It’s time for another movie review.

This weekend I watched three movies.  One I really liked (Julie and Julia), one I would have liked if I was thirteen (High School Musical 3… did I really just admit I watched that?), and one left me wanting more.

A friend loaned me the 2002 movie Joshua, based on a series of books.  He said he was interested in what I thought of the film, so I turned it on ready to evaluate it.  I knew a little bit about the books- enough to be skeptical, but not enough to go in with my mind already made up about it.

After watching the film, I felt I had discovered the Savior.  Not my Savior, but the Savior of the Church of Relativism.

Stick with me as I engage on this little- but relevant- tangent: Awhile back, while out shopping with a religious sister, we saw a depiction of a fairly anemic Jesus.  Sister took one look at him and said, “That’s not the Man I married.”

That’s sort of how I felt after watching Joshua.  A little background– the movie (and I suppose the books, as well) tells the story of a mysterious traveler who shows up in a small community.  This Joshua eventually brings the community together, by rebuilding an old church, by physically healing people, and by reaching out to everyone in love.  He comes under the wrath of the local Catholic priest, who is suspicious of him because he’s not traditional.

In the end, the priest is in tears, hugs Joshua, and all is good with the world.  Joshua goes to see the Holy Father (who realizes Joshua is somehow Jesus, returning but not returning, as in it’s-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it) and leaves him with the reminder to help everyone to love.  Sounds nice and fuzzy.  But it was… sort of flat.   I had some questions for this Joshua.

Being Catholic isn’t easy.  Being Christian isn’t easy.  And after watching the movie, it seems that I’ve got it all wrong. Forget all those rituals, all that fear of God, all that avoiding sin.  Forget that struggle against vice and battle for virtue.  Forget waking up early to go to Mass before work.  Forget saving sex for marriage.

I just have to be nice to people!

yay!

Institutions = closed minded!  Ritual = unneccessary!  Traditions, rules, preaching about sin = ridiculous!

We just need more love.

When Pope Benedict wrote his first encyclical on love, I think everyone did a double-take.  What did this guy know about love?

I did a double-take, not because I didn’t think he knew about love, but because I had kind of tossed the whole “God is Love” thing out with the burlap banner I had made in second grade.  I had heard “God is Love” ad nauseum and had begun to tune it out, right along with Kumbaya.

And there lies the danger of that pendalum swing!  Yes, Jesus was much more than a nice guy who healed people and brought communities together (and I pointed out my friend- while Joshua brought the communities together, Jesus split them apart!!), His central message was love.

So Joshua was right — we need to love.

But when Christ taught us to love, it wasn’t a free-for-all.  As much as we don’t want to admit it, He gave us rules.  He founded a Church (Mt 16:18) and he instituted sacraments.  It wasn’t just, “Go and love people.”  It was, in the words of John the Baptist, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

And what is love?   Is it “group hug, let’s all just get along, no one create waves”?  What about when Christ says, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!  I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!  Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

That doesn’t sound like love!  But it is.

In his new encyclical, Caritas in veritate, Pope Benedict reminds us: “For the Church, instructed by the Gospel, charity is everything because, as Saint John teaches (cf. 1 Jn 4:8, 16) and as I recalled in my first encyclical Letter, “God is love” (Deus Caritas Est): everything has its origin in God’s love, everything is shaped by it, everything is directed towards it. Love is God’s greatest gift to humanity, it is his promise and our hope.”

But he continues, “I am aware of the ways in which charity has been and continues to be misconstrued and emptied of meaning, with the consequent risk of being misinterpreted, detached from ethical living and, in any event, undervalued.  …  Truth needs to be sought, found and expressed within the “economy” of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practised in the light of truth. In this way, not only do we do a service to charity enlightened by truth, but we also help give credibility to truth, demonstrating its persuasive and authenticating power in the practical setting of social living.  This is a matter of no small account today, in a social and cultural context which relativizes truth, often paying little heed to it and showing increasing reluctance to acknowledge its existence. … Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived.  Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity.  That light is both the light of reason and the light of faith, through which the intellect attains to the natural and supernatural truth of charity: it grasps its meaning as gift, acceptance, and communion. Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality.  Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way.  In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love.  It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions, the word “love” is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite.”

Sometimes the truth hurts.  Sometimes it’s a “hard saying.”  But that doesn’t mean it’s not the truth.  And it doesn’t mean it’s not love.

So I was left wanting more from Joshua.  Not that he was a weakling physically, but he certainly wasn’t the Savior I’m following.  He would be a nice guy to have as a friend, because he oozes kindness and love, but He lacked that fire — the fire of the One Who caused a bit of a disruption when He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  The Lord Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!

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