Last weekend, Rocky suggested I watch the movie “The Mission”. It is set in the 18th century South America and is the story of Spanish Jesuits trying to protect a remote South American Indian tribe from Portugal and slavery. Robert DeNiro stars as a hot-headed slave-trader, Mendoza, who ends up feeling a desperate need for penance after killing his brother in a rage of jealousy. Jeremy Irons plays the Jesuit missionary, Father Gabriel, given the task of Mendoza’s penance, which involves dragging Spanish armor to Irons’ mission, at the top of a waterfall, and the only way to get to the top is to climb up the side of the waterfall. Mendoza doesn’t want to believe in this penance and isn’t sure if even wants the forgiveness, but, in it, he tries to earn or feel the forgiveness that eludes him. He accepts no help from the Jesuits. At the top of the waterfall, the Jesuits are welcomed with open arms of the Indians, but Mendoza is recognized as the slave-trader who used to hunt them. One Indian rushes to slit his throat. A short exchange with Fr. Gabriel and the Indian frees Mendoza of his burden, pushing it off the cliff and into the water below. Mendoza bursts into tears which evolve into laughter as he realizes what has happened. Grace. True, unearned Grace. Regardless of his past sins, these Indians offered him Grace. [That’s just the first half of the movie and I kind of wish I had stopped watching. Humans can be such animals to one another.]
It was interesting to watch and think about this right before Lent. Is there any greater act of grace than Jesus willingly giving his life for us? I think I’ve always known what grace is, but it’s only been since the Walk that I “get” it. That I truly understand what that grace means. Penance means nothing. There is nothing I can do to earn grace or forgiveness. Grace is freely given to those who ask and to those who seek it.
And now, the annual Lenten journey is underway. I plan to use this time to deliberately study the Bible and allow it to be a time of reflection for me. I have felt God telling me to just be still, just be quiet and so the next 47 days will be of quiet reflection. And to kick that off, this is from the invitation to worship at the Ash Wednesday Services this week:
We are gathered at the beginning of a journey. One that will take us through the teachings of a rabbi, of the palms laid down in honor, past the betrayal of a trusted friend, into the fear and hatred of the faceless crowd, up to the foot of the cross, and inside death itself. And yet, the journey will continue. Not concluded until we stand at the doorway of an empty tomb and witness the fulfillment of God’s promise. Let us take this journey together. Hand in hand. Without fear. Trusting in Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.