Latest from the Jesuit Post
Judas had a price. Do we? There are things that we might put before our relationship with God, but Damian Torres-Botello, SJ, reminds us that there is always hope in Christ. Based on the readings for Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020.
JUDAS! Ugh! Every time!
Hello! I’m Damian Torres-Botello and this is my One-Minute Reflection.
30 pieces of silver, that’s the price for Judas for Jesus. That’s the price of a household slave way, way back in the day, 30 pieces of silver. Judas had his price, what’s yours?
The price for our betrayal doesn’t need to be cash or coin, but it could be our career, our ambitions, our achievements, comfort, material possessions, anything that we place in absolute priority or primary over God. So much so that God is no longer in our purview, perhaps ignored, maybe completely forgotten.
What’s wonderful, though, is that God does not turn away from us. Even though Jesus saw his own betrayal, Jesus did not reject his disciples, nor allow their anxiety to silence God’s Word, or keep him from turning to God in his hour of need. Jesus continued to give and share.
What have we done for Christ? What are we doing for Christ? What ought we do for Christ? Some food for thought.
In this world of increased distance and isolation, I imagine lots of us have gotten stuck in a YouTube vortex at one point or another. As I write, I’m in one, and it’s been going for a few hours. It’s late, and I need to go to bed, but I’m watching musicians do their thing – as Elizabeth Bishop says, “I am in need of music.”
As opposed to simply listening to songs, I’ve found watching videos helpful in connecting to the music I deeply need right now. In a video, there’s an added layer of meaning and interpretation on the part of the artist to show us what the music can reveal and how it might impact us.
So, here are six YouTube videos involving music that strike me as helpful these days. They were all created before COVID-19. They offer me some insight / advice as I navigate these unusual and challenging times, and they make me feel connected.
Watch them with me. Indulge in them, and don’t feel bad spending the time. Enjoy them. Tell me what you think, and add to the list.
(1) ‘Want You Back’ by Haim. Note the empty streets of LA, hardly a normal scene, and the way they reflect the streets of cities and towns across the world. Note the silliness of the sisters (Haim is a band of three sisters) and the way they play through those empty streets. It reminds me of the extreme lengths to which families and roommates are documenting their endless efforts to stay entertained. Note the occasional example of excellent social distancing as the sisters move along together. And note the clear message of the song, to which I think we can all relate. I haven’t hugged someone in like 17 days. I want hugs back. I want you all back.
(2) ‘Changes’ by Charles Bradley. As soon as we can get past the fact that this song serves as the soundtrack to the opening credits of Netflix’s filthy (and hilariously uncomfortable) animated show “Big Mouth,” the song stands on its own as a brilliant work. The video is simple – one man showing us heartbreak as he lives through changes in his life. His is perhaps the most expressive face in the history of expressive faces, and we’re all going through changes these days. It’s worth sitting in the reality of those changes and naming them as they are. And, Bradley does it in one long take. He’s a genius.
(3) ‘Light On’ by Maggie Rogers (La Blogothèque – Live in Paris). This video captures visually both the vulnerability of being alone in the dark, but also the utter joy of what it means to be together in the light. I have daydreams about what it will look like when we are all together again – I hope it looks like this video. There are people being brave, singing and dancing, being joyful with one another – a good and healthy thing to see these days.
(4) ‘Shadow Days’ by John Mayer – In this video, while Mayer isn’t totally isolated from others, it’s clear that the conclusions he draws about himself come in the solitary space he occupies reflecting on hard times he has faced. The scenes reflect that solitude beautifully – a long car ride alone out of the city, a vast landscape, the ever-changing western sky. He is convincing himself that he is good, and in that, he invites a good question for all of us – what can we learn about ourselves during this time of relative stillness? What can we forgive? How might we live differently on the other side of COVID-19, when these shadow days are past us?
(5) 2002 – Anne Marie and Ed Sheeran. Let’s imagine these two are quarantined together, healthy, and bored enough to embrace creativity and write new songs. Something like this tune might emerge, hearkening back to happier, less troubled times. If you’re lucky enough to be with loved ones you can share your musical gifts and talents these days, do it! And, share those gifts and talents with others through the vast digital network you have.
(6) ‘Ironic’ by Alanis Morissette – a classic for any child of the 90’s, and an iconic music video that shows how many layers of identity one person can have. There’s a certain melancholic joy to this video which resonates with me these days. While I’d rather opportunities to share my joy fully with others, there are simply joys I’ve encountered because I’m alone more often now – the absence of FOMO (fear of missing out), the sense of being less busy, the chance to breathe deeply and remind myself that, in this quiet space, I still serve others, and I am still breathing. And, as so many things are different than we expected them to be these days, the song reminds us that life has a funny way of teaching us sometimes.
What are your quarantine jams and videos? Pass them along – Lord knows I’ll get lost in the vortex again soon.
Thank You for this day. For waking me up. For inviting me to move about as I have thus far. For the way you help me carry on. For the hope of more life to experience tomorrow. You are always generous and loving, and so I offer up my abilities and my shortcomings. Again, I say thank You. For my successes and failures, thank You. For my wisdom and ignorance, thank You. These all have brought me to You today. I ask, please – listen to my heart, read my soul. For my words fall short, and yet I will try.
I hear news from colleagues, neighbors, friends, and family of their struggle, their sickness, their need for life sustaining resources. I notice parents and teachers and students adjusting to new ways of learning. I witness leaders struggling to comfort their people, to inform them and offer reassurance that all will be well. I recognize that those who have always been in need are now joined by new faces in financial struggle. The ill are united with the newly diagnosed. The table of the hungry is expanding to include more stomachs.
What are You inviting me to discover at this moment? Help me find the good and grace when I’m struggling to understand what is unfolding around me. Help me locate You more clearly Lord, so that my eyes may find You in the fog of this crisis. I know that from struggle will come new life, because I believe the resurrection is always the new beginning after any heavy cross. And it is with this cross that I come to the altar where Your arms are open wide. I bow down low before You, Lord of Hosts. I come to your altar, Dear One, knowing I’m forgiven and loved. I bring my sorrows and concerns to exchange them for hope and faith. I sing alleluia, because You will rise, You are risen, and so too will we all be on the other side of all this. For what I need now is patience and trust, strength and courage, a peaceful heart and calm mind to carry me through this time in my life. Amen.
Our Father, who art in heaven…
St. Ignatius of Loyola. Pray for us.
Mary, Queen of Peace. Pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts. Forever.
When I was a child, I once read a vignette in my mother’s Catholic Digest magazine about a saint who thought about God all the time. That’s right: all the time. I don’t remember who the saint was or anything else of the story of their life, but I can still recall the mixture of amazement, disbelief, and challenge that such an idea stirred within me. In these days of pandemic and social distancing, I have returned to this idea as something else competes to dominate life, both externally and internally.
