I Saw Hacksaw

imgNot many directors have my full trust in their story telling; besides Christopher Nolan, there is only Mel Gibson. After a decade of recovering and rehabilitation from his downfall, Gibson’s first film since Apocalypto and The Passion of the ChristHacksaw Ridge (based on a true story)—is very telling, even if I did not like it as much as I thought I would.

—SPOILER ALERT—

——1) Heroes are not spotless, they have pasts and histories, and Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) is a fine example. His youth is peppered with violent, even homicidal episodes, and he exemplifies this famed quote well: Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future. And most importantly, a saint is someone who starts on the path of sainthood again and again, never staying down, never giving up. If you apply this to Gibson, or to St. Paul, or to St. Peter, St. Mary Magdalene, then you see what I mean. And if you apply this to yourself, then you have found the path to Heaven.

——2) Of all the things she could give Desmond before he ships off to war, his beloved Dorothy gives him her tattered Bible. They share their faith with one another, and in this love for God, their own mutual love grows. If couples do not ground the roots of their love in the infinite Love, into infinite Life, then how can they hope their love will survive? If you do not believe in something greater than yourself, then you will never have anything greater than yourself. And if you do not anchor your love first in eternal love, then your love does not get any greater: it will not survive when you die (and we all eventually die).327

——3) Speaking of death, we see also the jarring juxtaposition of two cultures with clashing values: one that tries to preserve and save life at the risk of one’s own (the devout Christian West), the other disregarding life and glorifying death through suicidal kamikaze tactics and seppuku  (the Japanese). In today’s culture we see a similar struggle: one that strives to honor all human life from conception to natural death, the other advocating that life is only valuable if we want it to be. In other words, the Christian rooted cultures know each life to be of infinite worth and not to be given up on lightly, whereas certain cultures see human life as expendable as if it were a mere resource. Most importantly, if human life is only a resource, only valuable if we decide so, then who is the judge for whether another life should be ended? Who is so “enlightened” and “fair” that they can decide who lives or dies? And who says that judge has to be yourself? It can easily be someone else… in fact, if it is not God, then it very well might be someone else much less loving and merciful.maxresdefault

——4) Love for enemies is never easy, but here in the film we see Doss even extend mercy toward the enemy soldiers. He treats them as his own, only hesitating because of fear they would attack him, not because he hates them. In fact, we do not see Doss express any malice toward the Japanese troops! For a war film, it was strange to see such little animosity from the protagonist against the foe. But there we see the point of the story: the primary foe is not the Japanese military: the foe is Desmond Doss himself.

——5) The foe is Doss himself because we are waiting to see if he will drop his promise. We are watching to see how committed he is to non-violence, how long he will go before picking up a rifle and shooting the Japanese. We expect to see him cornered, desperate, and succumb to breaking his vows. We wonder how much will it take before he snaps. Yet, he does not. His resolved conscience is so solid that we are forced to think whether we ourselves are that resolved on anything!

——6) It is there the film reaches out to us, Doss reaches out to us, to challenge us whether we have the courage to keep our promises, to stay faithful, to try over and over, praying God helps us one more time, and always one more time, no matter what came before, which reminds me of a prized quote from St. Paul (so prized I made a meme for it):

 

Will You Also Leave?

Even when Jesus walked this earth, even when people saw His miracles, even when some followed Him, many more left Him when they did not like hearing what He taught.

They abandoned Jesus because His words were too difficult, too harsh, too extreme, too loving and honest (think of his teachings on divorce, marriage, lust, and the Eucharist).

They left because they never believed in Him in the first place.

Today, people who once walked with Jesus are now deserting Jesus, again. It’s called a great apostasy. And this time, the difficult, harsh, and [one of] the extreme issues is this: choose life for every child, do not murder children anywhere, including in the womb. And there really is no acceptable excuse, despite what fakeful Catholyks may say (e.g., Tim Kaine, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, etc.).

If you knowingly vote for pro-abortion politicians, then you automatically vote against Christ. Then you are no Christian. You have become a hypocrite.

If you are voting pro-abortion politicians, here is why I cannot do the same (please watch this video and listen carefully, for your own awareness and informed conscience):

(Find the video transcript here)

Is that too hard for you to accept? Will you leave Christ and His Church over this difficulty? Is it really that tough to want babies to have birthdays?

