The hype of life- religion column

Published 7:00 am Saturday, March 24, 2018

By Fr. Jonathan J. Filkins 

There is a marketing ad making the rounds, which encapsulates the depths of the hyperbole, the “hype,” in our daily lives. The gist of it is that a story is, quote, “the greatest love story in the world.” Quite a claim, don’t you think; as there is little room to wiggle?

The advertisement is about the popular musical, “The Phantom of the Opera.” Somehow, it has been construed as the very definition of love itself, until a closer look is taken. The underlying plot is one of stalking, kidnapping and emotional abuse. All of this is done by a deranged principal player in the dank, dark depths of a crumbling opera house. It’s sort of Dracula, and a diva, set to catchy music. Clever, this hype, as we only have to overlook certain truths.

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Classicists, when asked to select the greatest loves in literature, will readily point their digits to the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare. From his pen, we have the sweet innocence of star-crossed early-pubescents, as given to us in “Romeo and Juliet;” who ignore the boundaries of their families’ hate and embrace love itself.

This remarkable story seemingly embodies all of the sweet innocence of that youthful age. Yet, it is bittersweet innocence, as their naïve devotion ends in their mutual suicides. Love yes…yet the results are extraordinarily tragic. Seemingly, the audiences’ greatest emotions are reserved for the unnecessary loss of the two young lovers, and the resultant grudging peace between their families.

Antony and Cleopatra, Tristan and Isolde, Orpheus and Eurydice, Jane Eyre, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert… the “love” list stories seem endless. Perhaps we have our own. There are so many “love” stories, but their hype may exceed their truths. Rather than suggest that these, or any other “love stories” are the very best, and the rest are lacking, it would be more fitting to boldly suggest that they are amongst the best, real or fiction, writ by humankind; if it be true.

It is impossible for any human hand to write the greatest love story, for it has already been accomplished. The story was written for us and to us. It is the story of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, coming into our world in the flesh. In His time with us, he expressed His love for us, as His Creation. His love, in spite of us, yet comes to us. “The Greatest Love Story” goes far beyond hyperbole, far beyond any hype the “spin-doctors” can muster.

It is the story of sacrifice and pure love, not for one, but for all. It is a story, not brought out of the pathos of human conflicts, but laid before us as inspiration, guidance, redemption and Godly truth. It is the reality of our Christ, in the prophesied necessity of His sacrifice, as atonement for all of our sins, and our hopes for living with Him, in eternity. 

In this upcoming Holy Week, as we consider the horrific story of the Passion of Jesus Christ, let us remember the true story. Let us remember, from the Gospel of Saint John, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” No hype, no spin, just The Promise from God. Now, this is a “love story.”