything, the story borrows heavily from Greek mythology with hints of Shintoism. For the record, Shinto is a Japanese religion and given that the story does take place in ancient Japan, it only makes sense to borrow influence from a Japanese religion. So fear not, guys and gals, Kubo and the Two Strings is NOT pro-occult propoganda. Frankly, I don’t think the devil really cares about stop-motion animation and the film’s pro-family message would probably have him tripping over himself as he tries to flee.

I don’t think Kubo is in theatres now, but if it’s still showing, I highly recommend families with kids of all ages to check out this movie. If not, rent it from a Redbox or an on-demand streaming service when it comes out on DVD. It’s a great, original adventure that will take your breath away. And on top of that, it emphasizes the importance of family when dealing with a problem that’s more than a child can handle.

Venerable Takayama Ukon and Saint Paul Miki, pray for us.

Why Brock Turner Needs Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli

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There is a reason why justice and mercy go hand in hand. Like the rest of the internet, I was disgusted over the way-too-lenient sentence that Brock Turner received from the judge. While I am devoted to Divine Mercy and advocate forgiveness, I also know that six months in jail is not actual justice. Brock Turner isn’t sorry.

Which is why, instead of screaming “Rape culture” and “Check your privilege,” I am asking Saint Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli to pray over this situation.

Why Maria Goretti?

For those who don’t know, Maria Goretti, like the victim of the Stanford rape case, was damaged by the guy who sexually assaulted her. In fact, she died as a result of her trying to defend herself from her would-be rapist.

I’m already asking for Maria Goretti’s intercession for the victim of the rape case because she needs all the support she can get. In some ways, the victim will have to suffer a lot more than Maria Goretti did because she has to live with the trauma for the rest of her life.

But why does the perpetrator need the intercession of the victim of attempted rape and murder? And how would the man who killed Maria Goretti help?

I’m asking for Maria Goretti’s intercession because the scales of justice and mercy are thrown out of balance. Alessandro got a proper sentence for the murder he committed. He began his thirty-year jail sentence angry and unrepentant. He blamed Maria Goretti for everything and he was very violent around his inmates. Six years later, Maria appeared to Alessandro in a vision. In this vision, she was in a garden picking 14 lilies and she gave those 14 lilies one by one to Alessandro. Each lily represented a stab that Alessandro inflicted upon her. Through this gesture, Maria showed that she forgave her murderer for what he did and what he wanted to do.

I understand that there is no frickin way that Brock Turner deserves forgiveness.  Improper justice was given to Brock Turner. Binge-drinking and whatever the victim was wearing did not cause this rape to happen. Brock Turner chose to rape her. And sadly, he’s not sorry for that particular action. His father and the judge aren’t sorry, either. The victim will probably never forgive them.

Here’s the thing, though. None of us deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean to forget what happened, either. Mercy demands justice. The reason I’m asking for Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli’s intercession is because the scales of justice need to regain their balance. I pray that Brock Turner will feel the weight of his actions. I pray that the victim will not be a prisoner of her trauma nor will she be labeled a “slut” for what happened. I pray that people will understand that drinking and going out to a nightclub aren’t to blame here.

People these days feel entitled to have whatever they want. It’s not just a privilege issue because entitlement can be found everywhere. But I’m not here to rage against the fallen state of this country. There are too many people doing that already.

I’m here to ask for justice and mercy to be rendered to everyone involved. I’m asking people to look at each other and see a person and not someone to use for their own means. I’m asking for harsher sentences for rapists and for judges to have a little more wisdom. I’m asking for you to look into what mercy and forgiveness really mean and try and apply that to your life. Most of all, I pray that somehow, someday, all the people involved will learn to forgive each other and to forgive themselves, but to never forget what happened.

If you want to know more about Maria Goretti, read this post I wrote from last November when I venerated her relics. There’s also a video from the Mass that I went to that night. I linked the video to start at the homily:

P.S.: Who wants to bet that Law and Order SVU will totally do a ripped from the headlines episode based on this?

Struggling With Habitual Sin: Forgiveness Bible Study Day 10

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From today’s reflection:

Everyone has their weaknesses, their vulnerable spots, the parts of their souls that are the most susceptible to temptation. Some people have a very bad temper. Others struggle with gossiping or lying or with emotional chastity. Even if we’re not addicted to “hard substances” like alcohol or drugs, our tendency to desire sin can lead us to one of four addictions: wealth, pleasure, power, and honor. Sin can be a bad habit to have and at some point, you might be wondering “Why do I keep going to Confession for the same sin over and over again?”

Find out the answer here.

Admitting You Have a Problem: Forgiveness Bible Study Day 9

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From today’s reflection:

Today’s passage is definitely soap opera worthy. Heck, give this story to the writers of Game of Thrones and you could easily see this happening on HBO: A king lusts over the wife of one of his soldiers, sleeps with her, gets her pregnant, and then kills her husband by sending him over to the front lines where he was guaranteed to die.