Is it really that confusing which presidential candidate you must not vote for, because they are against Christ and His Church?

deservebirthday

I Saw The Light Between Oceans

140672CM01B_Trp_Email_LR.pdfAn actress who has become a fast fave of mine is Alicia Vikander. When I saw she was in “The Light Between Oceans,” I knew I should see it. Coupled with Michael Fassbender, and it became something I had been looking forward to for a few months now. And so thankful am I to have not been disappointed. Here are the shining moments of the film:




—SPOILER ALERT—


—–1) As a man, it is difficult for me to relate to the experience of miscarriage. Yet, my heart was pierced and my gut was gutted when I saw the trauma in Isabelle’s (Vikander) two losses. The helplessness of both mother and father as the child comes stillborn, the vulnerability of life, the hopes suddenly spilling, all of it was so cruel and devastating. It helped me think of times my own friends endured such loss, and while I only heard the news after the fact, seeing it portrayed as it happens is terrifying.

Yet, the scene here also shows the irony of intentionally and deliberately terminating unborn children in the womb, aka: abortion. We have couples who are desperate to save their unborn children from miscarriage but are helpless and at the mercy of their infertility, yet then we also have merciless couples desperate to destroy their unborn children. And the only difference between the two kinds of couples is that one truly loves their children, and the other is inconvenienced by them.

the-light-between-oceans-michael-fassbender-alicia-vikander-rachel-weisz-002159-r_1920_1080-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx—–2) On the note of parenthood, Isabelle shares that (paraphrasing): “When a wife loses her husband, she becomes a widow, but when a mother loses her child, she remains a mother always, even if she has no children left. I wonder if I am still a sister, since I have lost my brothers.”

This is such a profound insight that reflects the “till death do you part” vow in true Christian marriage, when spouses vow their fidelity with such determination and faithfulness that only their death might end it. Hence, a surviving wife becomes a widow, or a surviving husband becomes a widower. However, this film demonstrates the permanence of motherhood and fatherhood on many levels.

One level is that Isabelle and Tom (Fassbender) are parents, even with their loss of two stillborn children. Parents are always parents, even if all their children have gone to judgment before them (by whatever means). Parents who loved their lost children must realize however, that the children are not lost, but are waiting for them in the hereafter. Parents should then live so as to strive to be with their children again, to pray for them and ask them for prayers.

Another level is Hannah (Weisz) remains a mother too, despite her thinking her daughter is dead. And we also see that she remains a loving and devoted wife to her lost husband, revealing that though she is a widow, she remains his.

And powerfully foiling Hannah, we see that Isabelle struggles to remain Tom’s. She disowns him for surrendering to justice, and she does not allow herself to love him again until it is almost too late. Eventually, she finds forgiveness and also surrenders to the truth. I was so grateful to see this story go this way, the way of fighting to keep a marriage, to keep a love beating at the moment it has bled out.Alicia-Vikander-in-The-Light-Between-Oceans

—–3) And we see in this story (unlike in Kubo and the Two Strings) that the truth must always and will always have its day. Nothing good, not even a seemingly happy family, can be built on a lie and deception. Tom’s character, so morally formed and conscientious, cannot live with the lie, with keeping a child hidden from her true and loving mother. Tom knows the deception and must right it. Even in the end, Isabelle realizes her love, however honest it is, is flawed when founded on a lie.

In fact, the lie ages and wears down Tom and Isabelle and leaves them childless in the end. Even Isabelle yearns and hopes Hannah could forgive her for the evil she did. This film is dripping with the characters wrestling with the truth and finding out that the truth is alive and far more subtle and cunning than their greatest deceits. Lies die, and then Truth rises up alive.

Most beautifully done, however, is that we see after the truth is respected, the relationships bloom on a sure future. When truth becomes the foundation of love and relations, then it becomes easy and beautiful. The catharsis we see when Lucy-Grace (as a grown woman and mother herself) visits an aged Tom is something that could only have happened with the support of the truth.the-light-between-oceans-michael-fassbender-alicia-vikander-rachel-weisz-349486-r_1920_1080-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx

—–4) Finally, great acts of forgiveness abound in the story; acts so great that even the police question why anyone (in this case, Hannah) would forgive the couple who is suspected of murdering her husband and kidnapping her daughter. But we see that this is how a happy and fulfilled life should be lived. Hannah remembers wise words from her husband (paraphrasing): “It’s too hard to resent, you have to think about it and remember it all the time. It’s tiring. It’s better to forgive so you can live.”

