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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Passion of the Christ: Not for the Squeamish

Larry and I watched Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ last night as our Good Friday meditation. During the day I read St. Francis de Sale's Lenten talk for Good Friday. What a world of difference between words on a page and visceral images of the beatings and scourgings!

This is only the second time I've seen the film. I could never bring myself to put it on again remembering how graphic and gruesome it was, how barbaric his torturers were. I'm reminded of the surgeon, Pierre Barbet, who wrote in his book, A Doctor at Calvary, that he can no longer walk the way of the cross because he is so aware of what our salvation cost the Savior:

[W]hen a surgeon has meditated on the sufferings of the Passion, when he has worked out its timing and its physiological circumstances, when he has methodically set himself to reconstruct all the stages of that martyrdom of a night and a day, he can, more than the most eloquent preacher, more than the most saintly ascetics (apart from those to whom was granted a direct vision, and who were overwhelmed by it), as it were share in the sufferings of Christ. I can assure you of a dreadful thing, I have reached a point when I no longer dare to think of them. No doubt this is cowardice, but I hold that one must either have heroic virtue or else fail to understand; that one must either a saint or else irresponsible, in order to d the Way of the Cross. I no longer can.
The Passion of the Christ is an incredible film. How much the devil must hate it! How much God must have been pleased by it. Mark Steyn has a great review here with just a taste below:
Instead of Jesus the wimp, Mel gives us Jesus the Redeemer. He died for our sins – ie, the "violent end" is the critical bit, not just an unfortunate misunderstanding cruelly cutting short a promising career in gentle teaching. The followers of Wimp Jesus seem to believe He died to license our sins – Jesus loves us for who we are so whatever's your bag is cool with Him. 
Strictly as a commercial proposition, Wimp Jesus is a loser: the churches who go down that path are emptying out and dying. Those who believe in Christ the Redeemer are, comparatively, booming, and ten years ago Mel Gibson made a movie for them. If Hollywood was as savvy as it thinks it is, it would have beaten him to it. But it isn't so it didn't. And as most studio execs had never seen an evangelical Christian except in films where they turn out to be paedophiles or serial killers, it's no wonder they were baffled by The Passion's success.
Yup! And now let's pray that Mel Gibson can get his life in order so he can make more films for the Lord. Maybe there's hope if this friend's account is on target. Let's pray for Mel. We need more religious films that treat faith seriously and with respect.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. Frankly, I don't know why we don't see more posts like this, especially on Catholic blogs. Mel Gibson did much for the proclamation of the Gospel. Prior to 2004, movies about Jesus had been relegated to TV, even since the 1970's. Zeferrelli tried to get Jesus of Nazreth on the big screen, and he failed, because Hollywood did not want truth in-your-face on the big screen. It turned over their apple carts. Well, Mel's courage and determination changed all that. What's more, he debunked the Wimp Jesus myth. If Jesus were a wimp, God or not, he couldn't have taken all that. Jim Caviezel is an in- shape guy, and he dislocated his shoulder carrying the cross--and I doubt Jesus, like him, had a personal trainer! He said the role was the most physically taxing he ever did. As for Mel, you can see merely from this article that the turn he has taken is bothersome, to say the least, for him. With him, you never know if the darkness will prevail; he seems a bit like a yo-yo in that sense. Still, I read a few years ago that he begged his wife to take him back, and she refused. I don't blame her, necessarily, but it does say something about him. In addition, he asked a group of Australian Catholic bishops to pray for him. And you can be sure that many hours of meditation produced The Passion. Yes, this was prior to his downfall, but we are all sinners. Until recently, I was just like you. I only saw the movie all the way through once, and that was it, because the first viewing was shocking and pretty hard to take. I have the DVD, and have never watched it! But when it was recently on TV, God must have known that I felt bad about this, and gave me the grace to see it all the way through (except the very beginning I missed, and when I had to take bathroom breaks) on Holy Saturday. I find that it is easier to take the more you see it. Pray for that grace, and I believe God will give it to you. All the saints said nothing is more efficacious for the soul than meditation on our Lord's Passion! It is also the most beautiful movie I've seen on Jesus. All the others have a bit of a cheesy feel; even Jesus of Nazareth. But this is just so artful and beautiful--which goes back to Mel's meditation, as well as his talent for movie making, which I pray he can get back to for our Lord, with all the zeal of one with a truly repentant heart. We should pray for Jim, too. His series may be uplifting for some, but I find it a bit violent, and he is so great, I would just love to see him back in movies again! Even movies directed by Mel, God willing.


Anonymous said...

More on Mel:

Someone on the forum said the report may not be true, but who knows? It could be.

I also forgot to add that the Dolores Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, on which the movie largely is based, is definitely worth reading! I read all of it, finally, last year (2013) at Lent, after having bought it in 2006.

Mel says in an interview that the book is more violent than the movie, but I did not find that to be true. Maybe because the images are right in front of you in the movie, whereas you can lessen them in your mind when reading a book.

Pray, too, for the canonization of Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich. She deserves to be a Saint--and I hope she will kindly intercede for Mel, too!