On its face, constantly thinking about God seems not only impossible, but also undesirable. We know naturally that obsessing over one thing is not a healthy way to live. The fears and anxiety induced by COVID-19 provide clear evidence of this, but we also know the futility of telling ourselves not to think about something.
One of the reasons the pandemic has come to dominate so much of our lives is that it seems omnipresent. It has permeated and affected all aspects of our lives and consciousness, from working from home and remote learning to Zoom happy hours with friends. But to say that it is omnipresent is to give it an attribute only truly applicable to God, that is, to make it an idol. Sure, it is prudent and necessary to adjust our daily lives to minimize the impact of the virus and protect the most vulnerable. This does not mean that it has to occupy our minds at all times and order our lives completely. COVID-19 is not God, and certainly not worth the attention due to God.
How can we then turn away from worshiping the virus through our constant attention and fear? From making it into an idol that we fixate on without relief, as though it truly is omnipresent? The answer must be to follow the example from that saint in my mother’s magazine: to think of God.
Thinking constantly of God is not risk-free though — we run the risk of merely setting up one idol in place another. We can sometimes have false and unhelpful images of God, whether it be the “Santa Claus god,” who knows if we’ve been bad or good and rewards/punishes accordingly, or a “distant god,” who rarely bothers with human affairs. If we latch onto one limited image of God, even if it captures some partial truth of the divine, it will stifle us if we devote our thoughts only to it. These images of God can become false idols in our lives too.
The truly transcendent God of Christianity is not omnipresent as a foreign invader, nor a suffocating blanket that covers everything, but rather God is omnipresent like air or gravity. God is the ground underneath us that holds us up.
Thinking constantly of God does not mean limiting our consciousness, but freeing it. There is nothing you can think of that isn’t related to God. Everything that exists is good, a gift from God. If we think of God all the time, we are merely thinking truly, recognizing this fundamental reality of existence.
Practically, the fear of coronavirus can give us occasion to turn to the truly omnipresent God for comfort. Every time I think of the virus or read related news, I try consciously to turn my thoughts to God, either offering up my feelings or asking for help for those in need. Thinking of God, along with care for our physical, social, psychological health, will profit us spiritually in these extraordinary times.
While it might seem like the coronavirus is everywhere, God actually is. And in the midst of all this, God is lovingly seeking you out. Think about that.
Wait, wasn’t baseball season supposed to have started by now? Shouldn’t we be awaiting a great Final Four matchup right now? Effectively, because of Coronavirus, all sporting events have been either pushed back, suspended indefinitely, or cancelled. For many of us, myself included, this is a difficult scenario to face.
That’s because sports add color and excitement to our lives.
The world of sports gifts us with two rewards: it’s a place of bonding with others and is also a means of striving for excellence.
For those of us who are sports fans, I doubt that we watch our favorite teams or players in a vacuum; sometimes we are the fans in the stands or we watch the games with family and friends at home or in a bar. We talk about our love for these games with the people we watch with and the others we know who share our interests.
Sometimes we also watch for people we care about. We watch because our friend really likes the game and it is a way to spend time with her. As a high school teacher, I go to the school’s games because I want to support my students past and present, because I already have a relationship with them. Those chances are not available right now.
And for the athletes, the games allow us to push ourselves and become better. My students were heartbroken to learn that their seasons were going to be cut short. They won’t have the chance to push further into the playoffs. Some won’t even play their senior (or freshman) season if they played a Spring sport.
We don’t have live sports right now. And we don’t know when our favorite teams or sports will come back on the air. And these delays really sting.
Teams on the verge of winning it all may never see their season come to a close and end their championship drought. Teams poised to have a great Spring season or to turn a mediocre Winter season around have to wait to see their next chance, be that later this year or next year. Athletes in their prime may never have that stellar season they have been working towards.
And yet all is not lost. The bonding with others and the striving for excellence need not stop simply because we aren’t currently playing or watching our respective games. Whether sports have been a source of bonding or of pushing ourselves towards excellence, here are a few alternatives we can do right now.
Instead of watching the new games, watch a few classics in the interim. Whether your favorite is baseball, basketball, hockey, football, soccer, or something else, there are numerous classic games to watch. 1 And we don’t have to watch these games alone; get a few friends together (via Facetime or video hangout) to stream some great games and share stories of some of your favorite eras. And if your favorite team seems poised for a great run or a breakthrough, talk about your hopes for the franchise’s (or school’s) future with fellow fans.
In short, this break in sports is an opportunity to remember why we love these games in the first place. During this time we can go back to that source of life, whether it’s through memories, replays, or conversations with friends and mutual fans.
And for the athletes, thankfully there is still the chance to exercise . There are solo practice drills we can do, running, lifting weights. Athletes can, and are, continuing to strive for excellence. And while these are obviously important, we can always keep up with teammates to encourage each other and to be encouraged ourselves.
Ultimately, none of these provides the excitement or energy of playing or watching sports in real time, but we have to do the best we can with our current circumstances to keep our love of these games alive. We can make it out through this time by remembering why we love the games and by keeping that love alive though talking with others, rewatching old games and moments that are important to each of us.
One day, the games will come back. Perhaps the absence from them will help us to appreciate them all the more when they return.
Photo by Free To Use Sounds
The raising of Lazarus shows Jesus as both human and divine. Jesus weeps for his friend and is also able to raise him from the dead. Fr. Joe Laramie, SJ, reflects on this account in this week’s One-Minute Homily. Based on the readings for Sunday, March 29, 2020.
Life is sweet. But Death stinks.
I’m Fr Joe Laramie and this is my One-Minute Homily.
Jesus is the eternal Son of God, and he is fully a man. We see him sweating, weeping, hungry, rejoicing, and even angry. He experiences the full range of human emotions.
In Sunday’s Gospel, Martha meets Jesus just after her brother, Lazarus, has died. Jesus becomes ‘perturbed.’ In the original Greek, it says, “he snorted” or groaned, or grunted. Lazarus is a close friend of Jesus. Jesus is sad and upset. And then Jesus weeps.
Jesus tells them to, “Take away the stone.” Martha reminds him, “Lord, he has been dead for 4 days.” But, Jesus is not afraid of our human condition. He plunges into our lives, into our weakness, even into death. He raises Lazarus and promises to raise each of us, from death to new life.
There may be no place in the United States as intentionally constructed as the National Memorial for Peace & Justice of the Equal Justice Initiative. Right down to the bricks used, it seems every inch of the memorial was carefully and delicately designed. There are a number of layers to history and optics of the memorial that begin even before entering. It struck me that metal detectors were in use, especially since the memorial is entirely outdoors. What is more, a private security team monitors the perimeter of the memorial. It’s not possible to enter into, be in, and learn from this place and space without constant monitoring, not unlike the lives of the people it seeks to memorialize.
