Thursday, September 12, 2019

Theology of the Body and...Rocky? Part Five

A great story features a hero that faces a challenge that seems insurmountable before succeeding in the most amazing way. It is meant to inspire us and make us believe that we are capable of the same type of victory if we just believe that we can do all that our hero did.


However, in the real world there are consequences and the opening of Rocky 5 makes perfect sense when we find out that Rocky has in fact suffered brain damage even though he won the biggest fight of his career. To make matters worse we find out that his accountant took advantage of him while he was grieving the loss of his friend, which led to him losing millions of dollars.

In most cases a spouse of such a person would be just as livid as the one who was ripped off but if we remember the events that occurred before this unfortunate act we remember that Adrian actually had even more reason to be upset with Rocky. That is because he didn't even consult with her prior to agreeing to participate in such a dangerous fight and then ignored her when she pleaded with him not to go through with it. Realistically, no one would have blamed her if she packed her stuff and took their son away in disgust since Rocky's negligence removed them from the comfort and security of the life that they were now accustomed to.

However, we already know from the previous blog in this series that Adrian has always seen Rocky the person and since he was now in a debilitating state in terms of what he could do physically she is not concerned with all that they had lost. In fact, it was at this time when he had never been so down that she began with what is probably the most beautiful exchange we see between the two characters in the entire series:

Adrian: Rocky. Do you love me? 

Rocky: Yeah, I love you, you know. Why do you ask that? 

Adrian: Because if you love somebody you live with them, you live for them. You don't gamble with a life. Rocky, I don't care about the money. It's you. That's all that matters. Please. We'll be okay. We'll be fine. 

There was no, I told you so! Or, why didn't you listen to me? Or, see what you cost us by making such a stupid decision? Adrian Balboa really understands what it means to live in the good times and the band times. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LelD80gDKRI

Adrian lives in the here and now and by doing so she looked at the man that she loved and not the decision that she firmly disagreed with. He had no problem believing the sincerity of all that she said because throughout the series we have seen that it was always about the two of them being together in that bond where they always willed the good of the other while living the call of agape.

Sadly, Adrian's commitment was not enough to deter Rocky from looking for something else that he thought would refill the fortune that he lost. Perhaps he was so used to being in the spotlight or felt bad for losing everything he had earned during those moments in the spotlight. Whatever it was, we start to see a determination on his part to get it all back once they return to their old Philadelphia neighborhood.

Soon he would start training a young boxer who moved his way up the heavyweight ranks and once this young star was in a position to earn a title shot Rocky felt he was close to regaining the respect that he once had as champion. The problem was that he didn't realize that he didn't need wealth or material things to prove his value to those who mattered most to him. He already had all that he needed from his family who he was now in danger of losing.

Rocky was so consumed with taking his young fighter to the top that he didn't offer his son the attention that he needed as he was entering his teen years. Adrian watched closely and patiently and dropped hints here and there to try and redirect Rocky's focus but nothing registered until his son blows up on him out of frustration. Rocky was crushed by son's pain but still didn't fully understand why his son felt the way he did.

Unfortunately, Rocky wasn't ready to hear the truth until he lost everything, again. After he has a falling out with his young protege he stood in the middle of the same street where it all started for him and even went as far as identifying himself as: Balboa, just another bum from the neighborhood! 

Enter Adrian to once again remind him that he was more than he realized.

At the moment when Rocky confessed his inadequacies and how he is without any respect Adrian grabbed her beloved husband and reminded him that she respected him because she had lived every battle and struggle with him. She knew all that he endured because she suffered with himShe then explained that he survived those challenges because of his heart, the special gift he had that was like no one else. His heart that propelled him to victories in the ring was the same heart that loved her and their son without question.

After reminding Rocky of the gift he had already shared with others she then laid out some tough love for him. He was not looking in the right direction and by doing so he was hurting the last person he should be hurting, his son! In her words: If there is something you want to pass on pass it on to your son. For God sakes, your son is lost! He needs you!

In other words, his value didn't come from passing on his boxing knowledge to a future champion because there is no point in being a successful trainer if he neglected his duties as a husband and father. It was time for Rocky to get his priorities together and while Adrian was direct with him she still didn't threaten him or offer some type of manipulative ultimatum. Her cry was one of desperation and it was timed perfectly since she waited for the moment when Rocky would actually hear and understand what she had to say.

Rocky's recognition of Adrian's intention allowed him to reach for her in order to comfort all of the pain she had been feeling while coming clean with what he needed to say to his faithful wife: I'm sorry. There was always you and me. There was always you and me. I'm sorry Adrian. He too remembered all that they have been throughthe good times and the bad times, and had never forgotten how he was not the only one that was on this journey. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uf63ZubculE

This is one of the most intimate moments we ever see between the two of them because it is filled with love and forgiveness. Adrian certainly held a lot in but once she let it out she reached for Rocky before an apology left his lips. She knew this man like no one else. She knew that he loved her and their son and that he would do whatever he needed to do in order to take care of his family. Aside from that, she also knew that when she spoke to him that he would listen. Rocky can embrace his wife without hesitation because he knew that when she was direct that it was from her concern for him as well as their family because he too knew how much she loved both him and their son.

