Bernardo M. Villegas
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Spiritual Route to Silver Linings

           I got a treat in the flight I took on SQ 918 from Singapore to Manila last March 9.  The trip was long enough for a full-length movie and it didn't take long for me to decide on Silver Linings Playbook, the first movie since 1981's Reds to earn nominations for all four acting Academy Awards.    Bradley Cooper, who played the bipolar Pat Solitano, was nominated for best actor.  Robert de Niro, a two-time Oscar-winner got the nod for supporting actor for his role as Pat's obsessive-compulsive father Pat Sr.  Jacki Weaver, the Australian native, was up for best supporting actress for playing the Solitanos' long-suffering mother and wife, Dolores.  And Katniss of Hunger Games fame, Jennifer Lawrence, actually got the Best Actress Award for her performance as young widow and repentant adulteress Tiffany Maxwell.  I couldn't ask for more.  They were referred to in Krisworld of Singapore Airlines as "The Fantastic Four."  Pardon the cliche:  the acting of all four was just superb, especially that of Jennifer.

          By sheer coincidence, I saw the film on the weekend of the Fourth Sunday of Lent, the Gospel of which was the parable of the Prodigal Son, the story depicting the infinite mercy of God towards sinful man.  Silver Linings Playbook, though lacking in spiritual depth, symbolizes the human craving for redemption and the sincere acceptance of guilt.  Krisworld gives us the following synopsis:  "Pat is a former teacher who is back living with his parents after being released from a mental institute.  His life has fallen apart and his obsession with his ex-wife anchors him in the mire.  But things change when he meets Tiffany, a mixed-up girl with some serious problems of her own. When two comprehensively damaged people hit it off, the sparks sure do fly."

          The two potential lovers go through the whole gamut of human loves described by the Greek philosophers:  eros (love of attraction); philia (love of friendship); and agape (love of benevolence).  It takes time for eros to metamorphose to philia and even longer before they could love one another with what Benedict XVI called gratuitousness, seeking the good of another without expecting anything in return.  For us Catholics who believe in the redeeming value of the Sacrament of Penance, the spiritual route of the silver linings is easier and lighter because of our virtue of hope:  As St. Josemaria Escriva wrote in Friends of God:  "The virtue of hope assures us that God governs us with his all powerful providence and that he gives us all the means we need.  Hope makes us aware of Our Lord's constant good will towards mankind, towards you and me.  He is always ready to hear us, because he never tires of listening.  He is interested in your joys, your successes, your love, and also  in your worries, your suffering and your failures.  So do not hope only when you realize you are weak.  Call upon your heavenly Father in good times and in bad, taking refuge in his merciful protection.."

      Our virtue of hope is anchored on the conviction that we will always be forgiven our trespasses if we have recourse to the Sacrament of Penance.   After every good confession, we always begin with a clean slate.  Let us prepare for the celebration of Holy Week by going to confession.  St. Josemaria is even bolder in admonishing us to go to confession frequently:  "I would like to see you going to the holy Sacrament of Penance, the sacrament of divine forgiveness, every week, and indeed whenever you need it, without giving in to scruples.  Clothed in grace, we can cross mountains, and climb the hill of our Christian duty, without halting on the way.  If we use these resources with a firm purpose and beg Our Lords to grant us an ever increasing hope, we will possess the infectious joy of those who know they are children of God: 'If God is with us, who can be against us?'  Let us be optimists. Moved by the power of hope, we will fight to wipe away the trail of filth and slime left by the sowers of hatred.  We will find a new joyful perspective to the world, seeing that it has sprung forth beautiful and fair from the hands of God.  We will give it back to him with that same beauty, if we learn how to repent."

          Confession, confession, confession.  That was the common cry of Blessed John Paul II, Benedict XVI and St. Josemaria Escriva.    We should never be afraid that we will overburden our priests by insisting on frequent confessions.  Like their model St. John Mary Vianney, all good priests are willing to spend hours and hours in the confessional to shorten and lighten the route to silver linings for us Catholics.  Jesus, who forgives us in the Sacrament of Penance and comes to us Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist, is our ultimate  Silver Lining.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.