Wooden planks at the memorial entrance create the feeling of entering a jail cell. In fact, it creates the feeling of being in the hold of a ship. That is, visitors enter into their visit and experience at the memorial mimicking the position of a slave. Perhaps if that’s somehow lost on anyone, a sculpture confronts all visitors to make the point clear.
The entire memorial is at once overwhelming and understated. There is not much by way of text, artwork, or other images to get lost in, either. Instead, the plainness of the memorial perhaps speaks to how little most visitors actually know about the history being shared, and how simple the facts of the matter are. Legal decisions are summarized in comments smaller than Tweets. They are haunting.
It was not until the end of this opening walk that I noticed that the footprint of the entire memorial was in the shape of a ship. The sharp angles, the wooden planks, both underfoot and as side rails, serve to create not only the look, but even the sound of walking on the deck of a ship. It is not an accident, then, that some of the memorial coffins, hanging from the only roof of the entire memorial, actually hang over the edge, as if to symbolize those who were both enslaved and killed before making it ashore. What were their stories? What were their names? Were they sick and tossed overboard to prevent the further spread of disease? Were they killed for plotting to overthrow the slave traders themselves? Did they jump overboard in an attempt to swim to freedom?
Of course, the number of memorial coffins is astounding, but so is how they are displayed. Placed, at first, close together, visitors have to weave through coffins that appear at eye level, as if brushing shoulders with those on an overcrowded slave ship. Suddenly, the coffins hang from the roof, having already left stains down below from the erosion of its metal structure, as if footprints.
Eventually, the coffins hang higher and higher, or more accurately, the visitors descend lower and lower so that, quickly, they are forced to strain and squint to read the locations and names of those who were lynched. As the coffins themselves get further from view, detailed court documents come into view. The contrast is clear between these long and complicated court documents and the horrifyingly over simplified legal decisions. If visitors were to get lost reading these, they would actually end up walking off a cliff, perhaps a nod to the danger, harm, and depression that such a study could inflict upon others. A memorial though it may be, not all the names can be read because the coffins hang too high for visitors to read. That is, no matter how hard we try, there is a limit to how much we will truly know.
And then, just as soon as your eyes have adjusted to the squinting, visitors are confronted with the words of Toni Morrison, oversized and overwhelming, but simple. The heart is what matters.
Ironically, visitors then view an extensive display of coffins, this time not hanging, but laying, as if waiting for burial. In fact, they are. The Equal Justice Initiative is willing and wanting to work with any municipality or county which is willing to properly memorialize the deaths that took place on its own soil. Perhaps what is most overwhelming is how many coffins remain unclaimed, unwanted, ignored. Exposed coffins can be unnerving to see, especially so many all at once, but what perhaps should be even more unnerving is the fact that most of the people killed were likely not even given the dignity of a burial.
Visitors do not leave the memorial without hope. Visitors must brush shoulders with statutes of the boycotters that walked the very same streets. Ironically, if a visitor were to stand at eye-level, and in the same direction as the statues, the view they would see is much like that of a landfill — an odd terracing of the hill on which the majority of the memorial sits, perhaps meant to signify the messy, man-made results of man’s own creation and racism. The protestors must necessarily be like the tall, strong pines in whose shadows they stand.
Even a visitor’s exit from the memorial is calculated. There are no quick exits. It takes time to leave. Visitors must walk through a painfully slow, winding path that leads to the largest sculpture on the grounds. At first sight, the figures appear as enslaved persons drowning at sea, or perhaps simply stuck in a wall, with only their raised hands, heads, and chests exposed. Perhaps it is only as visitors walk behind the sculpture that they may realize its intended commentary on police brutality and shootings.
My timely prayer is that no memorial like this need be made ever again. With the racism now being perpetuated against Asians as a result of COVID-19, I will be praying all the more.
A note about the pilgrimage: The Jesuit Antiracism Sodality, formed by Jesuits in formation to confront racism, hosted a Civil Rights Movement Pilgrimage earlier this year. Beginning in New Orleans, and traveling to Mobile, Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham, before ending in Atlanta, men in formation from the Midwest and Central and Southern Provinces visited historical sites, museums, and met with Black Catholic leaders along the way, including Joseph Brown, S.J., professor of Africana Studies at Southern Illinois University.
Photos courtesy of the author.
The Catholic hierarchy is cooperating with civil mandates to protect and save lives from a global pandemic. In a rare moment in the history of Christianity, Churches are closed and the sacraments are not being given out on a large scale.
Some are posting online that they are sad and confused at the cancellation of masses and closing of churches. Some believe bishops made the wrong decision. Some defend the bishops’ decision. And some are indifferent.
Rather than make any claims in favor of or against the decisions of cardinals, bishops, and priests (not to mention politicians, public health officials, and epidemiologists), I want to bring to light something significant for our reflection.
We Catholics often forget how incredibly strange we are.
At the risk of making our religion commonplace, we continue to practice it as if it were normal to believe that God—the Creator, Savior, and Life of the Universe—becomes a piece of bread and a bit of wine.
As an example, I invite you to read this next sentence as if it were the first time you had ever heard of Catholicism, as if this list of information was all fresh without any context:
Catholics gather in a public space, kneel before a sacrifice made on an altar, worship and consume consecrated bread and wine which they believe to be the Flesh and Blood of a first century Palestinian Jew named Jesus, and dialogue with a priest in order to converse directly with God. They believe that this is all to let God work in their soul in order to save it.
This is anything but normal. And the moment this sort of cultic-worship becomes commonplace is the moment we lose any sense of the wild nature of religion.
Losing that sense is like falling out of love with a spouse. When spouses first fall in love, they’re often overwhelmed and surprised by each other. New love puts them in a state of constant awe and wonder. But when the love they share becomes commonplace, they can lose sight of the wonderful person they fell in love with at first. This same crisis can happen with our religion.
The good news is that a crisis can be the test of true love. And we are in a crisis.
I think many Catholics are upset that they can’t receive the sacraments because they are in love. Many Catholics are confused and conflicted because they want people to gather for Mass and other sacraments but can’t because it would risk disease and death.
This tension in their hearts arises because they are in love with their religion and the truth it captures. When this love is unbridled, it can naturally rival the good sense of doing what the secular world can empirically show is best.
As a vowed-religious, I can’t help but sympathize. The religious life is built upon such strange love from its beginning.
On the day I took perpetual vows as a Jesuit, I knelt at the foot of an altar with eleven other novices. The Jesuit superior held the Body and Blood of Jesus in front of my face. Trembling, I looked up and spoke my new name. I confessed Jesus and his infinite and merciful love. I then professed the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In doing so, I told Jesus in the Host and Chalice that I was making my entire life an offering to Him.