Interestingly enough, while this movie is the least appreciated by Rocky fans because of what it lacked in action it actually served as a beautiful conclusion to the relationship we see between Rocky and Adrian Balboa (more on that in the final blog of this series). We see a couple who first recognized the good in the other at a time when neither of them saw that in themselves. One they got married they confronted each challenge together especially when it came to working out their differences. When their surroundings changed their commitment to each other remained and that was best expressed when they not only forgave each other but also loved each other during those moments when it wasn't easy to express that love. So as we get to the end of Rocky 5 we have a clear picture of how much the Balboas mean to each other and how that love would never fade away.

Their marriage is an example of what a permanent marriage should be. Yes, it existed in a fictitious universe but it is in the teachings of the Theology of the Body where Pope Saint John Paul II reminds us that the desire for authentic love is best expressed in art. The films in the Rocky series are no exception.


Carlos Arthur Solorzano 
BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach 
Certified Through the Theology of the Body Institute 
Theology Teacher at St. Augustine Catholic High School 
Co-founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate 
https://www.facebook.com/HCDTalks/


Monday, September 9, 2019

Theology of the Body and...Rocky? Part Four

If you're looking for both the ultimate underdog story as well as a celebration of patriotism then Rocky 4 is the film for you. Of course while most people continue to focus on the action of the film we continue to see how the marriage of Rocky and Adrian continues to be challenged by the idea of having to love the other through difficult times. In this film Rocky almost seems to push Adrian aside in order to pursue his own interests with her once again having to let her love for him guide her decisions in a true practice of agape.

While the beginning of this blog seemed to have an ominous tone we can at least say that the film doesn't start out this way.  Early in the film the same man who fell in love with Adrian in the first film still offers his affection in ways that she has now known for years. After celebrating her brother's birthday Rocky plans a private moment for them as he has no intention of waiting another week to celebrate their wedding anniversary. In expressing his love for her we can see that she still moves him the same way she did when they first started dating with her also being just as happy with him. That's when he tells her that she still won't get rid of him as a way of reminding her that his commitment to her is the same as it was the day they got married. It's a very moving scene because we can see just how much they really love each other: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ssb6q1cf90&t=2s

Right after this beautiful scene we see the arrival of a huge Soviet boxer named Ivan Drago who was sent to the United States to take on American's best in the professional ranks (it was the 80's). After an introductory press conference where Drago is introduced to the boxing world Rocky's former rival Apollo Creed sees an opportunity to put himself back in the spotlight by taking on Drago who was greeted with the type of hype that Creed was known for. Immediately Rocky is hesitant at such an idea because Creed is much older now and Drago is bigger and stronger than either of them. Apollo responds with a ridiculous diatribe about how boxers are warriors and how they need to be in the middle of the action because that's how they were born.

Rocky has always been led by Creed's smooth talking ways so before we know it we witness another press conference where the former champion announces that he will take on the big Russian in an exhibition bout. Creed runs his mouth in order to build the fight and Drago, who is not accustomed to the American way of promoting a boxing match, doesn't take kindly to the ways of the former champion. Eventually the match takes place between Creed and Drago with Creed actually being beaten to death by his superior foe. Even when Rocky begs him to stop the fight Creed is too proud to admit that he is ove rmatched. Of course the worst part of this scene was that Creed's wife witnessed the whole episode that should have never happened.

With Creed's warrior words echoing in Rocky's head he goes on to schedule a fight with Drago in order to avenge the death of his friend. Most people think that Rocky is foolish to do such a thing because he risks the same fate as Creed. However, Rocky did something much worse in making his decision to take on the Russian boxer: he did so without telling Adrian! Adrian actually finds out when she arrives home one day and see members of the press waiting for her in the Balboa driveway. At that moment she has no idea what they are talking about so imagine the devastation she felt when she realized that Rocky would make such a decision without telling her first

When Rocky finally returns home she confronts him about his decision and he more or less gives her an excuse that sounds more like Creed than the man that she married. Adrian expresses her concerns and fears but Rocky refuses to budge. The worst part of the scene is the look on Adrian's face when she can see that he won't change his mind. Here she is, standing at the top of the staircase in their mansion, which is a long way from the run down apartment where they first kissed and all she sees is Rocky! Regardless of all of the wealth and fame her husband now has she had always seen the man she loved and not the man who provided these luxuries. And now he was willing to risk the life that matted so much to her in order to prove a point in the ring. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xTWEWll2Ys

Then there is the somber moment of Rocky's departure as he prepares to go to Russia to train. As he is about to get into the limousine he looks up at his bedroom window and sees a saddened Adrian looking down on him. Anyone viewing the film must wonder how he could do this to her but he departs with her looking more concerned than ever. Adrian certainly said what she had to say to him but she didn't still didn't nag him about it. She didn't threaten to leave him because after all, this is the same woman who had already proven more than once that she understood the meaning of the word commitment. She was afraid of losing him and that in itself was heart breaking. (Start at 1:33) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ask5bx47Uw4

As the film progresses the viewer is pumped up by yet another fabulous training montage where we see two warriors prepare for what the Rocky universe will call the biggest fight in boxing history. This serves actually as an amazing distraction after Rocky's departure because we see some of the most beautiful parts of God's creation, which are two male bodies at their peak performing at such a high level. After all, creation is good and both of these boxers, as stated in the teachings of the Theology of the Body, are good.

