Friday, January 13, 2023

Does love really mean never having to say "I'm sorry"?

When I was a young lad, there was a movie that enthralled so many people in the theatres.  I wasn’t taken to watch it by my parents as they said that it was a movie for adults, and in their minds, it was something that I wouldn’t understand.  The movie starred a young Ryan O’Neil and Ali MacGraw, and the title of the movie was just made up of two simple words “Love Story”.  From the movie came a very popular song “Where do I begin?” written by musician Francis Lai, made popular by the crooning voice of Andy Williams. 


When I was older, I made it a point to rent the video so that I would not miss this movie.  It was what many would call schmaltzy (excessively sentimental), and as the title reveals, it was a love story between the two protagonists of Ryan and Ali.  Some things are imparted through movies, and some are rather strange and not even true.  One song that came from another movie named Beaches, was a hit song sung by Bette Midler, and it was named From a Distance.  The jarring verse in that song says that God is watching us from a distance, which is terrible theology.  God isn’t watching us from a distance.  The Incarnation of Jesus is proof that God wasn’t just interested in having a view of the world from heaven, but in the incarnation of Jesus, came to live as a human being in real life, and lived and died to save the world from sin.  In a blog I wrote many years ago, I mentioned how some lyrics convey wrong or bad theology, and I used a line in the song “We are the world”.  That song was sung by many different artistes, and it was Willie Nelson who sang that “God has shown us by turning stone to bread”.  The truth is that God did not turn stone to bread, and in fact, Jesus refused to do that as in his temptation in the dessert, the devil suggested to Jesus that he could ease his hunger by making bread from stone. 


I now return to commenting on something that came from Love Story.  It was something that Jennifer (Ali MacGraw’s character) told Oliver (Ryan O’Neil’s character) during their romantic relationship.  She said “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”.  Oliver used this very line when he told his father that Jennifer had passed away from a terminal illness.  If there is one thing that we should never do, it is to believe such lines as truth and use them in our lives in future relationships and conversations.


If there is any truth in this line, it would be that when one truly loves another, one would choose not to do certain things that end up with the person having to apologize for having lived in a certain way.  In fact, the misleading quote from Love Story would instead be “Love means never doing anything that requires you to apologize for having lived a certain way.”  It’s a mouthful, but at least it clarifies things lest things get misconstrued. 


If love means never having to say you’re sorry, it makes the sacrament of reconciliation (or confession) redundant.  God loved the world so much that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, he sent the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins.  All men and women are encouraged to go to the confessional often to make sure that they live in a state of grace.  And this sacrament came about because of God’s love.  In the confessional, penitents are sorry for their sins because they recognize how incredible it was that God showed us so much love that he sent his Son into the world to save it from sin.  If what Jennifer believed was true, the sacrament of reconciliation would not exist.


True love makes sin and an apology for sin erroneous.  Maybe it is because so many people do not equate the confession with the love of God, that many hesitate to go for frequent confession.  In fact, the more often the sacrament of reconciliation is experienced, the more one becomes touched by the truth of God’s incredible love for mankind.  Deep inside of me, I truly believe that constant pondering of God’s love for humankind is a sure way of ensuring that one isn’t bonded to any particular habitual sin that keeps one from being in a state of grace in life. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

The new names that we have been given paves the path of the new life ahead for us.

On the stroke of midnight on Saturday, the world celebrated the end of 2022 and welcomed the new year of 2023.  There is a certain air of expectation and hope in the hearts and minds of so many people all over the world with the approach of a new year.  Many are hoping for a new outlook in life and new hopes in their families and in the area of their jobs.  It’s a given that all things new will give us a better outlook in life and be surrounded by a newness of joy and happiness. 


While this may be something fresh and fills many of us with great expectations, many of us may have forgotten that there was something fresh and new that Christians were all given on the day of their baptism, and this lies in the reception of our baptismal names.  We received our new identities as sons and daughters of God the Father when the Sacrament of Baptism was celebrated.  Most of the time, the names we got were names of saints in the history of the Church, and the hope was that our lives would be patterned after the life of the saints we were named after. 


What caused me to reflect on this was the Gospel text of the Mass on 4 January from the first chapter of John’s gospel, which featured Jesus meeting Andrew and Simon Peter.  He renamed Simon and called him Cephas, which was translated as Rock, and this was because Jesus intended to make him the foundation of His future Church.  From that day on, Simon Peter lived a newness of life, and fulfilled the mission that Jesus gave him with great love and determination. 


Those of us who have been baptized in life do not need to wait for a new year to come to be reminded that we have the inner drive to pursue a mission in life.  It was given to us when the Holy Spirit was given to us in our baptism and our Confirmation.  It would be just an excuse for us to live a sedentary and uncommitted life over and over again.  We have all been given a new mission by Christ himself when God invited us to live a new life of grace in Him in our baptism. 


I’ve heard confession after confession which showed how the penitent was just unwilling to love people like their family members or fellow work mates in their jobs, and try hard as I did, it was just so difficult for them to believe that they really did have it in them if they made a decision to act in love and charity in life.  They would have merely responded to the life of Christ that was given to them at their baptism.  Yet, the reality is that oftentimes, if something is so plain and simple in life, getting that point across to others can be as challenging as climbing a huge and steep obstacle in life. 


But we have to remember that being in a state of grace helps tremendously in our pursuit of holiness in life.  This being in a state of grace is the gift of God that comes to us whenever with deep faith and conviction go to a confessor priest to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation or confession.  I often recommend the penitents avail themselves to the Sacrament of Reconciliation about once a month.  This would be particularly recommended to penitents who have a very clear struggle with a particular sin that afflicts them on a regular basis.


What could be helpful to my readers is that they make it a point to do a little research to rediscover the life history of the saint whose names they were given at their baptism.  Doing this can help them chart the course of the life that they aspire to lead as they pass from day to day in 2023.  Rediscover what it is that God is calling you to fulfil in life each day. 


There is no sadder life than to live aimlessly without a clear notion of the kind of sanctity that God wills for one in life.  Calling to mind the dignity that our baptism gave us helps us to live life with a new and holy aim.