By all accounts, the twelve of us publicly knelt and spoke to what appeared to be a lifeless wafer and a gold cup of wine before consuming them.
We dove headlong into our religion—as if life depended on it, as if life itself was in it.
Since many church doors have been closed to laity and the sacraments are not available, it can appear as if the Catholic Church has stopped doing what it loves most, what gives it its very life.
But there is a deeper reality quietly at work in the Church, one which has carried it through great trials before. Hundreds of thousands of religious brothers, sisters and priests are still celebrating Mass and receiving the sacraments on behalf of the whole world.
As the religious theologian Fr. Elio Gambari, SMM writes:
“In the person taking the vows, the Church offers herself to Jesus…In a certain sense, at profession we cease to be ourselves and become the Church. Our personality is not diminished by this fusion with the Church, but our ‘I’ is stamped with the ‘I’ of the Church.”
When we religious go to God in all of our liturgical and personal prayer, we bring all of humanity with us and offer all of creation back to God Who made it and died to save it. We pray the Psalms and call down the Holy Spirit across the face of the earth from sunrise to sunset. We continue to enter into union with God on behalf of everyone who cannot receive the Body and Blood of Jesus and yearn to join Him.
And we do this every day, as we have always done and will do until the end of time. This is something which we have decided we all cannot live without. This is something wild and strange we do because we know the Church is still deeply in love.
My dad has a saying he’s been repeating for at least 15 years now: “Erin, everything past 60 is icing on the cake.”
The outbreak of COVID-19 has reminded the world – if we ever needed reminding – that like my dad, every human being has to come to terms with the fact that death is in our cards. Unfortunately, we also know ourselves and so recognize that even when frank acceptance of death is warranted, the better part of our energy is spent running away from it instead. We develop diets to promote longevity, we take supplements to increase lifespan, we avoid ‘germs’ like, well, the plague. We, like every other living thing on Earth, tend to want to hang on to what we’ve got for as long as we can. And the first and most precious thing we have is life.
Now let’s be clear. There’s nothing wrong with hanging on to life! To avoid dangerous situations and especially death is healthy. “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin” writes St. Paul to the Romans.1 Likewise the prophet Ezekiel declares that God finds “no pleasure in the death of anyone”2 for death is the end of something good. And God desires not that the good die but that the dead live, just as Christ was raised from the dead.
So in the specter of death, we rightly discern the darkness of sin, and in gratitude for God’s gracious gift, we correctly surmise a responsibility to care for our lives as vessels of the Holy Spirit and instruments of God’s designs on Earth. Death is an evil and life is a good.
And yet, the mystery of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice bringing life to the dead and reconciliation to sinners is also an important reminder that as Christians death does not have the final word. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul exclaims, “Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting?”3 “No, in all these things,” St. Paul goes on to say in his letter to the Romans, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”4
Christ’s resurrection changes the calculus not only on living – how we ought to face life – but also on dying – how we ought to face death. Death, we as Christians are convinced, is no longer an end point. It is no longer the final word in a tragic (or perhaps comic) play in which we, as Shakespeare put it, “are merely players.”5 On the contrary, death is now God’s invitation to more life with him, in fulfillment not only of our deepest aspirations but also those of the entire world where we, along with all the saints, hope to continue our labors beyond the grave until the final coming of God’s Kingdom on Earth.
So how might this new ‘Gospel calculus’ function in today’s world with sold out shelves of toilet paper and stockpiles of hand sanitizer? It doesn’t mean “don’t wash your hands” and it certainly doesn’t mean we should ignore appropriate precautions – these are, after all, as much for others as they are for ourselves. But what it does mean is that whether we are 74 years old like my dad or 27 years old like myself, death is not a dark and meaningless force waiting to snatch us from safety and cast us into a hopeless oblivion. In fact, it’s just the opposite, for as St. Paul writes to the young church in Philippi, for Christians “life is Christ, and death is gain” because “to depart this life…is to be with Christ” forever.6
On the global scale, the chances of any healthy individual dying from COVID-19 remain small. But we all know people – it might be our parents or it might be us – who are at higher risk if they should contract the virus. Perhaps the present pandemic can be a reminder to us of what we’ve always believed as Christians: that a life well lived – be it for 27, 74 or any other number of years – is not nullified by death. On the contrary, in death it is redeemed.
I like my dad’s motto, and I hope I can adopt it for myself if and when I live to be his age. But in a time when fear of death is the order of the day, I don’t think we as Christians need to wait until we’re 60 (or 70 or 80) to join with the spirit of gratitude in a little prayer very much like my dad’s motto: “God, whenever you chose to take me home, every day down here was icing on the cake.”
How do we get to know Jesus? Well, talk to him! Eric Immel, SJ, talks about Jesus, the blind man, and what it means to encounter Jesus in this week’s One-Minute Homily. Based on the readings for Sunday, March 22, 2020.
If we want to know who Jesus really is, who should we ask? Well, Jesus of course! I’m Eric Immel, and this is my One-Minute Reflection.
Today’s gospel is filled with people who don’t want to believe that Jesus is the Son of Man. After Jesus heals a blind man on the sabbath, people get lost in speculation about whether he’s a sinner, a prophet, or something else entirely. All they seem to know for sure is that the man was blind, but after meeting Jesus, he can see.
At the end of the passage, Jesus and the healed man meet. Jesus tells him – “Hey – I’m the guy who healed you – the Son of Man!” And, the man chooses to worship. They revealed themselves to each other, and the relationship became strong.
We can know a lot about Jesus without really knowing Jesus. When it comes to having a relationship with him the best way to start is by talking with him. Through those conversations, I think we’ll come to know Jesus more fully, and he’ll come to know us as well – what we hope for, what we need – and, because the relationship is strong, how we can love each other best. Talk to Jesus – he’s a good friend to have around.
In the saga of national emergencies there was always an outlet. Locations to release tensions and fears. Places to escape and find momentary respite from the real. Spaces to process and understand the world at hand. You see it in movies sometimes. People running to the church to pray in the trenches, searching for hope and meaning, peace and comfort. However, in this moment of our history, where people would seek solace, tenderness and mercy, those doors have been closed. All for the safety of the community, indeed, and yet the void is quite felt. Where do we turn for accompaniment, for direction, for some sense and meaning in the confusion?
We have put together a list of resources that could aid your discovering God’s presence through virtual communities in a time of social distancing. It’s not an exhaustive list, and perhaps these links will lead you to more outlets to engage your faith, to lean in closer to Christ, and to find God in all this mess.
We also invite you to share in the comments below any additional links that may not be on this list that you have discovered to be helpful to you. Afterall, faith is a communal act, and we are in this together.