We also see, as mentioned earlier, how Isabelle forgives Tom, and thereby allows them to live a better marriage into old age. However, we must also note that Tom has forgiven Isabelle: for originally insisting they keep the baby and hide the body of Hannah’s husband, for refusing to admit the truth, and for finally revealing the truth even when it meant her conviction and imprisonment. We see here how Tom’s love led him to forgive her all these times, every time.

And that’s exactly it: only love makes it possible to forgive, and if not your own limited love, then for God’s infinite love.

—–BONUS) Two mothers fighting to keep/regain a child… sure reminds me of the case King Solomon once heard (1 Kings 3:16-28). Yet, in “The Light Between Oceans,” we see both women willing to part with the girl when they realized she was better off with the other. How beautiful a twist to put on the renowned Biblical story.

—–Note: I also appreciated the sound baptism and Christian marriage being celebrated, and the chastity portrayed in the couple’s relationship. But religiously, what caught me most was the solemn chanting of prayer in the score when Tom first encountered his daughter’s true mother, and the truth staring him down and demanding him make things right. In the background, a minister’s words about sin, and our mission to oppose it and refuse it, also adds to the theme of the story: A lasting love and family must be built on truth.

Zombie Theology

IAmLegend.jpgThe film “I Am Legend” is a far too underrated zombie story. It is well acted, well written, well scored and well played over all. Though a few years old now, it is still a fine viewing film, especially for the Advent and Christmas seasons (yep! you heard right, and they did indeed release the film during Advent 2007, after all). Let me show you why zombies and theology mix well here.




—SPOILER ALERT—


—–1) Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Krippin Virus: both are good, and made with good intentions. The Tree that God made is by default good because He does not create anything less than good, because He is Goodness itself. The only bad was when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and doubted His goodness and love. They believed the lie and tried to usurp God. the consequences of this Original Sin are death, hatred, and evil in man. In the movie “I Am Legend,” the Krippin Virus is also made for good, but its consequences are too devastating to man.

IAmLegend3.jpg—–2) Season of Advent: the movie shows us that the beginning of the Krippin Virus (K.V.) outbreak was during the season leading up to Christmas time. Decorations are everywhere, and the decorations stayed up because the world fell apart waiting for a cure, a savior (magazine cover). We see that the effects of the virus are horrific
and ravaging, affecting soon all of mankind. This is an allegory for Original Sin and its consequences for all of us. The world is weary in fighting the illness of sin, with no hope of Heaven. At the same time, there are signs that God still loves us (throughout the movie). A motif representing this is the butterfly: a transformation from illness to health, from sinner to saint (i.e., same creature, different existence). So there is indeed hope, if we know how to read God’s signs, which increasingly become less and less random and more intentional. Advent is a time of waiting and preparation for Christians, and waiting for three things: a) Christmas as a memorial of Jesus’ birth, b) the coming of Jesus into our lives and hearts, c) the future Second-Coming of Jesus to judge the world in glory. And so we see int he film a perpetual advent, waiting for a cure, for salvation.

—–3) We are the infected in the film, sinners infected with concupiscence and death. Instead of destroying us in our evil (our illness), Jesus comes to redeem us. In the film, Neville does the same and seeks to cure us of our ills. Jesus is immune to our sins. Neville is immune to the virus. And Neville does not seek to wipe out all who have K.V., but rather hopes to help them, to save them.

—–4) In order to help us though, Jesus was born of a woman, Mary, who is a woman of great faith. Neville, in order to help us, also needs to be cared for by a woman of great faith. Please see points #9 and #11 for more about this.

—–5) As sin is atoned for by the shedding of blood (think of the Israelite animal sacrifices), Neville also sheds blood in order to cure us (i.e., he sacrifices himself for us, and the immunity to K.V. is in his blood). Jesus, of course is the true sacrifice who died to redeem all of us; it is Christ’s precious blood that saves us.IAmLegend2.jpg

—–6) Fisherman: Dr. Neville is shown to be a fisherman a few times in the film, either when he says “Like fishing in the dark, son” or when he is actually fishing. Now, the fisherman is a metaphor Jesus used also in the Gospels, not to mention that most of His apostles were actual fishermen (Peter and Andrew, James and John).