The biggest surprise though is when Rocky returns from a run to see Adrian waiting for him. This is one of the most beautiful scenes in the series as she approaches the love of her life and lays her heart out to him: I couldn't stay away anymore. I missed you. We can assume that she is still hurt and scared but her love for Rocky is unquestioned and she would rather be with him than resent him and stay away. She also knows that she is safe to say whatever she has to tell him without any fear because she already knows of his unconditional love for her. That is why she is able to look him in the eye and say: I'm with you, no matter what. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPTXZa4vYEI&t=8s


Imagine the impact that had on him knowing that she was with him as he prepared for the biggest match of his life. There is no doubt that having her support during his training sessions as well as during the big fight helped propel Rocky to the greatest win of his career.

More important than the hero in the ring is in fact our hero Adrian demonstrating her true love for Rocky as she truly demonstrated what it means to love someone in good times and bad:

  1. First, she didn't agree with Rocky's decision to fight Drago but gave him room to do what he  needed to do even though he was putting his life on the line. 
  2. Second, she could have claimed that Rocky betrayed her by not speaking to her first when he decided to take the fight. As his wife she certainly had the right to know even what he was thinking of doing but again, she let that pass especially after he finally explained his reasons for doing what he felt he had to do.
  3. Most importantly, Adrian showed greater strength than her husband during the fight as she sat there and watched him take a horrible beating prior to summoning the strength to beat what many saw as an unbeatable opponent. Most viewers tend to focus on Rocky's amazing victory, which made his nation proud but most people fail to see all that Adrian endured.

The hardest part for Adrian was that she wasn't given the choice to prepare for what could have been a tragic outcome. Still, she was there and supported her husband because her love for him was stronger than her greatest fear.

This was indeed, a true act of agape. 


Carlos Arthur Solorzano
BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach
Certified Through the Theology of the Body Institute
Theology Teacher at St. Augustine Catholic High School 
Co-founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate
https://www.facebook.com/HCDTalks/



Friday, September 6, 2019

Monotheism in Pre-Columbian Mexico

Ever since the creation of the world, his (God’s) invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.

                                                                                        St. Paul, Romans 1:20

St. Paul’s statement in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans was in reference to pagans who were not behaving in accordance to God’s law. Paul goes on to state that there is no excuse for such behavior and that the people could not claim to be ignorant of God’s expectations since creation itself shows God’s invisible attributes. In other words, to summarize a statement in the Collegeville Bible Dictionary, "Paul is concerned with people who do not behave according to God’s plan. This plan was in plain view in the orderliness of creation" (p. 1082).

In Romans 1:24-32 Paul states why the pagans failed to behave in accordance to God’s law. To summarize Raymond Brown from his book Introduction to the New Testament, "human fault and stupidity led to the divine image being obscured in the pagan world" (p. 566). Examples of inappropriate behavior would be idolatry, lust and other forms of depraved conduct. Further, Paul cites “stubbornness” and an “impenitent heart” as vices that prevent people from changing from their evil ways.

However, the pagans were not without opportunities to be aware of God’s divine plan. In the past, God used prophets to proclaim his word to Israel but such messages were also delivered to many Gentiles who would then attaching themselves to local synagogues in order to be part of the Jewish community.

God’s word and presence for that matter, as we know from Paul's statment in Romans 1:20, was not limited to the Jews or those who were close to a Jewish community. This we know from a number of teachings that have come down to us throughout history that are indeed similar to what is taught in the Gospels. That is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes the following statement in regards to how God prepared people from all over the world for the coming of Jesus Christ:


The coming of God's Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to prepare for it over centures. He makes everything converge on Christ: all rituals and sacrifices, figures and symbols of the First Covenant. He announces Him through the mouths of the prophets who succeeded one another in Israel. Morever, He awakens in the hearts of the pagans a dim expectation of his coming.
(#522) 


Further, just as God used the voices of the prophets, or those chosen specifically by him to deliver his message to Israel he also used particular individuals from particular Gentile/pagan cultures to deliver His message to those closest to such individuals. This of course was for the same reason that the prophets came before Christ, to prepare the people for His coming, which in most cases would be in the presence of those that Christ sent out into the world.

One example of such an idea has been cited by many Christian theologians who refer to the teachings of Greek philosophers such as Plato and Socrates whose teachings are very similar to what is taught in by Christians.  For example, Plato along with a lesser known predecessor of his named Xenophanes spoke of the existence a single deity rather than the pantheon of gods that most Greeks believed in. Further, Plato and Socrates, who both lived in the 4th century BCE, seemed to prophesize the coming of Jesus as they spoke of the “Logos” (Word) that was indeed coming. And, like the prophets Plato and Socrates were at times persecuted for their personal beliefs that did not coincide with the beliefs or agendas of their peers.

As we will see this wisdom was not something that was only limited to Greek thinkers. In fact, it also occured on a different continent centuries later but at a time when those in the area had no knowledge of the Christian faith. That was when God worked through the efforts of a father and son tandem from the pre-Columbian Mexican city known as Texcoco. These individuals were Nezahualcoyotl and Nezahualpilli, two tlatoanis (rulers, kings) of the Alcohuan people.   
             