Practice of Spiritual Communion (Alcuin Institute for Catholic Culture)
Catholic Holy Mass Live Online (Mass Search)
Catholic T.V. (Daily Mass live broadcasts and rebroadcasts)
Daily Mass Live Stream with Cincinnati Jesuit Community
EWTN (Daily and Mass live broadcasts and rebroadcasts)
La Santa Misa (Sunday Spanish Mass)
Sunday Mass at Notre Dame
Word on Fire: Daily Mass from Bishop Barron’s Chapel
A Spiritual Care Package (Boston College Kairos)
Centering Prayer (Contemplative Outreach)
Examen for Life During COVID-19 (Ignatian Solidarity Network, in multiple languages)
Give Us This Day
One Hail Mary at a Time (Prayer Requests)
Popes Francis’ Prayer to Mary During Coronavirus Pandemic
Prayer Resources (Archdiocese of Detroit)
Stella Coeli: A Prayer in Time of Pestilence
USCCB President’s Reflection Reflection and Prayer During Coronavirus
AMDG Podcast: Fr. Jim Martin: Ignatian Spirituality Can Guide Us in the Storm (Apple Podcast Reflection)
Catholic Women Preach (Reflections)
Coronavirus: A Reminder That We are All Connected (Reflection)
Detroit Catholic: ‘My peace I give to you’: Gaining peace of heart in a time of high anxiety (Reflection)
Gesu Church Detroit (Homily)
Hope and Community in the Time of Coronavirus (Reflection)
Ignatian Wisdom for COVID-19 (Jesuits in Ireland)
Listening for God When We’re Stuck (Reflection)
No Mass? Practice Spiritual Communion (Reflection)
Social Distancing: What Would Jesus Do? | One-Minute Jesuit (YouTube Reflection)
Sts. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church (Weekly Homilies)
What Can Christians Do in the Time of Coronavirus? (Video | Article)
BibleGateway – Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition
Church Fathers – Teachings and Resources
Coronavirus Resources: Responding in Prayer, Reflection and Solidarity (updated regularly)
iBreviary – Catholic Prayers
How to Handwash Catholic Style (Catholic Diocese of Dallas)
Resources for Prayer and Engagement during Coronavirus (Current Catholic)
BrianGeeding (Instagram IGTV; 8:30 a.m. EST morning prayer)
Catholics Quarantine for the Common Good (Facebook)
Center for Faith and Justice at Xavier University (Instagram)
Detroit Jesuits of the Midwest Province (Facebook)
Detroit Mercy University Ministry (Facebook – Watch this!)
Fr. James Martin, S.J. (Daily Faith Sharing on Facebook)
Jesuit Community at Loyola University in Maryland (Facebook)
John Carroll University Campus Ministry (Instagram – Watch this!)
Theology Quarantined (Facebook)
We Pray the Rosary Together (Instagram)
The last month has brought a global pandemic that has challenged the narratives of our busy lives. COVID-19 is forcing many of us to take a step back from our daily routines as we try to prevent its spread. Many of the moments that we expected to share, from March Madness to T-Swift concerts, have instead yielded to a time of quarantine and isolation. Freelancer friends have shared concerns about their threatened livelihoods.Their anxieties are not unique. We are all now, in one way or another, acutely aware of our personal and communal fragilities.
Uncertain as this time is, it seems to me that the pandemic is providing an opportunity for us to collectively examine our lives and to perhaps look anew at the unseen and ordinary. This crisis has surfaced during the season of Lent, a time when we have already been thinking about our priorities in life in an effort to reorient our gaze to our relationship with God. In this era of busy-ness and overstimulation, we are invited, I believe, to collectively contemplate human living in the 21st century.
What does it mean to contemplate? For some, contemplation may conjure images of medieval monks lost in rapture. Yet, contemplation is an activity accessible to us all. It involves seeking to read the “signs of the times”, to see where God, the deepest reality, is present amidst the events of our lives. I think that Walter Burghardt’s definition of contemplation as a “long, loving look at the real” can be helpful to us in seeking God in our current moment.Long
It seems that the lifestyle changes induced by COVID-19 will be with us for several months.. To look at all the changes induced by COVID-19 for a long time requires us to be attentive not just to the sacrifices of the scientists, first responders, food truck drivers, and countless others at work but also to situate this challenge in human history. There is no doubt, in the words of a friend, that COVID-19 will be a “paragraph in history” and it will be a marking point for our generation. But to students of world and even ecclesial history, we know that humanity has dealt with plague and pandemic before. Can we imagine ways to draw on the strength of those who have gone before us as we seek meaning and serenity in these times?Loving
Sometimes, personally and communally, we succumb to the myth of leading solitary and independent existences. But, COVID-19 reminds me that we are all in this together. Disease does not discriminate. For better or worse, the coming together of the global community to combat this virus has been a reminder that we are wired for connection. The viral videos of Italians singing and dancing together independently on their balconies demonstrates how much we need each other. #InThisTogether, trending on Twitter, shows us how we can each commit to solidarity. If germs can spread, how much more can kindness and good deeds?Look at the real
Burghardt reminds us that when we seek God, we have to begin with what is real. Even when it hurts, we do not avert our gaze from the difficult. COVID-19 has forced us to confront our false narratives of complete security and insulation from pain. In the 21st century, an age with such paradoxes of brilliant technology and vast inequity, we have to acknowledge our vulnerability. Despite all of our progres, we have not escaped the human condition. The dead who we mourn and the pain of their families testify to that.
Yet, we also look and see the possibilities born out of a different way of life. The possibility of greater solidarity with our local and global communities. The possibility of escaping from the narrative that we only matter to the extent that we produce and are busy. The possibility of reimagining social and political structures to better serve others. The possibility of seeing ourselves not as independent agents but as creatures who want to sing, dance, and share our lives with one another.
Have you added any new contemplative practices to your life? When you look at this time, what essentials have emerged? Where have you been surprised by joy or by sorrow? What possibilities has COVID-19 opened for you?
Photo by Noah Silliman
It’s hard not to move through the world these days feeling like toxins saturate everything. In my scattered mind, I’m actively choosing not to be afraid.
The text came at 10:39 p.m. on Saturday. It’s a girl. She is healthy, eating and pooping as newborns do, and her parents are with her in the hospital, soon heading back to their semi-country home just outside Madison, Wisconsin. As the birth unfolded, the father was the only guest allowed in the room with the mother and medical staff. They didn’t know the child’s gender before she was born, and had taken to referring to her as ‘Larry.’ That’s not what they named her.
Grandparents will have to hold off on holding her for a while. The already sterilized process of handling an infant will be even more calculated and cautious. Yet there she is, a light in the midst of darkness. The father told me that everyone there – the doctors, nurses, staff – were filled with joy for the young family. Little Lady Larry is here, ready to live.
