Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Dreams worth sacrifice. . .

Just after Christmas my wife and I ventured into a theater to watch Rogue One.  It was 39 years ago, on a date, that we say the first film of the Star Wars franchise and walked away as people who have never seen anything like it before.  We felt very much the same after Rogue One.  We gasped when the hooded figure turned around in the end of the movie -- only days after Carrie Fisher died suddenly and then her mother Debbie Reynolds.  Our eyes were not dry for the scenes that gave visual shape to what were words across the screen at the beginning of that first Star Wars movie so long ago.  It is a profound legacy for all those who worked on the films and for the story George Lucas created that will become part of the very fabric of our identity for a very long time to come. 

Hidden in that movie is a hard truth.  Dreams are wonderful things but dreams require the sacrifice of those who are determined that the dreams are worth it.  These movies offer no magical short cut to the hopeful future.  They insist upon taking the viewer through defeat, loss, suffering, and even death upon the way.  It is not a sacrifice of the mind but of the heart and body and life.  The scars are carried along (like the mechanical hand of Luke).  This genre of literature and film is always one ripe with applications to faith, to the battle with evil, to the temptation of darkness, and to the triumph of light at the hands of a messianic figure who saves at great personal cost.  I think sci-fi is instructive and intuitively adaptable as a medium for Christians. 

I will not quickly forget the wonder I felt when I read C. S. Lewis' The Space Trilogy or The Chronicles of Narnia (too quickly written off as children's literature!).  I think it is a good thing when our children read such novels or view such movies.  They are fun but they remind us of honor and integrity as virtues of the faithful, of the struggle and sacrifice that the fight against evil requires, of the personal cost we must endure, of the force beyond us (God Himself) who holds the key to our victory, and of the promised future in the life to come.  They draw attention to the Savior who must do for the whole world what none can do alone and what all of them cannot do together.  I am not at all suggesting that the Christian Gospel is fiction but that this genre of fiction is particularly friendly to the fact and truth of Jesus Christ.

We have reduced nobility to an antiquated virtue and we have left ourselves without an idea of virtue or the stories of the saints to encourage us toward such virtue.  We have come up with a love that is fragile and weak and fickle -- unable to forgive the sins of those whom you love and unwilling to sacrifice to make it work when the loved disappoints the lover.  We have lived too much in the moment of romance that briefly shows itself and indulges itself but cannot sustain the love when tragedy and sorrow come near.  It is no wonder we do not get God or His love.  We think love means being nice and getting something out of it and we stand in confused awe before love that dies for the dream and turns the hope into reality.  It is this wonder which is missing from too much of our lives.

We kneel down at the manger and are content to ooh and aah at a baby without seeing in this infant flesh the face of God and prostrating before the awe-full mystery.  We pack away Christmas as if it were ornaments and gifts and have no wonder left to meet the sinless Son of God in the dirty water of the Jordan meant for sinners who have heard the call to repentance.  We treat the miracles of the season of Epiphany as if they were isolated and random acts of kindness and not the revelation of the God who delivers up His own Son to be our Savior.  So when we get to the Transfiguration, we are just as confused as the disciples who thought it possible to remain in the clouds instead of heading down into the valley of the shadow.  And then when Lent leads us step by step to the cross, we shudder to think that it could have all been about this -- Love was born to suffer and die!  And like Mary Magdalene was want to hug Jesus and go back home to the old ways and expectations of life while Jesus is burning into our hearts what Love has done and how there is no more yesterday but only the today that anticipates an eternal tomorrow.

On this Valentine's Day we celebrate love and yet too many of us have absolutely no idea what love really is.  Men tend to think that a little gift and some nice words will ensure that we are lucky at the end of the evening and women think that a little gift and some nice words are probably the best they can hope for.  No wonder the stats on marriage are so dismal.  Love was born to suffer and die for the unworthy and undeserving, those still enemies of the Lover.  When we learn this and strive to manifest a glimpse of this love between husband and wife, then perhaps we will also learn that life is more than a moment and sacrifice worth the dream.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Perfect love casts out fear." The perfect love of God in Christ for us which allowed Him to overcome the fear of Gethsemane is also ours in a tiny measure. His perfect love in our imperfect lives shines through in marriages that last. Telling a teen today you've been married 30+ years raises their eyebrows. The concept of sacrificial death is touching thousands today, as so many of our brothers and sisters give their lives because they are baptized. However, though we may never be called to the high vocation of martyrdom, we die daily in our baptism. Marriage requires sacrifices akin to death. Jesus ratcheted up the Commandments in the Sermon on the Mount: murder isn't just physical, it's verbal, and in our thoughts. Giving to a spouse (and consequently children) at cost to self not necessarily with a dollar sign attached is, I hope exactly that to which Fr. Peters is speaking.