You have probably, sometime in your life, lost a loved one. You may have even known it was coming, and prepared for it. Most of us, for instance, prepare for the death of our parents; statistically, we outlive our parents, and understand that they will, in all likelihood, pass on before we do. Yet, in spite of your preparation, when that time comes it hits you in the gut. You discover that all your preparation was only on an intellectual level, and your head knowledge of this eventuality had not truly penetrated into your being.
By now, you have probably read several reviews of Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion, released today. You have probably read enough quotes and excerpts, reviewers opinions, complaints and hype, that you feel you have a good handle on what this movie is all about. You probably think you are prepared for it.
We just returned from the Roxy in Dickson, where we stood in line for an hour to ensure we could sit together in the sold-out 7PM showing. As we waited, we saw the people from the previous show filing out. They were silent. They were hollow eyed. No laughter rang out, no yammering on cell phones, no loud voices. Just silent people, filing out the door into the black of night, each one absorbed in his own reaction to this film. We entered the theater, where ushers escorted and guided people in an attempt to help people sit together who wanted to, a difficult task when every single seat was sold out. The lights went down. There was one Coke ad – a humorous one, that brought laughter from the crowd. Then the movie started. No previews, no more ads – just clouds on the screen, with the camera moving down through them and into a mist which made the background disappear. You are in the Garden of Gethsemane, witnessing the prayer of Christ on the night of his betrayal. The emotion conveyed hits you like a steam roller. You have read this story many times in the Bible, and you know everything that is going to happen, but you are not prepared to witness it. You are not prepared to experience it. You are not prepared to live it. For the next two hours, you find brief respites in the flashback scenes to earlier points in the life of Jesus, but they are too brief to allow you to do more than draw a brief relieved breath, and the emotional onslaught takes over again. There are no distractions here; no one is talking, no candy wrappers rattling, no cell phones going off – everyone is sitting in total silence, broken only by an occasional gasp, sob, or the movement of someone reaching for a Kleenex to wipe away the tears with. A baby cried once. The mother immediately left the theater with it. It was that kind of film.
This film had more impact on me than any film I have ever seen. I used to say that if time travel ever became possible, I would want to travel back to the time of Jesus, and witness the crucifixion.
I feel I have just done that.
I never want to experience it again.
Is there Catholic influence in this film? Yes. You will learn that we Protestants have sanitized the mission of Jesus; we have removed him from the cross, and it stands empty, a symbol of the glorious resurrection. We have removed the blood and the gore; we have removed the pain and suffering of our Lord; we have changed his sacrifice into something bright and airy and happy, forgetting that it was a SACRIFICE, a BLOOD sacrifice, and that THIS was the purpose of his earthly life.
The Resurrection is wonderful, and it stands as PROOF that Jesus was God incarnate, but it alone does not redeem us of our sins. That could only be done through the blood of the sacrifice.
Without Good Friday, there could not have been an Easter Sunday.
We all know about Easter Sunday –
Now come and learn of the real events of Good Friday.
Many people, when reviewing a really good film, will say “If you only see one movie this year, make it this one!”
I recommend this one more highly than that. If you only see one movie in your LIFETIME, make it this one. See it now, on the big screen; it will not have the same impact on your small TV screen at home.
And leave the younger children with a sitter. They will not be able to handle this.