by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.
With all the hype, how could I not see the film, The Passion of the Christ, ― although I was not the first in line?
First, I watched Mel Gibson interviewed on TV explaining his motives and hopes for the movie. There were countless published dialogues with theologians and religious leaders to read as well as editorials by religion editors and guest columnists. Not to mention participation in the on-line chats and discussion boards. And yes, I re-read the Gospel accounts. Yet perhaps more intriguing is a chapter titled, “Atonement and Eucharist” found in the book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy.
Long before the movie, I was caught up in the stir of a pre-Easter examination of what the sacrifice and triumph of Jesus meant to humanity, then and now.
I can tell you I was initially surprised by my reaction to the movie. As one who tends to get squeamish confronted with graphic violence and suffering on-screen, my usual practice would be to avoid that type of show. But after reading a comment on the website www.spirituality.com, “…can I not watch 126 minutes with him,” I decided to go. In fact, my eyes rarely left the screen.
During the movie I felt strength, love, awe, humility, and spiritually empowered. And a deepened desire to be obedient to Jesus’ teachings and to follow his example.
Expectation has a direct effect on results in any situation, including watching a movie. My view of Jesus as Master, Way-shower, Teacher, and Exemplar entered the theater with me. My expectations for watching The Passion of the Christ were from the perspective of a student. Open and eager for learning, I anticipated lessons, and expected to be taught and was.
For me, “The Passion” was a classroom as is the entire life and ministry of Jesus. But class didn’t end with the crucifixion. It continues with lessons learned from the resurrection and 40 days later with the ascension. Of course, Mel’s movie didn’t tell the whole story of Jesus, but for me there was never a moment that Jesus appeared to be a helpless victim. To the contrary, there was never a moment when Jesus wasn’t continuing to teach and heal. Could his most profound lesson be his teachings on love? If so, what kind of love?
A love that can forgive those who falsely accused and tortured him, even as he hung on the cross.
How many times have I felt defeated or thought about revenge when friend or foe did something to deliberately hurt me?
A love that could express compassion toward his grieving mother while he himself was suffering.
How many times have I been too self-absorbed to express compassion to another in need?
A love that could offer comfort and heal others, not only while suffering himself, but also in the midst of his enemies.
How many times has a sense of inadequacy stopped me from sharing a hopeful message or fear kept me from saying what I know is true, because criticism or laughter might follow?
Watching “The Passion” has increased the fervency in my heart and soul for Jesus’ commandments: Love one another. Love thy neighbor. Love thy enemy. Bless them that curse you. Do good to them that hate you. Pray for them, which despitefully use you and persecute you. All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. And what about the commandment regarding his works when he said, He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also. Consider his healing works and the possibilities of this promise!
In Science and Health, Eddy writes, “To keep the commandments of our Master and follow his example, is our proper debt to him and the only worthy evidence of our gratitude for all that he has done.” Gratitude fills my heart to have been reminded of the sacrifice and triumph of Jesus, and reminds me to commemorate his lessons to humanity by obeying his words, If ye love me, keep my commandments.