Monotheism in Ancient Mexico

Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards pre-Columbian Mexico was a highly organized society that was regulated by a triple alliance government of three highly populated cities: Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan. Like many great cities each of these three places had its own form of government, culture, scholarship, artistry as well as religious practices. Contrary to popular belief not all of the people in pre-Columbian Mexico practiced human sacrifice with the intention of appeasing bloodthirsty gods. In fact, the great king of the Texcoco region, Nezahualcoyotl had a system of beliefs that not only contradicted this ideology but also spoke out against the practice human sacrifice.

Nezahualcoyotl was the Renaissance man of his day. He was not only a king but a scholar who was well versed in astronomy, literature, philosophy, engineering as well as a patron of the arts since he was a poet. Luis Valdez stated that he was actually a precursor to someone like Frederick the Great who, “found time to mingle intellectual pursuits with war and statecraft.” In pre-Columbian Mexico this was also rare due to the fact that many of the intellectuals in this time period came strictly from the priestly class.




Being an heir to the throne, Nezahualcoyotl received a princely type education that was meant to prepare him for his opportunity to rule. Unfortunately, a rival to the throne killed his father in front of him and then sought his life, which forced the young prince into exile. This led to Nezahualcoyotl receiving the name that we have now, which is defined as “hungry coyote,” which is reflection of how he lived while in exile. He would eventually find his way to the city of Tenochtitlan and then spend eight more years of his life studying in order to advance himself intellectually. Soon after this he was contacted by many nobles from his place of birth that were tired of the tyrannical government of Texcoco. They would go on to form a coalition that eventually unseated the tyrannical ruler and placed Nezahualcoyotl in his proper place, as the tlatoani of Texcoco.

Gospel Preview

Nezahualcoyotl established a city in pre-Columbian Mexico that many historians call the Athens of the Western World. His first act as king was to establish laws that were considered to be so effective that it would also be adopted by his allies. Along with being a good statesman he also had important ideas regarding religion as he would eventually follow in the footsteps of great thinkers such as Plato and Socrates as he embraced a belief that was contrary to the beliefs of his peers, which was the belief in one God that didn’t require the blood offerings of human victims. After abandoning his pagan beliefs he built temples with altars filled with flowers and incense that offered praise to the what he called the true God.

After establishing his beliefs Nezahualcoyotl recognized the need to allow the spirit of this true God to direct his life. Eventually he would make a normal practice of disguising himself so he could walk the streets of the kingdom undetected, which in turn gave him the opportunity to see the living conditions of his people. At the sight of specific needs or shortocomings he would address them immediately in order to serve his people properly. In other words, while not knowing the Gospel in its written form he was aware of the message of Jesus Christ and made every effort to obey the commandments Jesus gave his followers in regards to assisting those in need (Matthew 25:31-46).

Prior to his death he is said that have made the following comment: “How deeply I regret that I am unable to understand the will of the great God, but I believe the time will come when he will be known and adored by all the inhabitants of this land” (A Handbook on Guadalupe, p. 45). This statement was indeed true since Nezahualcoyotl did live in ways that were not a part of the Christian lifestyle. At the time of his death he was survived by several wives and concubines and was said to have fathered 110 children. However, he was honored by the people and believed to have set up a powerful dynasty and this would be evidenced by his successor, one of his many sons named Nezahualpilli. It was also proven to be true as the Christian faith would eventually make its way to this land through the efforts of the Spanish missionaries. 

Legacy

Nezahualpilli was essentially the same type of ruler as his father. He was known to be fair and compassionate as he actually abolished the death penalty for certain crimes that in the past required the execution of the convicted. Like his father he was also a poet and a philosopher and was seen by many as a religious sage. His name is defined as “lord of fasting,” which was probably a reflection of his religion devotion since he was known to have a strong devotion to the true God. Further, this devotion surely enlightened him to be a great king since many of his peers and subjects saw him as a king Solomon type figure since he was known as the wisest man of his era (1 Kings 3:12).



The most profound thing about Nezahualpilli however was his prophetic insight. During a conversation with Motecuzoma (typically known as Montezuma) he informed him of a dream he had of invaders from across the sea that would come and take Motecuzoma’s throne while bringing the true religion to his land. Further, he went on to claim that the cities would be destroyed and the children assassinated, which sadly was part of the conquering process. However, Nezahualpilli did make every attempt to inform Motecuzoma that these events would only take place if he and others in this land continued the practice of human sacrifice. Sadly, like the pagans that St. Paul criticized in his letter to the Romans, Motecuzoma chose to be stubborn and impenitent so the events transpired as Nezahualpilli predicted.

Finally, Nezahualpilli, like his father also had aspects of his life that were not in agreement with the Christian faith. He was a polygamist and fathered 144 children, which is another reason why he is compared to Solomon who, while having a strong devotion to the true God, continued to live a promiscuous life. (1 Kings 11:3).
           

Missed Opportunity

In looking back at what we know about the history of the first contact that Christians had with the indigenous people of pre-Columbian Mexico one could reflect on what could have been had the conqiuistadors taken the time to see if there were any elements in the thinking of the indigenous people that were similar to their own Christian beliefs. Perhaps there would have been a much more peaceful process with less bloodshed that would have not only saved lives but left present day Mexico in a better condition. 

