Reblogged from Paul Ferrini’s site
I was recently asked by the publisher of a Florida Newspaper to write a review of the Mel Gibson film that is creating such a stir around the country. First, let me confess that this is not a review of Mel Gibson’s film. I have not seen it and frankly I cannot bring myself to see it. I stopped going to violent films many years ago and since my friends have told me that this film is one of the most violent films they have ever seen –focusing on the last twelve hours of Jesus’s life and graphically depicting the Crucifixion – I am not willing to break my “violent movie fast,” despite the relevance of the topic to my work as a teacher of Christ Consciousness.
Besides, I am partial to the portrait of Christ presented in Pier Paolo Passolini’s Gospel According to St Matthew. This black and white film made in 1964 is pure poetry.
Shot in documentary style, Passolini’s film brings the key events of the Gospel to life in stark but awesome beauty. It is a film without special effects or spectacle of any kind. Yet it has profound visual authority, anchored by close-ups of Jesus as he walked with his family and his disciples, teaching and healing, and confronting those in authority whose hearts had become closed. In one of the most striking scenes, Jesus gives the Sermon on the Mount eyeball to eyeball with the viewer. You feel the depth of his eyes as he looks back at you. You feel he is speaking right into your heart.
Passolini’s movie is about Jesus’ life and his teaching. His death by crucifixion is seen in the context of his life and teaching. It is not made into a spectacle to evoke our fear or our guilt.
Let us not forget that Jesus was not the only one crucified on that day. And his death was no better or worse – nor his suffering greater or lesser – than that of the others. The great tragedy was that Jesus – a man like other men – was put to death for his beliefs.
He was not the first man to be humiliated and abused by this ultimate act of human injustice and betrayal, nor was he the last.
Men and women are brutalized and tortured every day. Some are victims of political, ethnic or racial violence. Others are assaulted by poverty or diseases like Cancer or HIV-AIDS. Some were in the planes that hit the Twin Towers. Some were babies killed by American bombs in Iraq.
The streets of Jerusalem and Gaza are littered with the bodies of young Jews and Palestinians who were sacrificial lambs for some misguided cause and ancient error that keeps repeating itself through the generations. Violence is a universal madness that lives equally in all countries, religions and races. It is hardly ever a last resort. And it is never justified. Not for any reason under any circumstance. That, my friends, is what Jesus taught.
And that, in the end, was why he was crucified. Jesus was a peacemaker, a fearless advocate of equality, and a staunch opponent of injustice and hypocrisy. He was not afraid to stand up to the authority figures of his day. They could not face the truth about themselves and Jesus was relentless in putting it before them.
Jesus knew that they could kill him. They could torture him. They could make him suffer. But they could not kill the truth he stood for. The more they opposed it, the larger it would become.
In his day, Jesus spoke to a few thousand people. Today he speaks to billions. Truth cannot be destroyed. It rises from the ashes like the phoenix. That is the meaning of the resurrection. Truth lives forever. It is eternal. It is born and reborn in your heart and mine.
I do not know why Mel Gibson focused on my teacher’s agony on the cross. Not that I think we should leave that part out – we need to know that he was a human like any one of us; we need to feel his pain just as he felt ours – but his agony is only a part of the story. And, if we are to have perspective on one of the great human lives of all time, we need to hear the whole story.
When my father Lindo was dying of cancer, it was not easy for me to see his suffering. Yet it was unavoidable. He had to go through it and my brother and I had to go through it with him. We are both grateful for the last few months we had with him. We are grateful for the smiles and the moments of ecstasy that came in the places left by the pain.
There is a photo that captures one of those ecstatic moments when Isaac, my brother’s son, is whispering in my father’s ear. Although it was a wordless moment, I hear him saying “Lindo. You are beautiful and I love you. I am so happy to have looked into your eyes, even if it was only for a few precious days, and I am very sad that you are dying. Please don’t forget: I will always love you.” You can see my father’s face totally open and surrendered to that moment. He felt all of that love, innocent and freely given.
I am sure that there were moments of ecstasy like that for Jesus in between the pain, moments when he opened to receive the love of his family and his disciples, moments when he felt the Holy Spirit wrapping his tired and bruised body in Its steady arms. I prefer to remember those moments, rather than the moments of human slaughter and bestiality, just as I prefer to remember my father’s face when Isaac was whispering his love.
I do not deny the pain or the suffering. How can I? How can any of us deny it? Each of us has to live through it. But it is only part of the story. Here is the other part: “Jesus, my dear brother. You are loved. All the love that you offered to us we are now offering up to you. You have guided us to the truth and we have taken up its mantle. We go forth now in love’s name, practicing forgiveness, as you taught us. We do not preach or seek converts. We do not seek to make ourselves right and others wrong. We simply share with all – whoever they may be – the profound depth of love you awakened in us. May God hold you and keep you in his loving arms, now and for all time.”
by Paul Ferrini, www.paulferrini.com