This is one of King David’s worst moments. If this was a Shakespeare play, it could’ve been a serious permanent tragedy. And yet, in spite of all the drama, there was some good that came out in the end.

But what can we learn from all the tragedy and heartache?

Find out here!

The Problem of Misapplied "Mercy"

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You know, for a society that claims to be so tolerant and open, we sure have a funny way of showing it!

It seems like I’m seeing reasons why we need mercy, compassion, and forgiveness everywhere. Over the long weekend, the internet exploded over the death of a gorilla. Suddenly, everyone becomes an expert in parenting and handling gorillas.

I don’t deny the fact that there could have been ways to prevent all this from happen, but as things stand right now, I feel a lot better that the child is okay. I feel sad that the gorilla died, but all the chatter I’ve been seeing on Twitter is reminding me of something George Orwell said in: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

*sarcasm mode* Oh brave new world that has such people in it. *end sarcasm mode*

It’s hard for me to understand what people are saying sometimes. It’s hard for me to understand people in general. And yet, for the most part I want to give the benefit of the doubt. There are very few exceptions to the rule (*coughDRUMPFcough*), but I can’t help but feel like Alice stuck in a nonsensical wonderland.

Have we forgotten that all people are created equal? Equality doesn’t mean sameness. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of the happiness don’t give us free license to do whatever we want at the expense of everyone else. We all have the capacity to lose a child in the mall or at the zoo. We have to allow parents to make mistakes and not judge them for slipping up because, guess what, we all make mistakes. Why do we always say that “Only God can judge” when it comes to the LGBT+ movement and everything that comes with it but not allow that same tolerance to parents when they take time to go out on dates or when they make a mistake?

This lack of mercy also applies to those who are conservative as well. I wish that people could be more open-minded about the situation with all the Middle East refugees. I want both Christian and Muslim refugee families to be in a safe place. My heart broke more over the death of the 400 refugees who drowned in April rather than the death of one gorilla because humans, as far as I’m concerned, are created a little lower than the angels and higher than the animals.

I’m not saying that I’m above all this. When I saw the internet exploding over the various newspieces in the zietgeist, I wanted to weep for humanity. I assumed that the situation was preventable.

That’s the thing about assuming, though. As the saying goes: Assuming makes an ass out of you and me!

Why do we misapply mercy and not understand what it really means to be merciful, forgiving, and compassionate towards others?

It’s because we don’t really know what we can control.

Simcha Fischer said this brilliantly in another response to the current zeitgeist:

You never will be completely in control, and if you don’t make yourself accept this fact, then you are perfectly primed to snatch control anyway by unmaking another human being. And when you do it, you will not be stronger. You will not be in charge. You will just become fodder for that insatiable mouth who first told you that damnable lie — the lie that you can be in control.

This is why I’m not an existentialist. Existentialism is selling that lie that we are in control of what our lives mean because the universe is indifferent to us. The fact of the matter is, there is something higher than us, offering us a second chance at a constant basis. This mercy is given to everyone. Even Donald Drumpf. It’s not something we are entitled to. It’s a gift given from unconditional love and it’s not something that any of us deserve.

When we are given a second chance, we are called to pay it forward by being merciful, compassionate, and forgiving towards someone else. It doesn’t mean forgetting what happened in the past. It doesn’t mean allowing dangerous things or people back into your life. It can be something as simple as giving a mother the benefit of the doubt and hoping that the child and his family will get out of all the media speculation soon. It can be something as big as allowing a refugee into your home, even if it just means advocating for their asylum in our country.

People always talk about tolerance as a form of compassion, forgiveness, and mercy. They keep using that word, but I don’t think it means what they think it means. I wish people could understand what compassion, forgiveness, and mercy really mean and what these things demand from us.

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Jesus, Divine Mercy, I trust in You.

The Fruits of Confession: Forgiveness Bible Study Day 8

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From today’s reflection:

Let’s take a look at a person who committed a sin that some people still haven’t forgiven. He betrayed Jesus around the hour of his death, abandoned Jesus even when he swore up and down that he would always be there for his Savior. In spite of the fact that he betrayed Christ, though, he still became a great leader. In fact, he becomes the head of the Church.

Yep, Saint Peter had an experience with confession, just as every other sinner who came to Jesus. The denial he made during that night that Jesus was put on trial was forgiven when Jesus asked Peter “Do you love me?” three times.

My friend Kristin shares her conversion story here!

 

Learning to Forgive Yourself: Forgiveness Bible Study Day 6

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From today’s reflection:

One often misunderstood aspect about God’s grace is that we have to deserve it. Nobody deserves God’s grace or mercy. It’s instead given as a gift, whether we feel like we deserve it or not.

The Catholic Church holds everyone up to a high standard because our purpose in life is to be a saint. At the same time, the Church loves us so unconditionally that no matter how far we fall, we can return to the Church, ask for forgiveness, and receive that grace. It does not mean that we take advantage of that grace. It doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve that grace.

So what does it mean?

It means that God is asking a lot from us when we receive His mercy.

Read the rest here!