Christian undertones in Wonder Woman

The new Wonder Woman movie was moving in many ways, particularly for me as a female viewer.  Not only is it rare for a strong, intelligent, and beautiful woman to play the protagonist’s role, but it is also relevant that she inspires change through her actions and beliefs and remains humble despite her conquests.

It is not about who deserves salvation; rather, it is about our belief that everyone does.  The film’s illustration of the Gospel is powerful.  We are sinful and have considerable potential for evil, yet all of humanity is worthy of salvation and love.

Penance

In college, several of my friends would ask me why I am a Christian, and my answer has always been that I believe in God’s love and mercy for humanity and that I desire to spread this good news through my actions and in how I treat other people.  His unconditional love cannot be fully understood or appreciated, let alone mirrored by me or any one of us.  However, this ideal is inspiring, and I consider it a privilege to work toward this for my entire life.  Toward the end of college, a series of unique and challenging life experiences as well as further reading of some thoughtful works of literature allowed me to more fully embody this calling and seek the holy sacrament of Confirmation.

I immediately think of the perhaps trite but nevertheless beautiful verse from 1 Corinthians: Love is patient, love is kind…it keeps no record of wrongslove never fails.  I have found that I am incredibly susceptible to feeling guilty about the slightest transgression, and sometimes even a perceived transgression with no real sin committed.  This guilt readily turns into fear of the act of reconciliation.  However, the parable of the prodigal’s son—in which the father unconditionally welcomes his son who had previously “betrayed” him—re-inspires hope in the renewal of my relationship with God.  My parents, who have always dealt me tough love, reflect this same sort of affection for me.  Although they and I are not perfect, in the end, we are one together in a family, and I rest in faith with their forever open arms.

While I have only received the sacrament a handful of times since Baptism, each time I visit a spiritual director my humility deepens as I recognize more and more the profundity of God’s love and how it is greater than my ability to sin.  We should most certainly seek to pray and ask for forgiveness on our own more often.  Yet going to Confession is virtuous through the physical demonstration of seeking a rebirth in Christ’s love.  The sacrament is one way that we as humans may participate in the journey of glorifying God and share the opportunity to embrace God’s love with our community.

The Gift of Confirmation

Baptism and Confirmation are two sacraments categorized within the “initiation” stage of our lifelong process of receiving God’s grace.  Baptism endows citizenship to Heaven while Confirmation calls us to live and bear witness to the Christian life.  In hindsight, I recognize how my heart was turned back in the fall of 2016 to receive the sacrament of Confirmation before matriculating into medical school.  Although I had not viewed Catholic rituals as monotonous or without reason, prior to this school year, I could never really provide substantial explanation to my friends who questioned my weekly decision to attend Mass.  It is clarifying and humbling to recognize now that the Holy Eucharist, just as Confirmation, is a privilege and gift from the Father, provided to us in a physical form which we may recognize and experience, yet possessing divine power to nourish our souls.  Moreover, Confirmation may be thought of as an “anointing for service.”  Confirmation represents a profound transformation in assuming a new identity in Christ and in the lives of others I encounter.  In my view, the Hippocratic Oath, which is said when receiving the white coat as a physician-in-training, is complementary to this greater call to service.  While I am ecstatic to soon begin to help others through healing, I contextualize this vocational pursuit within my greater love for God and His greater love for humanity.  I pray that He will work through me as a future physician and daughter in Christ.

Compassion, as we know it, is misguided.

Compassion is defined as sympathy and the desire to alleviate suffering. “To be compassionate” is merely to feel something about a situation. That’s it. Understanding without action.

First, I think about the concept of salvation on the basis of faith and good works. Just as all truly valuable things on this earth, salvation isn’t free. God has not called me to be a passive recipient of eternal life. I must work with His grace to perform “good works.” Jesus commands us to do such things. In Matthew 10:8, for instance: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.” We celebrate Mass because our presence and participation each Sunday is a demonstration of our obedience and loyalty. We recite prayers to humbly ask for strength and clarity. We conduct charity because it is who we are to give to the less fortunate and ask for nothing in return. We practice our faith, literally.

Second, what good is it to be compassionate if you have nothing to personally offer to help? I’m certainly not discounting the times of emotional crisis when I just want someone to be physically present as I rant or sit in silence. But let me insist that this is a personal choice, and compassion should generally be paired with a means to give. As such, compassion necessitates resources: money, property, wisdom, etc. When we witness another’s ambitious efforts to attain personal success, why focus on the negative aspects of ego and selfishness when we may instead be encouraged by the realm of possibility that an individual’s fortunes may bring? I have an economic perspective on this too.

Third, the vogue medical adage “the art of compassion” now slightly frustrates me. How is anyone able to teach me how to be compassionate? Through scripted case scenarios? Through vague lessons on diversity and acceptance? I assume that most medical students have an above-average level of compassion developed from early exposures to the field.

Compassion alone is meaningless. As an aspiring physician, I realize that my vocation itself serves as an avenue to ensure that my compassion for others is realized every day on the job. But until that day, I try to effect meaningful change in the ways I already know how. Maybe this urge toward action is why the feeling of idleness is perhaps the most uncomfortable sensation I have ever experienced.

In a world of increasing competition, we must celebrate the success of others.

In light of my decision to receive the holy sacrament of Confirmation next year, I am beginning a mini blog series–some posts more religious in nature, others secular–to document my journey to strengthen my faith. This last year of college is a perfect time to commit to the process after having discovered more about myself in college, gotten [a bit] more mature, and am nearly at the stage of verbally professing an oath to assume special responsibilities to care for all my fellow human beings.