Sadly, it is not uncommon to be suspicious of those who come from a different place or in the case of today's world, a different lifestyle. Such suspicions are all too common even if the incident is without violence and bloodshed. 

At the end of the first century CE and throughout its history the Church became an international community that no longer belonged to one race of people. This of course would lead many people to be suspicious of the wisdom of other cultures, such as the early Church Father Tertullian who took exception to the idea of embracing the wisdom of a culture that did not give Christianity to the world. This is best described is his statement, “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem? What does the Academy have to do with the Church?”

Tertullian’s attitude was common during the time of the early Church as many Christians held a view towards the Greeks that was best described by Tatian. According to Justo Gonzalez, Tatian believed that, “All that the Greeks have that is of any value (were) taken from barbarians: they learned astronomy from the Babylonians, geometry from the Egyptians and writing from the Phoenicians” (The Story of Christianity Volume I, p. 54). Gonzalez goes on to say that Christians believed that the writings of Moses, “ (were) much older than those of Plato and…. Homer,” and that since the Greeks, “learned their wisdom from the barbarians,” they must have, “ misunderstood it, and thus twisted the truth that the Hebrews knew.” With a strong appreciation for Hebrew wisdom it is not a surprise that Christians would refuse to associate with knowledge and wisdom that came from cultures that were indeed pagan in their religious forms or with cultures whose ancestors had either enslaved the Israelites or had taken them away from their homeland during the Diaspora. 

However, many Greek converts were able to appreciate the wisdom of the culture of their ancestors due to the teachings of Justin Martyr and Clement. Justin, for example, stated that there were many points of contact between Christianity and pagan philosophy. Clement went as far as divinizing this philosophy by saying that the Greeks were given philosophy by God in the same way that God gave the Mosaic Law to the Jews. Further, Clement went on to say that the Mosaic Law and Greek philosophy sought to find the ultimate truth, which was now fully revealed in Jesus Christ.

Justin and Clement’s view would be shared later by the brilliant St. Augustine who, according to Alister McGrath, stated that it was, “possible to extract all that is good in philosophy, and put it to the service of preaching the Gospel” (Historical Theology, p. 92).  McGrath would go on to say that Augustine used the analogy of the Hebrews leaving Egypt as they, “left behind their burdens, yet carried off the treasures of their former oppressors.” In other words, as long as the wisdom leads the believer to Jesus Christ it is indeed something that should be valued by the Church.

In conclusion, one would have to wonder how the Spanish missionaries could have used the teachings of Nezahualpilli to better deal with the indigenous people. Considering the fact that Nezahualpilli had teachings that complimented Christianity and with the fact that he prophesized their coming, Spain could’ve used these ideas and prediction to show God’s hand in their arrival and if they recognized the role they were playing the plan of Providence then maybe they would have understood the responsibility they bore to be authentic representatives of the Church. Unfortunately that did not happen. However, with the number of missionaries that are still circling the earth that are more aware of the ideas and beliefs of the various cultures that they are encountering perhaps we’ll see more effective methods of evangelization. However, that cannot happen unless people are willing to accept the fact that all races of people have a wisdom to share that should at least be studied and tested in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ before dismissing them.


Sources
1) Collegeville Bible Dictionary 
2) Introduction to the New Testament by Raymond Brown 
3) The Story of Christianity Volume One by Justo Gonzalez 
4) Historical Theology by Alister E. McGrath 
5) A Handbook on Guadalupe: Juan Diego Ambassador of the Queen of Heaven by: Dr. Charles Wahlig  
6) https://www.mexconnect.com/articles/298-nezahualcoyotl-texcoco-s-philosopher-king-1403%e2%80%931473


Carlos Arthur Solorzano 
BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach 
Certified Through the Theology of the Body Institute 
Theology Teacher at St. Augustine Catholic High School 

Co-founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate 
https://www.facebook.com/HCDTalks/ 



Thursday, September 5, 2019

Theology of the Body and...Rocky? Part Three

As we continue the discussion of how we can recognize the teachings of the Theology of the Body in the Rocky series we are now in a totally different place in the marriage of Rocky and Adrian Balboa. Rocky is now the heavyweight champion of the world so he is now successful, wealthy and famous. One would think that such a life would change a couple that began their life together on the streets of Philadelphia but we will see that their relationship hasn't changed as much as one would expect from a couple that went from rags to riches almost overnight.

In the opening montage we see a man who looks much different than the club boxer we met in the first film. First, we see his victories over all of the challengers he has faced since winning the heavyweight championship. Next we see a man who had some physical work done on his face after many years of boxing injuries. Further, Rocky now associates with other celebrities and public figures from around the world as he is now a global icon in his own right. Surprisingly, we also see the same mannerisms and affections between the Balboas, which is usually expressed in the way he looks for her after his victories in the ring. Outside of the ring their love continues to grow as they raise their young son in a life filled with luxury and comfort. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8ZABoz26R8

It doesn't seem like his life could get any better.

Eventually Rocky loses the title to another hungry contender named Clubber Lang who not only defeats him but humiliates him in the ring. The loss crushes Rocky not just because he lost the title but because everything he was told prior to the match by his now deceased manager came true. It's one thing to realize that another fighter was simply the better man that night in the ring but Rocky's manager Mickey Goldmill didn't think Rocky had a chance against Lang because the contender was a very dangerous fighter who was much more focused than Rocky. Further, Mickey also disclosed that he had carefully selected Rocky's opponents during his title run in order to ensure that he would keep winning and, most importantly, to protect him from further physical harm. This caused Rocky to question his own abilities and self-worth because he began to feel that everything he had accomplished in his boxing career was a lie.

