Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Son of God

Son of God (2014)


It’s really impossible to capture the life of the Savior in any medium, even film.  The life of Christ is a huge event – THE event that changed the whole world.  In a 2 hour and 18 minute film, producers have to choose on which aspects of Jesus’s life and ministry they will focus.  Since Gibson’s Passion, all other cinematic depictions of the Paschal Mystery pale in comparison and so filmmakers are challenged to portray Jesus in an equally powerful way by focusing on other dimensions of who He is.  The film was a reverent portrayal of the Savior, perhaps better suited for less experienced audiences, but surely not a captivating piece of filmmaking.  Still, I would like to share several observations from the film and the vignettes on which it focuses. 


In the calling of Matthew, I noticed that it's interesting that the filmmakers conflate the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee with the calling of Matthew.  The parable serves to heighten the experience of the call and speak to Matthew’s heart in a way that brings him to sorrow for his sins.  So even though the two things don't happen together in the Bible they make a lot of sense interrelated with each other.


Jesus displays intentional outreach to the poor, the vulnerable and the outcast.  When the Pharisee tells Jesus that “these tax collectors are vermin,” He stops and he goes to them intentionally.  It is precisely to the vermin that Jesus is sent.  Pope Francis today would say the very same thing: that he wants a Church that creates a little bit of a mess by going out into the streets, stirring things up, doing the unusual and the remarkable, in order to reach those who are in need. 


When Peter and the disciples are asked why they follow Jesus they say “He is leading us to something greater” and the Pharisee responds “He is a dangerous man.”  Indeed those who encounter Christ recognize that He is leading us beyond ourselves to something greater and that can be dangerous for us; it can be a risk.  Yet it is a risk worth taking because we trust God to take us to a better place. 


Displayed in the film is my favorite miracle story: the lowering of the paralyzed man through the roof.  It’s my favorite because Scripture records that Jesus notices the faith of the man’s friends and says to the paralytic: “Your sins are forgiven…rise and walk.”  It’s the faith of the other men who carry him there and go to much effort to lower him through the roof that saves him.  The story reminds us of how our faith and our efforts for others can save them by bringing them to Christ.


Jesus offers Peter a new life on the boat as He is going out to fish with him and Peter says “Who says I want one?”  Perhaps he doesn't realize what he wants and what he needs or perhaps he is experiencing an existential crisis and fishing isn't providing for him anymore and his livelihood is leaving him empty.  He in fact needs a new life but displays a bit of a macho attitude in that he won't admit to Jesus that he does need new life.  So, whether he realizes it and won't admit it or whether he doesn't realize it at all, the fact is that when he eventually opens himself up to the Lord, he does experience the new life that he needs to bring him peace and happiness beyond the material world.  He discovers that Jesus is leading him to something greater.  We all need to do the same thing: to open ourselves to the Lord, to let our guard down so that Jesus can take us beyond ourselves. 


Jesus gives the Eucharist to the disciples at the Last Supper and Judas runs off and spits up the morsel of bread.  The conflict of Satan opposing the plan of God is manifested in the fact that Jesus the Bread of Life is not welcome in Judas.  Satan has taken over him. 


Notice when Jesus falls under the weight of the Cross it looks as if Mary is helping lift the cross back up on his shoulders.  Despite her own sorrow she knows she must support what he does.  The most poignant scenes are of Mary’s emotions and her relationship with the Lord.  The film does a remarkable job of portraying the tension between their two hearts. 


The filmmakers juxtaposed the slaughtering of the Passover Lambs with the passion of the Lord, showing the Lambs being cut as the Lamb of God is being crucified.  This reminds us that Jesus offers the final Passover, the one eternal sacrifice the true Lamb of God.  In Christ is fulfilled the whole law. 


Peter runs back from the tomb and takes bread and wine in order to recall the Eucharist according to Jesus’ command to remember Him in this way.  Christ's word is present to Him and He finds Christ in the Eucharist.   

Simon of Cyrene is portrayed as a believer (which is not in Scripture) when he calls out to Him as “my Lord.”


Jesus displays that His way is a way of peace and love not of violence.  The people expected freedom from Rome and a Messiah that would conquer as a king and lead them out of oppression.  But Jesus comes to transform the heart and the soul, to lead peacefully to a deeper experience of human flourishing and of our relationship with God.  Jesus encounters Barabbas (that event is not in Scripture) and we see the tension between the human expectation of the Messiah and God’s plan.   Barabbas is all about overthrowing Rome and overturning oppression but Jesus is about over turning our spiritual lives and our hearts and the evil that creeps in so that we can be in love with God and love and serve one another.



Monica Rozmajzl said...

Your critique of the Son of God really has convinced me to go to it in theaters now and not wait for the DVD. Can't wait to see how they show/connect the dots of the slaughtering of the lamb and the crucifixion.


Janelle Fumerola said...

Interesting insight into the movie. I plan to watch it and will keep your comments in mind.