Friday, June 18, 2010

"And don't come back until you've redeemed yourselves."

To mark the 30th anniversary of the release of The Blues Brothers the Vatican's in-house newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, this week had a page length article on what many of us have long deemed a classic film. It is now officially a "Catholic classic."

Following the exploits of Jake and Elwood, just out of prison, is an intense ride, so intense that it is easy to lose the thread of the story. Even today I hear a lot of random quotes from The Blues Brothers perhaps the most frequent is Elwood's matter-of-fact statement- "We're on a mission from God." They are! Their whole quest in the movie is to raise money for the orphange in which they were raised to keep it from closing. L'Osservatore Romano sees in this film echoes of the story of the prodigal son, albeit ones who, upon their release from prison, set about to make up for the error of their ways, making it, as the title of this post indicates, a little Pelagian in orientation. Jake, Elwood, and their blues band are signs of "redemption obtained with sacrifice." The newspaper even refers to Elwood passing up the chance for one night stand with a gorgeous blond, played by Twiggy, to fulfill their mission as an example of this.

Since The Blues Brothers was released in 1980, the song Everybody Needs Somebody as rendered by The Blues Brothers is our Friday traditio and the fifth song in our summer '80s retrospective. Besides, who can forget Cab Calloway's performance in the film and him singing Minnie the Moocher?

"Sometimes I feel, I feel a little sad inside
When my baby mistreats me, I never, never, never have a place to hide."

We all need somebody to love, but more than that we need someone to love us, someone for whom we will make sacrifices, someone who makes us want to live selflessly. Let us not forget, especially on this penitential Friday, that "[i]n this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). In a similar Pelagian vein, too often we overestimate ourselves and think ourselves too selfless. In all honesty, are we more likely serve someone else in a self-sacrificing way because we love them so much, or because they love us? When we serve anybody out of love, which is only genuine caritas if our service requires of us a sacrifice, we serve them for the love of Christ, Who loves us not just to the point of dying for us, but to the point of overcoming death for us: "Christus resurrexit quia Deus caritas est"- Pope Benedict XVI

Elwood: "It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses."

Jake: "Hit it."

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