Who better to bring him out of this funk than the woman that he lifted up many years ago?

While training for his rematch we can see that Rocky is still shaken up by his failure as well as the sudden loss of Mickey.  Adrian confronts Rocky about his loss of motivation to which he claims has come from him not wanting to fight anymore. Adrian sees something more than this because she had never known Rocky to be a quitter.

While arguing on the beach she challenges Rocky to be honest with her about what he is really feeling. First he admits that he feels dishonest since he wasn't the champion that he thought he was. Adrian continued to push him though as she knew that there was more than Rocky cared to admit. Eventually, he comes clean and admits that he is afraid. This is a huge step for Rocky because after all, he is a fighter and had actually won the title from Apollo Creed who was considered in the Rocky universe to be the greatest boxer of all time. Of course that didn't spare him from being absolutely destroyed by Clubber Lang, whose performance against Rocky had him doubting that he could win in the already scheduled rematch.

After that, Adrian admits that  she is afraid too and that there is nothing wrong with being afraid. Rocky sees his fear as a challenge to his manhood but Adrian reminds him that fear is a big part of life. In other words, she doesn't accuse him of being weak or worse than that, less of a man. She in fact allows him to know that he is still good in her eyes even though he allowed her to see him at one of his weakest moments.

Even though she encourages him to remain in his profession for his sake and/or peace of mind she also reminds him that his day in the spotlight will come to an end and that his experiences from this time in his life will be impact their future when he is no longer boxing.  In other words, this is the same woman who we saw in the last film would not walk away from him when she feared that he could be permanently disabled. She is totally committed to him through the good times and the bad times and she is not afraid to challenge him when he has a chance to make things right. Adrian is not scolding Rocky because he's not living up to some type of public persona or even say, her vision of what she thinks a real man should be. She is in fact reminding him that he is the same good person she has known all along and still better than what he thinks he has become.

Finally, Adrian tells Rocky that she and Creed (who is training him for this fight) believe in him and that he should go after his title for the right reasons. Win or lose, if he simply does his best then she knows he can live with the outcome because he will have no excuses. The most important thing about Adrian's approach was that she didn't break him down in order to hurt him. She broke through the walls he put up in order to bring back the man that she knew was still inside of him. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mn26NOoV_lQ

For some reason this reminds me of a simple but powerful quote: The purpose of marriage is to get your spouse to heaven. Another way of saying this is when one has the courage to tell their beloved that you make me want to be a better person.  

All of this of course, was the easy part as there was still a huge boxing match ahead. Just like their marriage, the match featured many ups and downs with Adrian being there the entire time. When he did well she cheered for him. When he struggled she was concerned. When he was down and out she pleaded for his suffering to end but she never left his side. Even though he had to be completely focused on his task at hand there had to be a part of him that knew that she was in the ring with him.

Eventually Rocky conquered what seemed to be an invincible opponent and regained his championship. As he was raised up by the men in his corner we see an exhausted fighter who is relieved of the burden he had been carrying. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wM-lOVgoUqI

What was most moving was when they brought him down to see his bride who stood on the edge of the ring in order to greet him. How appropriate since she was the one who always kept him grounded. Of course she didn't do this by jabbing at him in order to humble him. In fact, she did this by loving him in a way that reminded him that he was in fact good.

Before she embraced him she asked are you alright in which he responds never better before collapsing on her shoulder. One could only wonder if his response was because he had regained his title or because he was in the arms of his beloved Adrian. 


Carlos Arthur Solorzano 
BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach
Certified through the Theology of the Body Institute 
Theology Teacher at St. Augustine Catholic High School 
Co-founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate
https://www.facebook.com/HCDTalks/


Monday, September 2, 2019

The Power of Humility (Sunday Readings Reflection 09.01.19)

What is humility?  According to the Oxford English dictionary it means "a low estimate of one's importance, worthiness or merits... meekness; the opposite of pride" (Oxford English Dictionary, 1989).  Today's First Reading Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 29-29, and Gospel Luke 14:1, 7-14, speak of humility. In order to understand humility, we must also understand pride. Pride is defined as "A high, esp. an excessively high, opinion of one's own worth or importance which gives rise to a feeling or attitude of superiority over others; inordinate self-esteem."₁

The greatest example of humility is Jesus Christ himself.  During the homily, our pastor had made a point that at a banquet, the celebrities are given a seat of importance.  However, people want a photograph or an autograph but have no actual relationship with them.  In order to have a relationship with those He created, God sent down His Son from Heaven.  But he didn't send him as a full-grown man all-knowing, all-powerful and influential from the start.  Jesus came down in the most innocent form, born as a baby from his Blessed Mother, Mary.  What is more, he was not given a royal birth.  He was born in a stable, among animals and was placed in a manger (Luke 2:7, NABRE).