I have a distinct memory from 2nd grade. One day, I was sitting in my assigned seat, likely a bit squirrely and bent over a book for SSR – sustained silent reading. Unthinking, I did something that I often did – I extended my pointer finger and plunged it into my nose. I rifled around for a second, found the gold I was digging for, and then – I’m embarrassed to say – ate whatever was schmeared under my nail. My teacher saw, and made a big scene.
“Eric Immel – that is absolutely disgusting!” she shouted, and the whole class turned on me. To her credit, she didn’t say out loud what I had done, but my classmates probably knew. Eating boogers as an eight-year-old is a hard habit to hide after all.
Rest assured, my friends. I was more careful about picking my nose after that.
I live in community with 60 Jesuits. We range in age from our late 20s to mid-80s. We come from dozens of countries. We’ve had knees replaced and organs transplanted. We have survived political uprisings, viral outbreaks, and shortages of food and water. We have tried to be good Jesuits, men who at our core want to go about doing our best and remaining faithful.
I say ‘we’ not to take personal credit for the incredible lives these words represent, but to remind myself that right now, nothing is about me. It is about ‘we,’ that is, us.
One of our older guys and I have a great rapport, and as we gathered for our final all-community meeting recently, I wanted nothing more than to give him a hug and let him know of my prayers. But, I had to show my love from six feet away, because that’s what we’re called to these days. That’s something that will help.
The gift of a scattered mind is that it reaches to the limits of everything I know and grasps to make sense of it. It’s the only way that a new baby girl, a recollection of old habits, a life in religious community, and a global pandemic can come together and remind me that love is greater than fear. Love is the only thing that brings my mind back to center.
There are people who need my prayers, and I’ll offer them – newborn babies and new parents, folks that are at great risk. There are new ways of living I must engage to keep myself safe. My hands are chapped from frequent washing, and I haven’t picked my nose in almost a week. As much as I want to bear-hug my brothers during the sign of peace at Mass, my love for them has to be shown through a committed distance and stillness.
Painful realities abound right now. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has limited social visitation for people held in detention, causing even further alienation. Friends who work with nonprofits dedicated to supporting unhoused people can’t get essentials to maintain their services. I’m getting emails from lists I didn’t know I was on – Macy’s department store, the Greater Oshkosh YMCA, the AARP for God’s sake – about how they’re handling the virus and what advice they have. Friends may never teach their graduating students face-to-face again. Weddings have been cancelled. I’m sitting in my room, doubting whether I have shortness of breath or if anxiety is simply raising my heart rate.
Coronavirus affects everything. I’m doing my best to respond. It strikes me, though, that other contagions are in the air – fear, anger, sadness. I don’t want to diminish in any way the reality of this virus and what it can do. I do, however, think we have the cure to other contagions, and I think it’s time to engage them. Life, and love, must go on and win the day.
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I’m not the only one to point out the resonance between the COVID-19 crisis and the spiritual season of Lent. Both seem to be desert experiences.
With Lent comes new activities and practices, some of which are quite practical. We wear different colors (purple vestments), we alter our eating habits (no meat on Fridays), and we refrain from certain activities (saying Alleluia, singing the Gloria at Mass). But we also bring into our lives other small practices that we’ve noticed can help us live healthier and holier lives.
The same is true for our current situation in this season of COVID-19. We are all adapting to new practices, guidelines, and abstinences for the health and safety of ourselves and our fellow community members.
A few weeks ago we asked our readers to share some of the practices they are engaged in during the Lenten season. In this uncertain and anxious time, we want to share with you some of the spiritual practices and graces our readers have experienced this Lent. They may not be grand or overly dramatic. However, we can trust that they are true. And any act of acknowledging God’s activity in our lives, especially during an uncertain time, can be cause for an increase in faith, hope, and love.
Multiple readers responded that they were planning to pray the rosary every day. Others said they were making a commitment to pray the Liturgy of the Hours or attend daily Mass. Many included the practical ways in which they would insert this into their schedules—like praying their daily rosary on the way home from work. Others gave very specific plans for their prayer—like reading a paragraph of the Gospel of John every day.
Others are adding new habits into their existing prayer routines. One reader wrote about “taking the advice of Jake Braithwaite, SJ — Sit before the Lord, let God marvel at you as you marvel at God.”
A few readers mentioned that they were getting involved in various prayer/bible study groups that their parishes were hosting during Lent.
A lot of TJP readers are fasting from technology. One reader is fasting from headphones, another deleted the podcast app for the remainder of Lent. Another common theme was giving up alcohol. One person is giving up the use of plastic water bottles.
The most creative responses came under what could be described as almsgiving, or doing good deeds. One person responded, “I’m trying to tell one person each day about a holy thing that they have done that’s inspired me.” Another said, “Each morning, [I’m] choosing someone to pray for throughout the day.” Others responded that they are trying quite simply to be kinder.
Any Lenten practice is not an end in itself. All of our spiritual practices—penances, prayer, good deeds—are aimed at bringing us into closer relationship with God and making us more loving people. This was clear when readers told us about some of the graces they’ve received through their Lenten practices.
“My hope is that it will help me see God in the parts of my life where I wasn’t looking for him but I believe he was there.”
“I feel it’s an important way for members of the Mystical Body of Christ to support one another on the way to salvation.”
“After Reconciliation and confessing the same sins for the hundredth time, the priest had me read James 3:1-12 as penance. I felt the grace from that sacrament and have been reading the passage every day. I see a difference in my gossip and disrespect habit. I will continue during Lent and after, and hopefully replace this sin with good.”
“The feeling of being loved is at times overwhelming, all the time inspiring.”
“I was made aware of my need to forgive the smaller hurts in my life.”
“I am learning to trust God more each day.”
“The history of my life is a record of God’s seeking me out, so if I can remember that, God will faithfully do the rest.”
I hope you can find these statements, simple or profound as each may be, consoling. Many of the practices of the Lenten season, as well as the coronavirus precautions, we take on with a promise that they will aid us.
When I read these responses, I am reminded that when we make practical decisions in our daily habits to cultivate a greater sense of God in our life, God responds. It gives me consolation to hear about this process taking place in the lives of others.
Please feel free to share in the comments section more of what you are doing during the Lenten season, or during the coronavirus situation, to cultivate a deeper relationship with God.
It seems that today’s readings are all about water, but Jeff Ryan Miraflor, SJ, wants to go deeper. Check out this week’s One-Minute Homily. Based on the readings for Sunday, March 15, 2020.
Hi, I’m Jeff Ryan Miraflor and this is my One-Minute Reflection.
It’s easy to think that the important symbol we’re supposed to notice today is water. In the first reading, the Israelites were begging for water until God had Moses strike the rock with his staff. In the Gospel, Jesus asked the Samaritan woman to give him water and Jesus offered her the water of eternal life. But today’s not about water.
