Thursday, June 18, 2015

Paradise Lost?

              In Theology of the Body, a teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II, we look to the Garden of Eden to show us truths about the human person.  Often, when talking about the Garden of Eden, we talk about how great it was, with all of the innocence and peace, and how all of that is lost forever because of sin. This was how I understood the story of the Garden of Eden for a long time, that we had one chance for paradise and we blew it. We would always be controlled by sin which meant that I would always be stuck in a whirlpool of sin and unhappiness. It is true that mankind was expelled from the Garden because of sin and, through our disobedience, we broke our relationship with God.  This would be a really awful story, if this were the end.  It’s not. Christ came into the world and died on the cross to redeem us.
            Redemption in Christ offers us something better than the Garden. Here, I would like to differentiate between restoration and redemption. Restoration would be to go back to the original state of being in the Garden. Redemption involves a saving transformation. God has made it new. God is all-knowing. He knew we were going to sin when He created us with freedom and so made a plan to give us something better than the Garden.
This is not just about living in a heavenly paradise. It’s also about our daily life. He gave us Christ who instituted the sacraments.  The grace that we receive in the sacraments gives us the power to live out the call of the Kingdom of God. “What is the Kingdom of God?” you ask.   Jesus gives us the answer to this question in the Gospel of Luke. "The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, 'Look, here it is,' or, 'There it is.' For behold, the kingdom of God is among you" (Lk. 17:20b-21). Every day, we have the opportunity to live out innocence and peace through grace. We can choose love instead of use, generosity instead of greed, and humility instead of pride. It is when we choose goodness that we make the Kingdom of God present in the world. At times, this seems insurmountable.  You do not have to look far to see the pain and hurt caused by sin, but by grace, we are set free from sin. Slowly but surely, God changes our hearts to love Him better. He has changed me. I once thought that the battle against sin was hopeless and that even trying to overcome sin was pointless. I felt helpless. God would not let me keep believing this lie and showed me that He had given me the power, through the sacraments, to choose freedom instead of sin. Here’s the thing about grace, it’s stronger than sin.

This relates back to Theology of the Body because in our relationships, we can feel like we will never be able to love the other person as we should. Sometimes, chastity seems too difficult to master but we have to remember it is grace that enables us to love our significant other.  There’s a story of several bishops in the early Christian Church, who saw a prostitute passing by. All but one bishop turned away as she walked by so that they would not lust after her. The one bishop looked at the woman intently with love. As a result of the love that this bishop showed her, the prostitute turned her life around and became a saint, St. Pelagia. The difference between the two responses, both noble, is that God ultimately wants us to be able to look at everyone the way that Adam looked at Eve in the Garden. The freedom that the one bishop had is offered to all of us. When we have this freedom, it translates into our relationships. In freedom, we can truly love. This is the essence of the Garden of Eden: freedom and love. These are not lost to us at all but through Christ, available to us right now. Let’s not forget this truth.
Guest blogger: Camilla MacKenzie

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Lies of Love

In 7th grade I dated a guy for 1 day and then we broke up. Why? He was not performing the bells and whistles of proving his love to me. I was not “feeling” him, therefore, I ended it. BOOM!  No mercy here. I had this idea of how I wanted my man to express the grandeur of love to me through our dating relationship and I would not settle for anything less.   

When teaching in class, we define love for the students as, doing what is best for the other person. You would be amazed by how many of them think that love, to be true, must have feelings. Those warm and fuzzy feeling are simply infatuation but they are neither good nor bad. These infatuating feelings can sometimes lead to love.

I can assure you, it is possible to be infatuated with someone and not do what is loving for them. Think about celebrities… I am one of the world’s newest Swifty fans. I LOVE HER 1989 ALBUM! If I saw Taylor Swift out walking down the street you bet I would express my infatuation for her talent. But it would not be very loving, if I tackled her causing her to get hurt. The loving thing to do would be to shake her hand and say thank you, right? We have all heard those stories of celebrity fan sightings and restraining orders happening as a result of them going overboard. So, yes it is possible to be infatuated with another person and not do what is loving for them.

Can you authentically love another person and not be infatuated with them? It might be surprising to hear, but yes this is possible as well. If anyone has ever been irritated with their parents or annoyed with their siblings then they can recognize this truth. My brother and sister are 8 years younger than me. Yep, I am a third-wheel to their twin bond for life. Haha. They are my favorite people and I love them very much (I do what is best for them). When we were living under the same roof, I would get home from school and walk into my room to witness my sister trying on all of my clothing and my brother eating all of my snacks. You better believe I kicked them out of my room so fast. I did not have warm and fuzzy feelings for them. It wasn’t like I walked into my room and saw them destroying my life and said, “Oh brother of mine, thank you for eating all of my snacks.” RIGHT? No one does that, we are human and sometimes we get upset. Therefore, you can see how we can love another person without being infatuated with them.

Infatuation comes in waves throughout a relationship. It is not always going to be present. We cannot base our love on the feelings. Love is a choice and it involves and action. We choose to do what is best in our relationships.

This leads me to my original dilemma. I grew up for a large part of my life thinking that love HAD to have these feelings, but I was wrong. It has taken me a few years to change my mind-set on love because our society drills into our brains that love is about the feelings. I mean we see it on every TV show, in movies, throughout the books we read, and even in our daily conversations. The scene is always the guy and the girl in a place that somehow it is perpetually raining. The guy has made some silly mistake and now he is begging for her love saying, “Tell me Susie, do you really love me, do you have feelings for me?”  Now can you begin to understand how our over sexualized culture is affecting our thoughts by confusing authentic love for infatuation? But, honestly, most of those scenes are just referring to infatuation.

As I have grown up past 7th grade, my thoughts on love and what kind of man I would like to marry have shifted. I no longer want to be with the man who I have those infatuated feelings for, who will complete me. I want to be with the man who inspires me, challenges me to be better, and the man who will truly love me by doing what is best for me. I read an article recently on the dating problems of our generation today, which you can check out here. It struck me in more ways than one but I want to share a few thoughts.

 True marriage and relationships are ok if they have elements of infatuation but the goal would be to date and marry someone who has a patient openness to loving a flawed human being.  In this kind of openness to love, we allow ourselves the freedom that infatuation-based relationships do not. This is the freedom to be ourselves, and to not worry if ‘who we naturally are’ will be a deal breaker.  Even though our society basically pukes infatuation everywhere, that is not what will bring about a deep lasting marriage. Marriage is going to be tough. It is not about personal gratification, but about growth and goodness between the two of you.   

The author shares a story about a couple’s choice to get married and it might surprise you.

“They gazed into one another’s eyes as they told me their love story, and it struck me how incredibly simple it all was. They had dated for a long time before they broke up—unsure of each other’s imperfections and afraid to commit to someone who wasn’t the right match—and then finally got back together again. But they didn’t get back together because they came to a resolution regarding one another’s flaws or because the stars were finally aligned. They got back together and ultimately decided to marry because they didn’t know anyone else they would rather struggle though marriage with—and they both wanted marriage.”

 This is now my goal in my relationships, especially the ones that are romantic. I would like to love someone, who I can fully recognize how they are a flawed human being. At the same time not let that thwart our affection. Our own weaknesses can build up the relationship to make it stronger. So that, in the end, we still strive as a team to do what is best for each other in leading the other to heaven.

Do you love those in your life authentically or are you simply letting infatuation be the base of your relationships?