I recently watched a movie review by Father Robert Barron, founder of Word on Fire, (check it out on the web!) on the newly released movie, Calvary. It peaked my curiosity enough to propel me to the RedBox down the street last night. Without giving away too much of the plot, in case you want to watch it for yourself, it is about a Parish Priest named Father James who lives in a small town in Ireland. As the movie begins the following line is presented in small white letters, “Do not despair, one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume, one of the thieves was damned.” The next clip shows Father in the confessional as he is told that he will be killed in exactly one week for the sins of another priest. The man who threatens his life has not forgiven his abuser and will take out his vengeance on Father James.
What struck me the most about this film was the message of Forgiveness. Further on in the storyline Father James says that there is too much talk of sin and not enough talk about the virtues. I agree. He also says that the least talked about virtue is FORGIVENESS. We've been talking all week about mercy without focusing much on forgiveness. You can't have one without the other. In order to receive anyone's mercy we must FIRST ask for forgiveness!
Father James represents Christ in this movie. Christ is the innocent High Priest who pays for our sins out of love and obedience to his heavenly Father. Every priest represents Christ, for they are in Persona Cristi (the person of Christ) through their Holy Orders. They are the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. “He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity.... Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers...though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood” (v.3-9). We must always keep in mind that Christ did not come to condemn us but to save us. The Old Testament points to Christ's saving mission all the time!! Christ came to forgive us for our sins and he asks us to ASK him for forgiveness so that he may have mercy on us. We in turn are called to distribute that mercy to everyone we come into contact with! That’s a tall order to fill, but Christ knows we can do it! Si se puede! (Yes we can!!)
We read in the Compendium that the, “first and chief sacrament for the forgiveness of sins is Baptism. For those sins committed after Baptism, Christ instituted the sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance through which a baptized person is reconciled with God and with the Church” (200) Are you baptized? Then you were forgiven and you have the POWER to heal the world with forgiveness. Whoa. That mind-blowing! We are little Christs walking around with all this power in us.
Lastly, Father James says is that God is great and the limits of his mercy have not been set, Amen to that! One of my Theology professors used to say that God's greatest attribute is His mercy (We hoped that he would show us the same mercy on our test!). We see this clearly as Christ hangs on the cross in Luke 23:34, gasping his last breath as he says, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” When someone wrongs you, do you utter those same words? Everyone wants the Glory of Heaven but few are willing to hang on the cross with Christ. Rather than being proud, resentful, bitter, or indignant when wronged by another, may we be humble and forgiving like Jesus. Our Lady is a perfect example of this. When her son was wronged she followed his example in forgiveness and humility. May we do the same.
Mary, Mother of Beauty, pray for us.