It’s about signs. Even though God saved the Israelites from slavery, gave them manna to eat, and lead them to the promised land, they still doubted whether God was with them or not. They needed another sign to know that God was with them. The Samaritan woman didn’t need signs. Jesus could have easily performed a miracle, but instead He showed the Samaritan woman how much He knows her personally. She believed not because of signs, but because of Jesus’ words.
We need to be more like her, believing God not because of miracles, but because God truly knows and loves us. We don’t need signs, we just believe.
The coronavirus which once was so far off, seemingly locked away in a then-unknown Wuhan Province of China, has now not only moved much closer geographically, but has also moved into our psychological, emotional, and spiritual worlds. As I’ve been sitting with all of this and praying about it, I have found myself drawn to three different groups of people:
- People who are infected with the coronavirus.
- People who are most at risk of being infected with it.
- People who are afraid.
I think the first thing to notice is that all three of these groups are vulnerable in some way or another, whether because of being sick, at risk of being sick, or afraid of being sick. Since all three are vulnerable, they seem to be groups of people that Jesus wants us to be concerned about in a very deep and intentional way. So at this point in our history, let us all remember that the present is a moment crying out and longing for the healing power of Christ.
A therapist once told me, “The problem with being vulnerable is then you’re vulnerable.” There’s some deep wisdom in that tautology. For me, when I’m vulnerable and my defenses are lowered, I find myself a prime target for anxiety and fear. When I think my own survival is at stake, the fight-or-flight instinct kicks in, and I’m not at my best. So while this is a moment that deeply needs Christ, it might also be a moment we have the hardest time witnessing him or even finding the courage to be his witnesses.
In a moment like the present one, we can rely on our faith and religious formation to help us.
Here are a few concrete ideas:God Speaks Words of Calm.
This may be the most important bit of spiritual wisdom St. Ignatius has to offer in his “Rules for Discernment.” He tells us that for people who are earnestly trying to improve their lives—people who are striving to do better in the spiritual and moral life—God never uses fear or anxiety to get our attention.1 If you’re here reading this piece, I’d be willing to bet that you’re a good person trying to get better. If that’s the case, then the crippling fear or anxiety that you might feel, though it is real and needs to be recognized and named, is not coming from God. When you feel overcome by fear or anxiety, ask yourself this question: “Is this how God speaks to me?” For Ignatius, God speaks words of peace, calm, expansiveness, open-heartedness, and magnanimity. Ignatius calls this feeling “consolation.”Love Your Neighbor. Wash Your Hands.
This might seem like a bizarre suggestion for living out our faith, but stay with me. I might think that I am at low risk of getting the coronavirus or even if I get it, it won’t be so bad for me and that is probably true. That perspective might lead me to dismiss the recommendations of epidemiologists at the WHO and the CDC who are very strongly advocating for things like frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitizer, etc. But when I’m quick to dismiss these cautions because there is no harm to me, I am taking a fundamentally anti-Christian approach to the world.
So while I don’t know how frequently washing my hands for at least 20 seconds, or using hand sanitizer, or other activities help, you bet I’m doing them. I live with several Jesuits who have compromised immune systems or who are in their eighties, so I am doing what I can to protect them even though it causes me some inconveniences. Who are the vulnerable people in your life? We need to remember that there really are people who are at risk in our communities: elderly family members, the person next door with a respiratory illness, a pregnant friend, a coworker being treated for cancer whose chemotherapy leaves them immunocompromised, etc. It seems that right now part of “love your neighbor” means washing your hands.Take the Extra Step. Reach Out to the Vulnerable.
Here, I mean the vulnerable in all three groups: who’s already sick, who’s most at risk of getting sick, and who is afraid of getting sick. Since this disease is now a global pandemic according to the WHO, it’s possible that some of you reading this know someone with the virus. I mean, Tom Hanks has it now, so anything is possible. But also, think of all the people who know who are worried about getting this virus. I think we all know people who are afraid—just look at the stock market in the past few days. Helping to keep them safe and healthy is important. But take the extra step. Reach out and ask how they are doing. Give a word of comfort. Remind them that you are praying for them and thinking about them.Gather in Groups of Two or Three to Pray.
For some of us, we suddenly have a lot more free time on our hands. In-person classes have been cancelled at many schools, some businesses are closing or limiting hours, others are mandated to work from home, and some are medically quarantined. That can certainly give us some time for catching up on Netflix, but we shouldn’t forget that Jesus tells us that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) Find a couple of friends and pray the rosary together; read some scripture like the daily readings and talk about it; pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Be together in the name of Jesus.Turn to the Sacraments.
Even though in many places communal celebrations are being limited or even cancelled (such as in the Archdiocese of Seattle), this is a time for a deep recommitment of our Church to the Sacraments. In the Sacraments we encounter the Living God and the Body of Christ in privileged, graced ways. Be fed by Christ at the table of the Eucharist to give you strength to be his body in the world; return with your whole heart to him in Reconciliation to heal your soul; surrender your vulnerable, anxious, even sick body to him in the Anointing of the Sick for healing.
If you are in a place where the Sacraments themselves aren’t currently being celebrated communally, or if you find yourself in quarantine or simply in a place of marked social distancing, then let your sacramental imagination reconnect you to Christ and the Church. Even though holy water fonts might be empty, let your morning shower help you commit yourself to your baptism; offer your morning toast to God as a sacrifice of thanksgiving; tell someone you’re sorry in order to reconnect with them. This is what it means to live a sacramental life.
These are a few suggestions. If you have others, leave them in the comments.
Get plenty of sleep and drink plenty of fluids, take your meds, wash your hands, use hand sanitizer. But also let your faith in Jesus help you heal your soul and the souls of others as well.
The transfiguration of Jesus marks the second time that God called Jesus “my beloved son.” According to Fr. Joe Laramie, SJ, if God says something twice, we need to listen. Based on the readings for Sunday, March 8, 2020.
When I taught high school, I tried to repeat information that was especially important. So, if God says something twice– then it’s really worth listening to.
Hi, I’m Fr Joe Laramie, and this is my One-Minute Homily.
If it’s worth saying once, it’s worth saying twice.
Here’s what God the Father says twice to His Son, Jesus: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” We heard this exact same phrase a few weeks ago at the Baptism of Jesus. This phrase is meant to echo in our minds and hearts.
We can’t hear it too often. And, in our baptism, we are drawn into the life of Christ. That’s right, his Father is our Father through baptism. In the Church, His mother Mary is our mother, too.
In that sense, we can even hear these words addressed to us: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” Or “This is my beloved Daughter, with whom I am well pleased.”
Let’s hear and ponder these words not just once, or twice, but over and over again.