—–7) There is also the display of prayer in the film: Neville’s wife praying with Robert and their daughter before the family separates. We see here that the family is Christian and prayerful, devout enough to pause during an intense evacuation to petition Christ. They know who is the Lord and who is in charge (even though Neville later loses his faith).

—–9) “They won’t stop.” Neville says this toward the end of the film, realizing that the infected (the dark seekers) will not stop trying to kill him. This applies to Christian theology in that we sinners will not stop sinning, because we cannot stop on our own strength. We will live forever in our sins, unless we have help from someone above us (above sin), greater than us (greater than sin and its effects [death]), someone who is not ill (not a sinner) and has never been ill (never sinned) and cannot become ill (cannot sin). Coupled with all the talk and symbolism about “listening” and “light” and the analogy of the film to Christian theology only grows.
“I’m listening,” “the world is quieter now, if you listen, we can hear God’s plan,”: listening and finding the space, time and silence to listen in our prayer is essential. See how Neville misses all the signs God has provided for him (the butterflies), to encourage and assure him in his waning faith. See how Anna (the name of St. Mary’s mother, by the way) has learned to hear God and hold fast to Him in the darkness. See how the light works in the film: sinners (dark seekers) live and hide in the darkness, and those who are redeemed in Christ (those immune to K.V.) live in the light. Jesus, the Light of the World, is what the film is hinting at with this symbol.

—–10) “Don’t worry about a thing, because every little thing is gonna be all right…” This song is not only optimistic, but it’s the Christian way to live, because we know Christ not only was born to save us, but he died to save us, and he even came back from the dead for us! A God who loves that much, who is that powerful and close to us means we have nothing to worry about. True Christians do not worry about a thing because every little thing is gonna be all right, because the Lord is in charge — not us, not the devil, not the universe. Only Him. And He loves us.

—–11) Now if all these subtle nudges that the movie is a Christian allegory does not work enough, then there is the obvious rosary. Not only does it appear on Neville’s birthday (symbolizing Christmas, Mary, Jesus’ birth), but it also appears right at the moment when Neville is nearest to death, nearest despair. Yet, because he is meant for a mission, a woman arrives to help him bearing a rosary: the symbol and prayer of THE WOMAN: MARY, the Mother of God. This is not only important in the film, but also for us: we need the help of our mother’s (St. Mary) prayers. Jesus entrusted us to her care (John 19:25-27), and she is His mother. Think about this: she is His mommy, which means she loves Him more than any of us can, and He (because he is the perfect human being, and therefore the perfect child) loves her more than any of us can. “Never be afraid of loving Mary too much. You can never love her more than Jesus does.” -St. Maximilian Kolbe.

—–12) Finally, once at the survivor’s colony (sort of like a promised land, a haven… a heaven), the first thing we see when the gates are opened is… a church with bells ringing. And Anna and Ethan would never have made it were it not for Neville’s sacrifice: we will never make it home to heaven if not for Christ’s.IAmLegend4.png

—–13) And the date of the cure’s discovery is September 9th. If you are reading this and this date means something to you (you know who you are), then you know why this detail is important to me.

 

*Special thanks to HLD, an old friend who shared most of these insights with me years ago.

Do What the Devil Don’t Want

In the last few years, I’ve come to see more clearly when the serpent is tempting me. I don’t always know, but it’s been easier to notice, especially when I keep in mind that I want to do what the devil doesn’t want me to do. I think it’s a pretty good motto for a Christian to live by: DO WHAT THE DEVIL DON’T WANT. Some examples:

  1. The last thing the devil wants me to do when I see a beautiful person is to pray for her. Instead, the devil would rather have me lust and abuse the woman. So what do I do?
  2. The last thing the devil wants is for me to start my day by offering it to God’s will. Instead, the devil would much rather have me forget God and go on with my life in my own selfish way.
  3. The last thing the devil wants is for me to forgive my friends when they betray me. The devil would rather me lash out and plot revenge.
  4. The last thing the devil wants is for me to ask God for help and trust in the Lord when chaos and danger happens. The devil really wants me to curse the day and turn my back on Him who is the o
    only person who can truly help me.

I think you get the trend, right?BetterWay

The better way is always the way the devil hates. So always choose the better, not the easier!

And I think you realize also that by doing what the devil doesn’t want, you almost automatically do what Jesus wants.

So do not let the devil win, because if he wins, you will always lose. But if Jesus wins, then you win too. And don’t you want to win?

What Kind of God Do You Want?

