Tag Archives: Faithful

Pope Paul VI’s Playlist

In an attempt to stay plugged in to American culture while I live overseas for 16 months, I have regularly acquainted myself with the Billboard Top 40.

Not surprisingly, in reflecting on the love proposed by Humanae Vitae, the concept of faithfulness is glaringly absent from mainstream media and culture.  Not that freedom, totality, and fruitfulness are overwhelmingly present either, but out of the top 40 singles in the U.S. right now, there are maybe 5 songs that even mention any intention of monogamy.  Why the lack of commitment?  Probably the same reason my guitar skills plateaued 15 years ago: commitment and discipline are harder than immediate gratification.  Why practice scales when all I need are “three chords and the truth”, right? (Or so said country singer and song writer Harlan Howard.)

Faithfulness, a gift of self to one person forever, without rescinding and re-gifting, is unpopular because it generally has very little immediate payoff and it requires basically everything from you.  Forever.  And let’s face it, when immersed in a self-perpetuating market of immediately breakable and obsolete products, it can be difficult to see why should we view relationships any differently than we do our culture of disposable products.

After all, if Beyonce is right, and people are replaceable “in a minute” (“Irreplaceable” sat at #1 for ten weeks in its day), then where does JPII’s idea that we are all “unique and unrepeatable” fit in?  The foot in the door is the fact that, beneath all our scrambling to “find new ways to fall apart” (Fun.’s “We Are Young“, currently #15) and become “wide awake”(Katy Perry at #2) to the apparent futility of relationships, we’re actually just putting bandages on the wounds that are a direct result from trying to live contrary to our created nature. Life becomes an endless chug-fest of Pepto-Bismol because of a 3-meal-a-day McDonald’s habit or daily blister care because you bought too-small shoes on the clearance rack.

If JPII and PVI are right, then each of us bears an intrinsic desire for faithfulness and we should be able to infuse healing and understanding into our culture by speaking to the illness, not merely the symptoms.  What would that speech sound like?  In some cursory ways, it would look like Jason Mraz’s current hit “I won’t give up” (chillin’ at #23), with statements like “I’m giving you all my love” and “I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily” and, yes, “I won’t give up”.  On a slightly deeper level, this would sound like a resounding “YES”–fiat–an answer to the cries for fidelity found in Kelly Clarkson’s “Dark Side“(#40 in the UK):

“Will you stay/ Even if it hurts/ Even if I try to push you out/ Will you return?/ And remind me who I really am/ Please remind me who I really am.”

Later in the song, she pleads:

“Don’t run away/ Don’t run away/ Just tell me that you will stay/ Promise me you will stay”

Picture this: you, Jesus’ wounded and terrified Bride, kneeling next to Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, echoing the same words, pleading with Him not to run away; and, because real love is always faithful, He stays.  He takes the whips, thorns, splinters, nails, and tomb out of love.  It is in Christ’s choice to be faithful and to never leave or forsake, that we may see the deepest root of the illness we’re facing: we’ve forgotten–or haven’t been told–whose beloved we really, truly are.

The fraudulent love that media and mediocrity seeks may tell us who we should be (even offering us helpful “Steps to Keep Your Partner Happy and Satisfied!” suggestions) but these are always merely conjecture and bravado.  The culture of lust says you’re only worthwhile as long as your desirable attributes last, which JPII tells us, “casts a permanent shadow over the relationship”; those lies shake people to their core with doubts as to their own dignity and worth.

So, instead of enjoying “She Likes Me For Me“(Blessed Union of Soul’s #8 hit in 1999), we now get “Somebody That I Used to Know“(Gotye at #6).  All the while our Groom quietly and resolutely reveals to us who we are through His unwavering faithfulness.  His true love says to each of us, “I created no one else like you and you are forever worthy of my life and death.”

It is love of this high nature that we are called to; we have in our hands as Christians the responsibility to inform each soul that they are “someone willed by the Creator ‘for his own sake'” and that they are “unique and unrepeatable, someone chosen by eternal Love” (Theology of the Body lectures, 15:4).

In marriage, we have the opportunity to freely and totally give ourselves to a singular someone, who cannot be rivaled, thereby proclaiming the faithfulness of God to the world .  This fidelity can be glimpsed in Journey’s “Faithfully”, Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up”, and yes, even in Bieber’s new “As Long As You Love Me” (#30, UK).  This, however, does not fully seize upon the highest, deepest, and truest degree of love in the Eucharist and our Lord’s words: given up for you, shed for you.

For you.

It is in His eternal sacrifice, ever-available to us, that we see our real worth, for He deems us worthy of His flesh and blood at each Mass, regardless of our estimation of ourselves.

Brothers and sisters, may we as bearers of the Good News, fix our eyes on Him and begin to harmonize His truest of love songs in our every breath and by our every action.  He taught us the melody very clearly when He said, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34). Get plenty of rest, treat your vocal cords well, and work on breathing from the diaphragm, because we have quite the concert to give.  As one great conductor wrote in his most famous encyclical Humanae Vitae, “…fidelity…can sometimes be difficult, but is always possible, always noble… [and] is a source of profound and lasting happiness.”

