6th Easter: The Movie Was Not As Good As the Book


            The book was better than the movie.  I’m sure you agree.  The movie was OK, but it just didn’t capture the images, the characters and the drama of the book.  Maybe those who only saw the movie thought it was tremendous, but if you read the book first, the movie is quite disappointing.


            You could probably say this about any movie you have seen based on a book you have previously read.  Maybe our young people could apply this to a Harry Potter movie or to Lemony Snickett.  There is no doubt that the Lord of the Rings Trilogy or the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, were great movies, but if you read the books first you’d probably say that the books were so much better. Perhaps our older folk (like me) would agree that the movie versions of To Kill a Mockingbird or one of the Steinbeck novels like The Grapes of Wrath just didn’t match up with the books, even though the movie may have won awards.


            Why is that?  Why is it that the movie is never quite as good as the book?  Well, when we read a book, we create images in our head about what characters should look like, sound like, etc.  We create images of various scenes that were so intense, we just couldn’t put the book down.  We have in our heads ideas of how something should look, or how something should go.  It’s hard to change our minds when we see it portrayed in a different way on film.  It is hard to change when we have pre-conceived notions.


            In today’s readings, God calls us to move past our pre-conceived notions to a deeper understanding of Him, His Church and what it means for us to be Catholic.


            For example, the people addressed in the first reading were absolutely convinced that since salvation came through the Jewish people, a person could not become a Christian unless he or she first became a Jew.  It might seem minor to us, but it was a huge decision when the apostles got together, and prayed together, called upon the Holy Spirit, and then decided that those who had been pagan did not have to become Jewish first.  They just had to stay away from immorality and from joining pagan practices.  “The Messiah of the Jews was also the Messiah of the pagans?  Unheard of.  How could this be?” God called the early Christians to move past their pre-conceived notions and to allow Him to work His wonders on the world.


            The same could be said about the second reading.  The Jewish people could not envision a Jerusalem without a Temple.  But now God was calling them beyond these thoughts  to envision a new world where His Presence would permeate the world, where people, you and I, would feel and be empowered by His Presence wherever we were.


            In the Gospel reading Jesus tells the disciples and us that the peace He leaves us is radically different than our concepts of peace. What we consider peace and what God considers peace are two different things.  For us, peace means not to have conflict.  But Christ called us into conflict with the world.  Still, God gives us peace.  A different peace, a peace within ourselves, a peace that only comes through union with Him.  We are not to be troubled.  We are not to be afraid.  Rather we are called to embrace the Lord and His Way.  Then the Father and Son will love us, come to us and make their dwelling with us.


            But we are afraid.  We are afraid that if we abandon our pre-conceived notions of happiness we will be left with nothing.  So we work like dogs not merely to provide for our families, but to purchase happiness.  I mean that is the message of our materialistic society, isn’t it?  Happiness can be bought. Or can it?  It takes a huge step to trust God to bring us happiness.


            We associate with a certain group that everyone looks up to; perhaps it’s the in-crowd in the high school or college that celebrates the prom, or graduation, or the end of the school year by getting drunk.  We are called beyond the notion that happiness is found in alcohol or in having drinking buddies, to the notion that happiness is found in Jesus Christ.  But we fear, we fear being unpopular, losing our friends if we don’t go along with them.


            Our sex saturated society says that physical relations is the greatest source of happiness and that sex should be used for amusement, not for the expression of committed love.  And so many people buy into this lie, and give themselves up because that is what everyone their age is supposed to do, whether that age is high school, college, young adult, or older adult and even senior citizen.  But we are called beyond this notion to the recognition that sex is good and beautiful only when the Lord is present uniting His Love to the love of a husband and wife.  Still, we are afraid to trust God.  And our fear holds us back from enjoying His Love.  Our fear prevents us from running away from any relationship where His Love is not present.  Our fear binds us to pre-conceived notions of happiness.  Our fear prevents us from savoring  the beauty of possessing God in our lives.


            “Do not be afraid,” the Gospel tells us.  Trust in God to bring us happiness beyond any happiness the world presents, beyond any thing in our minds that we conceive would bring happiness. 


            The movie may not be as good as the book, but God’s Happiness, His Peace, and His Love are infinitely greater than our ideas of happiness, peace and love.  We ask God today to take us beyond the limits this world imposes to the Life where His Spirit makes all life complete. (Alternate Opening Prayer of the Epiphany)