Last year, Disney entered the streaming service deluge, becoming one of the 200+ services available to people. Where do you even begin to decide which services to subscribe to? We like choice, but does an overabundance of it bad for us?
Then there is the problem of actually choosing to view a title on any given service.
Pete Davis in a 2018 commencement speech described a phenomenon with which most of us are familiar. That experience of turning on Netflix late in the evening and browsing through the seemingly endless number of options the streaming service offers for my viewing pleasure. I see one movie that seems interesting, but I think to myself, “there is probably something better,” and I continue browsing. This becomes an endless pattern of failing to pick a film or tv series. Finally, after thirty minutes of browsing and tabbing possible options, I realize I’m too tired to watch anything and I go to bed. Pete Davis thinks this is the defining characteristic of our generation. It is described by some as “Netflix Syndrome.”
Netflix Syndrome is not new to our generation.
Sylvia Plath described something similar in her metaphor of the fig tree. The metaphor goes that a person sits beneath a fig tree and sees all the options available to them in life, but they find themselves unable to choose. For in choosing one, one must renounce all of the rest. Eventually, the figs begin to drop to the ground and wither away.
Psychologist Dr. Barry Schwartz wrote an entire book on a phenomena that is akin to this modern ailment titled The Paradox of Choice. Dr. Schwartz was inspired by sociological studies that found more choices in the marketplace may actually paralyze a person as they are overwhelmed by the selections available. His conclusion: more is not always better. I agree with him.
The number of choices one has is not necessarily the primary problem. The problem is the reaction we have once we have made a choice, for making one choice is making a thousand renunciations. We can be tempted to constantly think about ‘what could have been’ and lose our sense of the gifts that are present to us in the decisions we have made. Jesus says, “he who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” It strikes me that Jesus is talking about a person who makes the choice to follow Him but is constantly distracted by thinking about what they left behind. Our lives are always before us, and a mark of maturity is being able to accept the past as past.
Pope Francis frequently encourages young people to make definitive choices without fear. He exhorted young people at World Youth Day in 2013,
“[People] say that it is not worth making a lifelong commitment, making a definitive decision, “for ever”, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love.”
Pope Francis is encouraging people to abandon themselves to divine providence, trusting that “all things work for the good for those who love the Lord.” 1 Choosing to make lifelong commitments means recognizing that happiness is not attained in keeping our options open. True fulfillment comes from giving ourselves over to something. It is imitating Christ in his ‘kenosis’, or self-emptying, that we allow God to act in us and through us.
How we go about making these sorts of decisions is not always easy. It can feel like we face an endless stream of small, disconnected choices. But we can make a big decision to commit our lives to something important. That can seem daunting. St. Ignatius’s guide for making a choice of a way of life, also known as an “election,” can help us in that process.
The guidelines for making an election are established upon one all-important premise: that our motivations are centered upon the praise, reverence, and service to God. If that is at the core of our decision-making, then it is easier to exclude options that are obviously not in line with God’s desire for us.
But all of this leaves the first question unanswered. To which streaming service should you subscribe? That’s an answer you will have to decide for yourself. But consider this: perhaps the time and energy you spend on Netflix, or Disney+, or wherever else, can be better spent. Go out to coffee or a drink with someone you love. Read that book you’ve been meaning to open. Or, best of all, spend a little time in prayer with our Lord.
Jesus showed us that God doesn’t want you to have more options or more stuff, rather He wants to give you the fullness of life itself. What more could we ask for?
Photo by Thibault Penin
Warning: This article contains spoilers.
The writers of “To All the Boys P.S. I Still Love You” have done it once again. They’ve re-captured the attention of my hopeless romantic heart from the first movie and had me sitting on the edge of my seat with the new love triangle between Lara Jean, Peter, and John Ambrose. This innocent love story at first seemed like just your typical shallow teenage-romance without a a more profound message. But if you pay close-attention, they’re actually deepening the modern concept of ‘love’. Here are three ways the movie does this:
Love is more than Eros
Nowadays, most movies and TV shows will have at least one sex scene, even if it doesn’t add to the plot. This makes it seem that love always has to lead to sex. But sexual desire is only one type of love. The Greeks call this type of sexual or passionate love eros. The Greeks actually have several words for the 7 different kinds of love. Each of them helps expand the notion of love beyond one limited definition. This expansive notion of love is present in the movie, proven by the absence of any sex scene. It even shows Lara Jean pausing during an intimate moment with Peter to make it clear that she doesn’t want to rush their relationship. Both agree that they don’t want to rush and Peter even says that there is no void in his life because of the lack of sex.
Ultimately, eros is one of the lower kinds of love. Not in the sense that it is bad, but that it should lead to the other types of love and help strengthen these other loves, particularly storge and/or philia.
Love involves Risk
Early on in the movie, Lara Jean and Peter make promises at the beginning of their relationship “not to break each other’s hearts.” At that moment in the movie, I immediately said, “that’s SO naive.” And while most of us may agree that it’s common knowledge that love will bring pain, many people in the world do in fact have a fear of heart-break. Some even let those fears prevent them from taking the leap to love. This doesn’t just apply to romantic love. Some people fear opening up to others because they fear not being heard, understood, or instead being made fun-of. Love means sharing of ourselves. And that can be a scary thing to do.
Lara Jean ran away at the first moment of pain when she thought that Peter cheated on her. But it is revealed that he was faithful. After finding out the truth, Lara Jean asks her friend Stormy what will happen if Peter doesn’t want Lara Jean back. Stormy replies, “Then it’ll hurt like hell.” Lara Jean accepts the risk of being hurt again. And to our surprise, Peter accepts the same risk saying “break my heart into a thousand pieces.” Their relationship begins again only after they both know that love involves the possibility of getting their hearts broken.
Love needs Humility
At the ending scene, as Lara Jean and Peter kiss and start floating (yes, actually floating in the air), the song “About Love” by MARINA starts playing. The lyrics are oddly perfect:
I don’t really know a lot about love
A lot about love, a lot about love
But you’re in my head, you’re in my blood
And it feels so good, it hurts so much
The story ends with Lara Jean saying that she has only just begun her relationship with Peter. She’s still new to romantic love. Now while she doesn’t say it herself, the lyrics of the song playing in the background say it for her. She doesn’t know a lot about love. She is bound to run into trouble and pain again, but at least now she knows that love is worth the risk.
Shortly put, what does “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” teach us about love? It helps us think about what it means to love fully. The world provides countless examples of superficial love. We don’t need to imitate them. Instead, like Lara Jean we can accept that we don’t fully understand love. It’s more than physical, it’s going to involve taking a risk, and requires humility. On this side of Heaven, we won’t ever fully understand what love is, but through our relationships with others, we can grow in that understanding every day.