Saturday, July 5, 2014

Religious Freedom

     I just finished watching the 1986 film "The Mission" about the experiences of a Jesuit missionary in the 18th century in South America.  It is a powerful, disturbing and yet beautiful movie about Faith and religious freedom framed within the midst of a very brutal and political world.  The story is rooted in historical facts and yet has been fictionalized for the sake of the story.  I have seen "The Mission" before and am always moved by the movie, especially the final scene where Jesuit Father Gabriel and mostly women and children converts (the men are out fighting) are gunned down by the invading soldiers while processing with the Blessed Sacrament.

     The story is of Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) who goes to great lengths to build a mission to convert a very hostile native community called the Guarani.  Father Gabriel wins them over with his bravery and his gentle faith, but also with his music, and transforms this community into a settlement that is primitive but inspirational.  But there was a reapportionment of lands in a treaty between Spain and Portugal and a fear of the Jesuits that led to politics and the slave trade taking control of the situation.  The story is involved, but worth the watch.

    The cast is top notch, with, in addition to Jeremy Irons, Robert DeNiro, Aiden Quinn and Liam Neeson.  Father Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit known to an older segment of us from his radical days, plays a minor part.  The haunting music was written by Ennio Morricone.  If you are ever in the mood for a good movie, a powerful story of Faith and the true challenges that the People of God have faced in regard to religious liberty in times past, "The Mission" is a good bet.  We talk a great deal about religious freedom in our day - there is no greater religious freedom than that given by the Lord to people of faith.  Our desire for the basic rights guaranteeing freedom by governments and society today, while necessary to express and hope for, will undoubtedly have us disappointed.  Our true freedom is found in the heart of God's love for us and our willingness to allow that freedom to dwell within us. All other freedoms flow from that point.  Governments and societies forget God.  We cannot. 

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