Take a deep breath.  The curtain is rising.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , ,

Free Love And Other Redundant Phrases

 

We’ve all had that “ah-ha” moment, right, men?  The one where you’re baking a meringue, blaring J-Lo, and you suddenly ask yourself, “Does love really not cost a thing?”.  Or, ladies, when you’re working out to The Beatles and, right as you reach your personal chin-up record, it hits you that indeed, money CAN’T buy you love.  Alright, so maybe those specific moments are unique to me, but I’m sure we’ve all had instances that came out of the blue and caused us to spend some time at our own Roxbury, asking the deep, eternal question: “What is love?”  (On a complete side-note, I once walked into a gym full of weight lifters and the radio was blaring “How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bee-Gees, and it was one of the most surreal moments in my entire life)

Anyway, with a large majority of media being centered on using (and mis-using) the word “love”, it would do us all a world of good to pause for a moment and take stock of how we, as followers and friends of the God Who IS love, define and use it.  I’m not referring to things like “I LOVE corduroy” or “I absolutely LOVE Fabio’s performance in Zoolander“; I’m speaking more along the lines of how we use it in relationships and sexuality. (Though, I HAVE met a few extreme types with an unnatural devotion to noisy, grooved trousers.)  Considering that Enrique Iglesias’ hit “Tonight (I’m loving you)” is only the edited title (swap “loving” for “f*@#ing”), and the same goes for Akon’s “I’m gonna love you” (swap “love” for….), it seems that we need to find a way to wade through the mire of contradictions and euphemisms and arrive at solid ground.  Fortunately, we have just such a path.

In his encyclical entitled Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), Pope Paul VI gives us what I call a litmus test for finding authentic love, a test comprised of 4 characteristics, generally referred to as the “Four Marks of God’s Love”.  These four marks, or signs, are: Free, Total, Faithful, and Fruitful. (Yes, it drives me insane that the “T” ruins the alliteration).  This post is the first of four in which I’ll take a stab at giving a brief, cursory explanation of God’s love–and therefore, perfect love–as defined by Humanae Vitae.

Because the very essence of real love is the act of giving (which is why “actions speak louder”), for love to be authentic it must entail a true gift of self on the part of the one who is professing love.  However, though our intention might be to love, there are myriad ways in which our struggle with weakness, selfishness, and sin can taint our attempts and chip away at these four marks.  As today’s title makes clear, we are first going to address the need for true freedom in love.

We’re all familiar with phrases like “After all I’ve done for you…” or “The least you could do in return is…” or “You owe me this…”.  Statements such as these get right to the heart of one enemy of freedom in love, namely that of expectation.  Whenever we put on the guise of giving, yet hold within us the expectation of ANY form of reciprocation, then we are not truly giving and, therefore, not truly loving, either.  If we clean the house expecting accolades and/or a foot massage, not only do we almost invariably set ourselves up for disappointment, but we also remove true giving from the equation, since the “recipient” is now expected to give something in return.  Whenever someone says, “I work all day long to put food on the table, and all I ask is…..”, then all others involved are no longer free to simply receive the gift of food, since there is now, apparently, a contract of sorts in play.

This is even more poignant and relevant in regard to relationships and sex.  How many women have felt obligated to “put out” as a result of some guy purchasing dinner and movie tickets?  How many marriages are soured by the unwavering, incessant expectation of one spouse exacted upon the other?  Conversely, though, I’ll wager we can all remember a moment in our lives when someone simply GAVE to us, and we could clearly tell that nothing was expected in return, be it a parent, a partner, or even a postman. (Ahhh, alliteration)(Plus, my postman has NEVER asked for anything in return for delivering my mail…)

The other primary enemy of freedom in love can be summed up by saying, “If you can’t say no, your yes means nothing.”  Whether you’re being pressured into something or you “just can’t say no” to your hormones in the moment, if you feel (or are) unable to say no in any given circumstance, then freedom is lacking and, therefore, so is true love.  Regardless of how much someone professes their undying love for you, if you don’t feel free to say no, then they don’t love you, at least not completely; likewise, if you can’t say no to your sexual urges, called “the launch sequence” by Ray Romano, then what you’re feeling towards the other person is not love, it is the force of chemicals, instinct, and attraction.  As powerful as desire can feel, if you can’t say no to it, it is merely a powerful slavery.  Saying you’re free simply because you give in to desire is like saying a nation is free simply because its citizens don’t resist invading powers; in actuality, behavior of that nature signifies defeat.

So, in the muddle of whims, urges, misconceptions, lies, and pain that we see around us, possibly in our own lives, how in the world are we supposed to find good examples of this free love?  Well, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, our perfect example of free love lies in God’s love for us. (4 marks of God’s love)  In God’s love for us we see complete freedom.  We were created simply because He loves.  Each of us was made “for our own sake”, as John Paul II put it.  God made you with NO strings attached.  He never says, “After all I’ve done for you….”  You actually owe Him nothing.  His love has already been 100% freely given, whether you accept it or not.  Though He longs for intimacy with you, He is in no way disappointed in you, nor is His love diminished, when you don’t feel the same.

Likewise, when He became man in order to suffer and die for us, He showed us what true, free love looks like.  Starting from His fervently human prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane (“let this cup pass”) to His miraculously divine prayers on Golgotha (“Father, forgive them”), he showed us what freedom looks like by saying no to the urge to run, the desire to flee.  He was so free to love you that He could embrace every suffering necessary to gain intimacy with you.  His only goal was redemption, not reciprocation.

So, brothers and sisters, let us begin to love freely, without expectation, pressure, or shackles.  Let us feed people because they’re hungry, not because they do what we think is right.  Let us give our time, treasure, and talent simply to be loving, because everyone is always worth it.  Let us crush the bondage of passions we are told to give in to.  Let us scrub, clean, and organize our houses simply for the glory of the Lover of our souls.  Let us love freely.  However, first, let us open our hearts wide to the free, unconditional, expectation-less  love of God, for it is only by continually receiving His free gift of love that we learn how to truly and free love anyone else.  (Though, you CAN start by making a Bee-Gees mix disc for the postman…)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,