Even if you don’t know if God exists, even if you don’t believe God exists, you can at least think about what kind of God you would like to exist, right? It’s like daydreaming: even though I’m no billionaire, I can at least fantasize about what kind of billionaire life I would like to live…

So play along and think about this: what kind of God would you want?

A powerful God? A God who is master of all?

Don’t misunderstand me, I do want God to be powerful and masterful. By definition, God is Power itself and Master itself. But think about it: if God was first merely Power, then what’s keeping Him from using that power to intimidate, to manipulate, to oppress and dominate us? Same with God if He was first merely our Master — what’s stopping Him from being a tyrant, a slave-driver, an abuser?

There are religions out there (I’m thinking specifically Islam) that believe God is Power and Master first, before He is anything else. But like we saw above, if God is first merely those things, or anything else along those lines, then what’s keeping Him from abusing His almighty authority, power, omniscience and etc.?

GodIsLove

Because God is first, before all else, a father… Our Father.

Not the kind of father you and I have, because human fathers, earthly fathers can make mistakes, can be selfish, can be ignorant and even evil. But the Father in Heaven — the Father who all other lower fathers are meant to imitate and symbolize — is Love. Our Father is Love.

And as Father, as Love, God will not abuse his authority, not enslave us nor intimidate nor manipulate us. As loving Father, He will not use omniscience, wisdom, or anything to hurt us. Instead, He will use all that He is to love us and help us…

He even sent His Son to be a man and die for us.

So I don’t know about you, but I’d want a God who is Father, who is Love. And I’m grateful this God is ours — the one and only.

For more, check out Dr. Scott Hahn’s excellent discussion on who God is to us:

Blasphemy with Breakfast

Abba or Allah?

Slaves and Sons

First Year Seminarian

Two months ago, I crossed the finish line of my first year as a seminarian (aka: full time discerner of my vocation). Since then, it’s been hectic gearing up for and going on summer travels. In the year since I entered seminary, so much has happened in so little a time span that I’m tempted to think nothing happened at all. But now that I’m in a bit of a slowdown in between summer travels and events, here are some positives that I have to share:

1) I lived childhood shyly. I lived adolescence even shier. But then my twenties saw an outspoken Evan, and today I am more confident than ever before. I don’t know exactly what happened in this first seminarian year, but I can stomach the butterflies in my stomach a lot easier, and that jittery heart is much calmer now. (Yes! I don’t have a heart problem, after all!)

2) The Church loves her seminarians. I never knew how much until now. I have been so spoiled with support, prayers and pick-me-ups, sincere friendships with other seminarians and with priests, chances to waste time regularly with Jesus, and plenty opportunities to get out of my comfort zone. I have to be careful not to take these for granted.

Jumile3) I got to travel to Mexico for six weeks for pilgrimage (Viva La Virgen de Guadalupe!), language and culture learning, and witnessing to others. I literally did not know I was being sent there until last December! And now, I know that Spanish is more challenging to me than Latin (or Chinese or Vietnamese)!  I also know that I have friends there who I was very blessed to meet. Oh, and I even know that little bugs called jumiles taste just like mint leaves. Yum!SHMS Mexico

NameTag4) I have met more people this past year than probably in the last five! Thus one of my weaknesses has been revealed: I have a hard time remembering names and faces. I really need to have a lengthy and personal conversation with someone before it clicks in place. (Please don’t take it personally!)

5) I move from place to place pretty painlessly. When I first moved into the seminary, I was pretty sad, not just because I missed home and my family, but more so because I hated the thought of my family being lonesome after I left. But, they were okay I think. And so, when I went to Mexico, I didn’t really get homesick for the States. And when I returned to the States, it felt like I never even left. I just shrugged and got back into the swing of things. It really does not feel like I was there, and when I left the seminary for summer break, I found it hard to believe I lived there for eight months. It all still feels more like a weekend retreat… hmm…

DarkKnightOST6) I love exercising, especially to the roar of Hanz Zimmer’s Dark Knight scores when I bike or run… and to the bass of dubstep/EDM when I do weights. Yes… I didn’t know this about myself until I found myself staying in the seminary gym for almost four hours one night (the music was on repeat, and apparently I was too).

7) Got a lot left to learn about prayer and how to keep it up regularly.

8) And finally, I realized that I need to go onto year two and keep discerning the priesthood and growing in the Christian life.

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