Monthly Archives: October 2021

Feeding Our Minds

Dear Folks,I had a great vacation, quite low key but wonderful in many ways. Part of my October preparation for Halloween is watching old horror movies. Most of the best ones are from the 1920’s and 1930’s, though there are exceptions, like the 1953 “House of Wax” with Vincent Price.Storytelling is a powerful part of being human. It helps express and form cultures, provides common imagery, captures and forms imaginations, and expresses and shapes our values. Some stories I find especially interesting as delving into the realm of mystery, the edges of our understanding. Horror stories can give us the feeling of being transported into the realm of mystery. Good science fiction can do the same.Bram Stoker published “Dracula” in 1897, and in 1922 there was a German movie “Nosferatu” based on the book. It portrayed the vampire as rat-like, a form of vermin, a plague. Since the memory of the Spanish flu was still fresh, this would have resonated with a lot of people. Many people have not heard of it because Bram Stoker’s widow would not give permission for the movie to be made, and she sued and confiscated copies of the film. It was many years later that a copy was discovered. In the meantime, “Dracula” with Bela Lugosi came out in 1931. When most people think “vampire” the image that pops into their heads is some version of BelaLugosi’s Dracula, and so he has become a cultural icon. This time the vampire was presented as suave, charming, even seductive. This resonates with our understanding that evil is seductiveand that makes it especially dangerous.During the 1970’s there came a trend of “slasher” movies, with less artistry, less ponderingmystery, and a lot more graphic violence. It is in our nature to recoil from violence and greatbodily harm, but with persistent conditioning we can lose that, and that’s not a good thing. Iremember in college, I was once waiting at a bus stop, and three high school kids joined. As wechatted, I mentioned I was going to see a movie.“What’re you going to see?”“I haven’t decided yet.”“You should see Friday the 13th, part three!”“Oh, you’re the ones who keep going to these movies, so they keep making them. I’m notinterested.”“But this is the best one; it’s really funny.”“Funny?”“There’s this one scene where three guys get their head chopped off at the same time!”“And that’s funny?”“You have to be there.”“No, I don’t.” I wound up seeing “The Great Mouse Detective” (with Vincent Price) and it was very good.I remember when the movie “The Passion of the Christ” came out, many voices were decrying how bloody and violent it was. I didn’t notice those particular voices decrying the other hundred gazillion movies that were really bloody and violent, but this one caught their ire. There was also criticism of Christians who have been concerned about violence in film but approved of “The Passion of the Christ.” Were they hypocrites? There is a critical point: During the Passion movie, I think people identify with the sufferer, and it sharpens our horror of violence and cruelty. Many other movies present violence as thrilling, empowering and satisfying, with no sympathy for those who suffer.As we think of the stories we take in, we may ask, what are we feeding our minds? How might they shift our perspective, our sympathies, our values, our thoughts?Blessings,Fr. Jim

Marriage and the Cross

Dear Folks,Our Gospel talks about marriage, divorce, and natural law. Why would Mark put this in the section of his gospel that deals with the cross? At Jesus’ time, there was a strong belief that aman could divorce his wife for a number of causes, and I’m told some rabbis taught that if a wife burns her husband’s dinner that was cause for divorce. Clearly, practice like this wouldencourage many men to come to marriage thinking about how it was going to benefit them.Jesus’ is calling people to see marriage more in terms of gift of self. There may be great benefits and joys in marriage as in many forms of giving oneself, but it doesn’t work if our central focus is on what I’m going to get out of this. This is true of many ways we give ofourselves, like priesthood and friendship. Marriage is unique, however, and plays a unique role in the story of salvation.Consider how our relationship with God is compared to marriage. “I will rejoice heartily in the Lord, my being exults in my God; For he has clothed me with garments of salvation, and wrapped me in a robe of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, as a bride adorns herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10-11).” The book of Hosea is all about comparing God’s relationship with Israel to a husband’s relationship to an unfaithful wife. Psalm 45 is essentially a wedding song. Song of Songs is essentially a wedding song, and many people have found in it a deep sense of God’s tender love. Ephesians 5:21-33 compares marriage to the love between Christ and His Church and calls it “a great mystery.”If anyone is thinking that this is just a nice metaphor, why would it be called a great mystery?What if God deliberately made people male and female, that they be suited to give themselves to one another in a unique way, that would teach us about how God is calling us to union withHim? Our union with God is meant to be free, total, faithful, and fruitful, and so is marriage.Mark chapter 10, Jesus is asked about divorce, and at that time, there was discussion about what was required for divorce. He goes back to the beginning, the very beginning, and locatesthis discussion in the core of how we were created.Matthew will give some more detail in Matthew 19:1-15. Remember, the Gospel writers don’t tell all they know (See John 21:25), so they must be selective. There is a clarification about ifthe marriage is unlawful (v. 9, and that leads to a discussion beyond what I can do here). The apostles are shocked and think Jesus’ high standards means it is better not to get married.Jesus tells them that not everyone is made for marriage.In the Gospel of John, we see that John the Baptist’s job was to introduce Jesus. The Baptist will use two images for Jesus: The Passover Lamb (John 1:29) and the Bridegroom (John 3:22-30). We will see these two images brought together in the wedding feast of the Lamb in Revelation 19:7-9. See also Revelation 21:2 and 9. Both are images of total gift of self.When people get married, they are holding their whole lives in their hands, and making a decision that cannot be undone. I’ve dealt with a number of people who have been divorced or are going through divorce, and I’ve seen clearly that divorce does not make it go away (no one has contradicted me on that).This is a huge topic, but if there is one takeaway from what I’m saying, it is there is more to marriage than most people think, and we who think Jesus’ teaching is important have a challenge of expanding the conversation in society for the good of all.Blessings,Fr. Jim