Samson And Delilah As Seen in Cartoon – Or a Parable on the Wages of Lust and Power

Samson and Delilah – Pompeo Batoni (1766)

The video below is a dramatization (sort of) of the story of Samson and Delilah as well as a commentary on lust and power. In case you would like to review the story of Samson and Delilah, CLICK HERE.

As the video opens, two superheroes are summoned to an emergency. They rush to the scene, but in a reckless fashion, and a great crash occurs. And here is a symbol for pride, for too often we rush headlong into solving problems, but often with little concern for other problems we may create in the process. For example, our quest to “end poverty in our time” has resulted more in the demise of the family; our quest to liberate the world from tyranny (through violence, drone strikes, and war) has led more often to inciting even more violence, and to the rise of new villainies.

After the crash, the superheroes seek to blame each other for the accident. And here is an image for our tendency to shift blame and avoid personal responsibility. We speak endlessly of our rights and the freedom to do as we please, but we want none of the responsibility. And of course any consequences are someone else’s fault.

There then ensues a great conflict between them to wrest control of the situation. And here is an image for power and the desire to overpower others. It merely serves to usher in a brutal and deadly struggle—one in which ultimately no one can win. Rather, all suffer devastating loss. Even victory is brief before the cycle of violence repeats.

Our male superhero, let’s call him Samson, seems to have the upper hand in the conflict. But the female superhero, let’s call her Delilah, is not to be undone and seeks to overcome Samson through her charms. And here is lust. For Samson, whatever his strengths, has a fatal flaw that destroys many men—lust. And as a result of it, many men (and women) and have ruined their lives. They’ve brought on poverty, STDs, abortion, teenage pregnancy, shattered dreams, broken families, and broken hearts.

The end of both of these superheroes is death and destruction. For pride, irresponsibility, unrestrained power, and lust unleash only devastation, destruction, and death—both individually and collectively.

In the biblical story, though Delilah “won,” it was only for a moment. And so it is with every worldly victory; it is temporary at best. Only heavenly victory and treasure stored up there will prevail. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Samson And Delilah As Seen in Cartoon – Or a Parable on the Wages of Lust and Power

A Humorous Call to Confession

blog-1215Sometimes our pets teach us a lot about ourselves. The video below shows various dogs resisting the taking of a bath. Some hide; some go limp and become passive; others get feisty.

I see here a similarity with Catholics when they hear that it is time for Confession. Advent is an important time to go to Confession because we are preparing for the birth of our Savior. He is called Jesus (a name that means “God saves”) because He will save us from our sins. It would be a rather perfunctory and hollow Christmas without a preceding Confession, would it not?

And yet some Catholics, much like the dogs in this video, scamper away to hide. Others just look nervous and resist. Still others get hostile and say, “No way!”

This is just a fun way to say, “It’s time for Confession, time to wash our sins away!”

Enjoy this video. Dogs are so much fun, aren’t they?

Reform Comes Out of Nowhere, As Seen in a Commercial

blog-10-28-2016Reform in the Church seldom comes from a committee of clergy, or from the clergy at all. It usually comes from the laity and from religious communities. In a way, reform in the Church “comes out of nowhere.” During the often-corrupt periods of the Church (e.g., the Middle Ages)—when many of the clergy were more like aristocrats and landowners than true pastors, when wealthy clergy often collected parishes and posts like stocks and bonds and hired poorly trained people to do their work—reform came out of nowhere. It came in the person of St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic, the mendicant orders, and many others. In later periods, it came in the person of great saints like St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.

These reformers came as if out of nowhere. They defied the usual expectations of what leadership in the church should be like. They broke the rules, not the moral law or rules, but the “business as usual” rules. God sent them to the Church at critical moments. Ecclesia semper reformanda (the Church is always in need of reform).

All of this occurred to me as I watched this commercial:

A Powerful and Humorous Look at Vanity in a Commercial

VanityMost people associate the word “vanity” with an excessive concern or pride in one’s appearance or sometimes in one’s qualities. But at its root, vanity refers to emptiness. To say that someone is vain is to say that it he or she is empty or largely lacking in meaning, depth, or substance.

It makes sense that people get worked up about externals when there isn’t much happening on the inside. And thus it makes sense that we connect emptiness (vanity) with excessive show.