How much more meek and humble can one be, especially one who is one part of our Trinitarian God?  For the Son to become human, to feel loss and grief (John 11:35), to feel sorrow and anxiety (Matthew 26:36-42) that the Father had to send down His own angel to bring Him comfort (Luke 22:43), to feel pain, endure suffering and death.  To allow us to know Him, He came down to know us, feel what we feel.

Not just in his birth, suffering and death, but in his works, Jesus showed humility.  He stayed with sinners (Luke 19:1-10) and protected and defended them (John 8:1-11), allowed them to care for Him and be hospitable to Him (Luke 7:36-50).  What is more, He the master washed the feet of his own disciples (John 13:1-20) as an example of how He wants us to be with others.  He showed us how we must treat others.  That even when we have a higher education, a higher income status, we are not more important than them.  He did not exalt Himself as one who is greater that only the most important were able to speak to Him, to look at him to touch Him.  Instead, He sat with the lowly, the oppressed, the outcasts, the poor, the hungry, the sickly.  With his greater knowledge of the world, the plan of the Father, He did not make himself to be more important.  He was the example that those with higher education, wealth, knowledge and power have the responsibility to see through the eyes of those without these things.

I was recently reminded of this while teaching.  Checking vital signs is one of the first things you do in nursing school.  It becomes second nature.  The lingo is a language you become fluent in, normal and abnormal values are things you just know and understand what to do.  The students were instructed to role-play (one nurse and one patient).  These students are in their first semester of nursing, learning the very basic skills of the trade.  Most have never been in a hospital caring for patients, and many probably have never step foot in one either unless to visit a family member.  At the end of their role play, the students were to "give report" and state the vital signs.  One of the blood pressures was very abnormal, which looking at the student whose blood pressure it was could not be possible.  Watching the student "nurse", they already seemed unsure during the exercise, but when I had offered assistance, they declined.  Hearing this abnormal value while the paper was in front of them, it would have been very easy to reprimand them.  Yet, I had to stop and think of my first week of nursing school, what I knew and didn't know; the fear I had of asking for help; the nervousness to "present" my patient not knowing how and never having seen a report being given.  I had to put myself in my student's shoes and try and see why they did not seek my assistance and why they did not use their references for normal values.  Instead, I had to encourage them that it's okay not to know, and the importance of seeking help.  I had to humble my thinking and not consider all the years of experience and education as me being superior, but more of a tool to help my students learn and understand.  I was not more important. In fact, my students were more important in that moment because of their need to be nurtured and cared for.  In order to build a relationship with my students, I need to let them know how much I understand their plight because I have been there, that I understand and can see things through their eyes.

In being humble, in lifting up those who those with worldly view would consider “beneath us,” in providing for those who have less than we do, we are doing what God has called us to do.  It should be done without expectations of repayment.  As it was through the Lord's humility that we are able to know God and have eternal life, we are shown how humility has the power to bring up others.

~ + ~ + ~ + ~ + ~ + ~ + ~ + ~
Angelica Delallana, MSN, RN

Reference:
All biblical references are from the New American Bible Revised Edition

Humility. (1989). In Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Retrieved from https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/89375?redirectedFrom=humility#eid.

Theology of the Body and...Rocky? Part Two

Welcome to the second part of the six part series of how the teachings of the Theology of the Body are exemplified in the Rocky Series. In the last blog we discussed how two people named Rocky and Adrian not only fell in love but did so while affirming the good in the other. In recognizing the actions of the other that affirmed the goodness in each person it also established a relationship of authentic love and trust. This will be most important as we get to the next phase of their relationship.

As the story continues into Rocky II most fans of the series tend to focus on the redemption that Rocky experienced by winning his rematch with heavyweight champion Apollo Creed. However, the one thing that is not discussed as much in the story line is the development of the relationship between Rocky and Adrian as they not only get married in this film but also have their marriage tested almost immediately.

After his big boxing match that serves as the climax of the first film Rocky is informed that he has physical damage to one of his eyes. After an extensive stay in the hospital he and Adrian begin to move forward with their lives. This begins with the beautiful scene when Rocky proposed to Adrian. There we can see how nervous he was because of the fact that she meant so much to him. Then, as she accepts his proposal it's so beautiful to see how she looks right at him and is very happy to give him the answer she knows he wants because she wants the same thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrDw5dRX8rA

On the night of their wedding they have a brief conversation where the two of them look at each other and with great honesty share their feelings for each other. As they begin to settle into their evening Rocky asks her if she wants him to help her remove her coat before telling her that she is the best thing to ever come into his life.  In other words, like the male lover in the biblical book Song of Songs, he doesn't force himself on her. Adrian of course responds with affection because she knows how much Rocky loves her as she can sense that he still wishes nothing but what is good for her. That's what leads her to ask him if it will always be like this with Rocky affirming that it will always be this way.

Now that Adrian feels safe she looks Rocky in the eyes and shares something she fears when she says: I hope you never get tired of me. Rocky shakes his head and responds: You ain't never getting rid of me before telling her that he would never change anything about her. Then they tell each other: I love you and share a beautiful kiss because this is another moment when they were naked and not ashamed. (Start at 0:52) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4q_C9DQFe3Y At this point it's almost shocking to remember that this was the same woman who couldn't even look at Rock when he first showed interest in her.