Out of the entire semester, this past week was perhaps the most motivating for me. I survived four exams, four papers, two presentations, and two projects, performing well in each and reassuring my overwhelmed brain that I am capable of excelling in a rigorous environment.

This hard-earned gratification is the sort of eternal flame that should inspire our ambitious spirits and fuel our labors. I still too often look upon the success of my neighbor and think to myself, “he did so much better than I” or “she looks so much prettier than I,” followed by “and that makes me angry.” This anger is envy, a sin, and something to be corrected.

I love the Book of Romans. 3:10 – “None is righteous, no, not one.” Only God is perfect in a way we can never fully understand, but that we can learn to accept and thus allow Him to work through us. 12:2 – “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

My neighbor is not perfect, and he or she should not be exalted as such through envy or idolatry. Therefore, all I have left to give is humility and kindness, and accordingly, love.

One more. 12:10 – “Love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.”

P.S. Enjoy the silly picture of me.

xo, Jackie O.

Exploring my [Catholic] faith

CHI
A relevant find at St. Luke’s!

In January, I felt as though my heart had been moved, urging me to more fully connect with my Catholic faith. I can’t really explain the sense of urgency I experienced to become more devout. Since then, I celebrate Mass at school in addition to at home and pray nearly every evening. I have a stronger relationship with my parents, who helped coordinate my baptism as an infant. I also work harder because I feel more compelled to pursue my calling in medicine. In hindsight, I really do believe God had a hand in this rather sudden transition.

Over the past few months, I’ve been all over the place in identifying which demonstrations of the faith are most relevant and meaningful in my life. Initially, I utilized prayer as a mechanism primarily to obtain solace and comfort. As I met members of the parish community, I grew to appreciate the fellowship of likeminded people and how I felt unconditionally accepted regardless of my appearance, successes, and ambition. Now, under a new set of circumstances, I’m left a little confused as to how I should incorporate prayer, fellowship, discipline, and more into my routine.

Before, I had too intimately associated particular tenets of Catholicism with the absolute definition of morality. I had concluded that prayer, confession, and bible study were the keys to eliciting the virtuousness from people. There was consistency, direction, and stability in performing these external duties. And I believed that we as Catholics would naturally develop a greater love for our neighbors and a greater desire to serve the community at large.

This view was actually quite myopic, because adherence to ritual does not make you a better person. Going through the motions while expecting change in perspective and attitude from others and yourself is sorely idealistic. You have to work at being kind, nonjudgmental, generous, and unconditional in every single word you say and act you carry out, apart from everything else your religion demands of you.

Ethical dilemmas involving religion and medicine–and siding with the secular medical opinions–have made me realize the prevailing need to be kind, nonjudgmental, generous, and unconditional above all else. I am a channel to deliver love and grace to every individual I encounter. God’s grace is a favor that should always be received with gratitude. We are granted life on Earth to make our physical world more beautiful than it had been previously. We need good health in order to fulfill this mission. Strict maintenance of good health and wellness can mean getting an abortion, starting on contraceptives, prohibiting exemptions to vaccination, etc. While these interventions clearly oppose strict Catholic teachings, I think it’s more important to recognize the apparent conflict, appreciate the forgiveness of God and others, and work towards achieving the best health outcomes. Good health is the single greatest fortune we have in this life. It is humbling to help others regain this blessing and to work toward renewing human dignity in the most basic sense.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Battling insomnia, I have decided to write my first post this semester on a humbling topic around this time of year: gratitude, and why it should be at the core of everything we do.

 

Interpersonal communication is a means of showing gratitude.

Too many times this semester, my in-person greetings have been disregarded in favor of responding to a text message.  When I say “hello so-and-so” and he/she responds “hi Jackie, how are you doing today?” or simply “hey Jackie,” my mood becomes instantly better.  Not only is it generally courteous to reciprocate a greeting, but it is also a means of demonstrating acknowledgement of and appreciation for someone being in your life, no matter the role he/she plays.  At Rice, I have really good friends whom I text every day, friends with whom I spent trips and summers, classmates with whom I worked on projects, and mutual friends whom I have met after being introduced but would not go out of my way to contact.  All of these people deserve my time, especially in the form of a personal greeting.  I’m not perfect at keeping all of these connections alive and well, but I certainly will try to be better from now on.  If you happen to be reading this post and we haven’t touch-based in a while, please send me a message or say hi when we next cross paths. 🙂

Service to the community should be practiced in good faith.

If we cannot perform a small “task” like consistently responding to a personal greeting, how can we claim to wholly devote ourselves to our communities through much larger acts of volunteerism?  Individuals with the more extensive records of community service should be some of the most devoted individuals to the wellbeing of others in every capacity.  My business class this semester (BUSI 310, would highly recommend) formally brought to my attention the two varieties of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic.  While I recognize the utility of noting community service activities on a resume, it would be self-deceiving to describe a life of service to a potential employer without possessing the intrinsic desire to perform the activities in the first place.  Live every day in good faith so as to justify your extensive community involvements.

Without further expectations, we should aspire to create opportunities for others to be grateful.

Reflecting on much of this past semester, I am ashamed to have been hung up on so many of my personal stressors that dwindle in comparison to the conflicts around the world and the turmoil of those battling illness, even just across the street from campus.

Medicine provides humbling opportunities to experience the vulnerability of others and gift them with another chance to be grateful for the ultimate blessing that is good health.  On a smaller scale, I will attempt to complain less about the amount of work I have to complete, how difficult the work is, and how tired I am all the time.  These are all blessings, and I hope as Rice students we can view them more as such.