There are many expressions that enshrine this connection:

  • All form and no substance
  • That Texan is all hat and no cattle
  • All bark and no bite
  • All booster and no payload
  • All foam and no beer
  • All sizzle and no steak
  • All talk and no action

The Wisdom Tradition in the Bible, especially the Book of Ecclesiastes, speaks of vanity at great length. In it, the word is usually used to refer to the ultimate futility of what this world offers because the world itself is ultimately empty and vacuous.

  • Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun (Eccl 2:11).
  • He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity (Eccl 5:10).

The world, which so mesmerizes our senses, shows itself ultimately to be empty of power or any lasting substance.

  • We have here no lasting city (Heb 13:14).
  • As for man, his days are like grass: or as the flower of the field. Behold, he flourishes. But the wind blows and he is gone; and his place never sees him again (Ps 103:15-16).

These notions of vanity came to mind when I saw this admittedly very funny commercial. It shows a man concerned only with his appearance. Actually, he’s even more vain than that: it’s how he smells that concerns him (this is an Old Spice commercial, after all). He is so vapid, so vain, that he thinks that even if he doesn’t look good, well at least he smells like someone who looks good!

As he moves through the scenes of the commercial he becomes increasingly devoid of substance (literally!).

Symbolically, we can see him as the vain person who goes through life carelessly, paying no attention to the way in which the world, the desires of the flesh, and the devil strike at and eat away at him. But he doesn’t worry about that because at least he smells like someone who looks good! His only real substance is to be lighter than air, a whiff. It is form over substance, impression over reality. It is empty show; it is vanity on steroids.

Here is a humorous look at vanity, a vanity so extreme that it goes beyond appearance and extends into the vapid, vacuous, and vaporous vanity of merely wanting to smell like someone who looks good. It is a remarkable portrait of the empty show that vanity ultimately is. Enjoy!

Two Biblical Lessons in One Commercial

Blog-08-26In the video below, a little child is troubled by the presence of a golden retriever while strangely consoled by a stuffed lion. The solution? Disguise the dog as a lion so that the child will let the dog approach. It seems a rather strange tactic; most would say that dogs are much nicer than lions. But try telling that to the little girl!

I see two biblical themes here:

The first theme is that God met the fallen human race where we were in order to lead us to something better. When people today read the early history of the Bible, most of us are aghast at the level of violence. In ancient times there were no settled laws, no legislatures, no agreed-upon borders between nations, no judges, and no police; there was only fierce tribalism. Brutal battles usually settled land disputes and other disagreements. Annihilating one’s adversary through total physical destruction and genocidal removal was an accepted strategy.

This is where God met ancient Israel. They only understood the fierce lion, not the Lamb of Sacrifice. God would lead them there, but first He had to choose a people, clear the land for them, and then settle them there. Thus He first came to them as Yahweh Sabaoth (the LORD of armies) and summoned them to fierce battle to take the Promised Land by force.

Soon enough, God would lead them to understand more peaceful methods, but for the time being violence was all they understood. Israel was much like the child in the video, who strangely prefers the lion to the gentler dog. So, then, look like the lion and establish the relationship; gentler things will come later.

The second theme is that of St. Paul, who said, To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings (1 Cor 9:22-23).

St. Paul was willing to set aside his own preferences and (to some degree) to become all things to all people in order to save them. St. Paul refers here not to the truth, but to cultural things such as dietary matters, language, wealth, perceived strengths, and other sensibilities. He did this in order to establish a relationship and to open the door to the Gospel. Some today interpret St. Paul too broadly, saying that we should set aside moral and doctrinal teachings in order to reach people. But note that St. Paul only sets aside certain things, and those “for the sake of the Gospel that I may share its blessings.” Thus, the truth of the Gospel is the point! If food or what sort of headgear I wear gets in the way, then away with it—but never away with the truth of the Gospel. Opening the door to the Gospel is the whole purpose!

And thus in this video the dog is “willing” to don lion headgear in order to reach the child. He’s willing to become lion-like in order to show her the truth of canine loyalty.

I know this may seem like a stretch, but I hope you get the point. Enjoy the video!