As the couple begins their life together Rocky uses his new found celebrity to make commercials. Adrian is pleased with this because it means that Rocky will no longer have to risk his own safety by getting back in the ring. It is also at this time that they receive the news that they are expecting their first child. Their reaction is also quite beautiful as it shows just how much they love and respect each other. First off, once Rocky hears the news he is filled with joy and said that he suspected something since Adrian woke up with a big smile that morning. Then as they walk through the park they share how they both wish for their unborn child to be like the other.

Unfortunately, their life doesn't go through as planned. Rocky has trouble reading the cue cards due to his damaged vision, which jeopardizes his ability to continue making commercials. Aside from that we see a couple that recognizes that there is something important in the way people are treated as they both stand up to an abusive director who mistreats Rocky during a very awkward moment for him. Still, that doesn't fix the problem that Rocky now faces as he must now find another way to make a living.

After a long search for employment Rocky ends up at the meat packing facility where his brother in law Paulie used to work. He works hard and is thankfully able to provide for his family. Still, Adrian worries about Rocky because the work is hard and he comes home very tired on a daily basis. Rocky disregards his fatigue as he continues to treat her with the same kindness that she had always known from him.

Things start to change though once Rocky gets laid off.

Now we have a man whose self-worth is challenged as he questions his ability to provide for his family. He is humiliated when his now pregnant wife offers to go back to work as he still feels the call to be the provider. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjgYWoQlXK4 Still, with all that is going through his mind and his heart he is still honest and gentle with Adrian. To make matters worse, he is not in the right frame of mind to refuse a challenge from heavyweight champion Apollo Creed who is still fuming over the fact that Rocky more than held his own in their last match.

As Creed baits Rocky into a rematch Rocky tells Adrian that he feels like a nobody again as those around him now refer to him as a coward since he won't respond to Creed's challenge. She reassures him that he is not a nobody in her eyes and that they will be fine. She also expresses her wish for him not to fight again because she doesn't want to see him get hurt. This is one of the hardest scenes to watch in the series because Adrian is pregnant and looks at Rocky with great fear in her eyes. One can easily see that he is the most important thing in her life because he was the one who brought her out of her funk and into the life that she now had with him.

Adrian is devastated.

Rocky begins to train but is immediately distracted by his marital problems. Interestingly enough there is never any discussion about the two of them separating over what we can see is a very serious disagreement. Adrian is worried about Rocky's well being, which again shows her commitment to her husband because she is still with him even though she doesn't approve of what he is doing...and she is going through this while she is pregnant with their first child!

Her true feelings come out when her brother Paulie decides to scold her for not approving of Rocky's decision to fight again. This time though we see a different woman than we saw in the past. Instead of taking Paulie's nonsense she speaks directly to him as she explains her position. Then Paulie tries to blame her for the possibility of Rocky getting hurt, which in this case could cost him his eyesight. Adrian reacts with great emotion as the thought scares her tremendously. Amazingly, she says something so beautiful in the midst of her struggle: If he goes blind Paulie, you walk away: I can't. I love him, you don't! 

Adrian Balboa, the woman who could barely speak to Rocky in this same pet store at the beginning of the first film is now a woman who will not only stand up for her husband but also stand by him, no matter what!!!! In other words, she really knows the meaning of true sacrificial love. She knows agape!

Unfortunately, Adrian's concern for Rocky's well being would not be the end to her suffering. Adrian goes into labor prematurely and loses a lot of blood during the delivery of their son. This causes her to slip into a coma. Rocky is devastated and can't do anything but stay by her side.When he's not at her bed side he is in the chapel praying for Adrian. (see the film War Room for a great discussion on why we should be praying for our spouses). He is so concerned for her well being that won't even see his newborn son until he can see him with Adrian.

When Adrian comes out of her coma the first person she sees is Rocky. She sees that same smile that she fell in love with because that smile only comes for him when he sees her! This scene is one of many where we can see that their true exchange of mutual love. Then we see them both react as their seeing their son for the first time. They are amazed at the sight of their newborn baby and all Adrian can do is thank Rocky. Rocky is so happy to see Adrian recover and once he finally sees his son in his mother's arms he offers to drop out of the fight. For some reason this leads Adrian to have a change of heart as she tells Rocky that she wants him to WIN!!!. It was never said during the film why she changed her mind but one would guess that her giving spirit, even at a moment when she still had a good reason to fear for his well being, knew that this was something that meant so much to Rocky. Again, Adrian knows the meaning of agape and by accepting her request it's almost as if Rocky's eyes make her a promise to do as she wishes because after all, no one's support would mean more to him than hers? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnwcN05Y8uA

The fight of course is a war as both men are determined to win. Rocky barely squeaks by with a surprising knock out victory and as he has his moment of glory he says that this is the second greatest moment of his life (his son's birth being the first). But the last thing he says, which is the most beautiful, is when he raises the belt and says, I just got one thing to say...to my wife at home. Yo Adrian, I did it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWWPa9-wLjE

Rocky remembers his promise to Adrian and is not afraid to say what was in his heart in front of the entire world because from the moment she entered his life it had never been just about him. This is yet another example of being naked and not ashamed. 

Imagine how that made the shy girl from Philly feel.


Carlos Arthur Solorzano
BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach 
Certified through the Theology of the Body Institute 
Instructor of Theology at St. Augustine Catholic High School  
Co-founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate 
https://www.facebook.com/HCDTalks/