Rock a My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham – Learning the Wisdom of an old Spiritual

Blog-08-12There is an old African-American spiritual that says, “Rock a my soul in the bosom of Abraham. Oh, rock a my soul!” At first glance its meaning may seem obscure, but it speaks to a deep tradition and a kind of spiritual strategy that has great wisdom.

Biblically, the “bosom of Abraham” referred to the place of rest in Sheol, where the righteous dead awaited the Messiah and Judgment Day. It is mentioned only once (Luke16:22-23), in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. In the parable, Lazarus is said to rest and abide in the bosom of Abraham, awaiting the Messiah’s full redemption, whereas the rich man is in Gehenna, a place of torment.

More generally, though, the image of resting in the bosom of Abraham is rooted in the image of a sick, frightened, or wounded child resting safely in the arms of his parents (in this case those of his father). Most children remember awakening from a bad dream and running into their parents’ bedroom for refuge, to a place where they could rest in security.

Spiritually, Abraham is our father in faith; he also symbolizes the heavenly Father. The ancient Jews considered the bosom of Abraham as a place of security, both in life and after death. Resting in the arms of Abraham meant resting in a place where the evil one could not reach and where the just rested securely.

Christians, too, have taken this image of safety and rest in the arms of Abraham. It finds expression in the beautiful hymn “In paradisum,” in which Christians are commended to the place (the bosom of Abraham) where Lazarus is poor no longer. One of the antiphons in the final commendation says, “May angels lead you to the bosom of Abraham.”

And then came the beautiful African-American spiritual that added a rocking motion to the beautiful rest in Abraham’s arms. The spiritual life is likened to the action of a father, rhythmically rocking his child in his arms. The rocking is soothing, reassuring, and (if one is attuned to it) adds a necessary spiritual rhythm to life.

Yes, rock a my soul in the bosom of Abraham, Oh, rock a my soul. In a world of injustice and great darkness, we need the soothing rhythm of the Father’s love. We need to learn to dance and move to its rhythms and not be overcome with the tremors and evils of this world.

Consider the graceful dance in this video and seek to imitate its wisdom. Learn to move to the rhythm of the Father rocking us in His arms. Learn to move to the gentle and steady beat of God’s love as He holds us close.

Rock a my Soul …

Enjoy this video, featuring an interpretation of this beautiful and rhythmic spiritual. It is a graceful and exuberant dance showing security in God’s love and embrace.

What Did You Say?

Blog-08-04Voice recognition software has a long way to go.  Every now and then I foolishly assume that dictating some text into my phone will save me some time, but invariably it takes me so long to correct the result that I might as well have typed it to begin with!

I wonder if God doesn’t sometimes “feel” that way about us as we consistently misinterpret His word. We seem to hear what we want to hear; we ignore certain words such as “not” in “thou shalt not.”

Kids often have trouble accurately repeating the words that they hear. I have heard many “adaptations” of the Act of Contrition from them over the years. Here’s an example, containing some of the common mistakes I’ve heard from “out of the mouths of babes”:

O my God, I am partly sorry for having defended thee, and I contest all my sins not only because of the plains of hell, but most of all because they defend thee, my God, who aren’t worthy of all my love. I firmly revolve with the help of disgrace to contest my sins, amend my life and live as I would.

I remember as a child wondering why we called the Holy Spirit a parakeet (instead of the paraclete), and thinking that the Our Father said, “give us this stay our daily bread.” Kids are like that. They hear, but not always accurately; sometimes it takes years to correct the errors. I still hear some adults say that on Good Friday the clergy are prostate on the floor, instead of prostrate.

Enjoy this video, which pokes fun at voice recognition software. Recognize that we also commit some laughable errors in speech and hearing. Thank goodness God knows what we’re saying!

Love, It’s What God Does – As Seen in a Commercial

Blog-07-29I enjoy the GEICO “It’s what you do” commercials (which I manage to see in the less than one hour of television I watch each day). They remind me of a sort of syllogism I’ve used to explain why Gods loves us: God loves us because God is love. When love is what you are, love is what you do. Therefore, God loves.

Why does God love us? Because God is love and that is what love does: it loves.

God does not love us because we are good or because we deserve it; He loves because He is love.

Enjoy this “It’s what you do” commercial. It illustrates the old maxim agere sequitur esse (action follows being). In other words, what one does follows from what one is.