APRIL 2016





“Risen” shows point of view of a Roman soldier

Reflections

By Fr. Tirso Villaverde
St. Thomas of Canterbury, Chicago
Pastor



As Christians everywhere have entered into the Easter season, we celebrate the truth that Christ’s resurrection has made everything new. When the first disciples began to preach and teach the Good News to the people of the first century, many of their listeners asked one question, “What is the reason for their joy?” In fact, people constantly saw a difference in the way the first Christians approached life.

Even in the face of persecution and death, there was such joy in their lives that they would even happily allow themselves to be sacrificed. This not only attracted many people to join them but it also caused others to become curious as to what had caused such a change in the first Christians.

Recently, the movie Risen came out in theaters and may still be in theaters by the time of this issue. It has an interesting plot line in that it tells the story of the power of the resurrection not from the perspective of a believer but from the point of view of a Roman soldier. The Roman soldier in the movie not only witnessed and took part in the crucifixion of Jesus but he was also among those who were hostile toward the Christian community.

The movie invites the viewers to place themselves in the shoes of the main character, Clavius, who was a non-believer. Clavius was a high ranking soldier in the Roman army and he was assigned the task of investigating the disappearance of Jesus’ dead body. At one point in the movie, he interrogates several of the disciples including Mary Magdalene and one of the Apostles. Even though Clavius does not believe in Jesus or that he rose from the dead, Clavius still seems amazed that the followers of Christ would be so full of joy that they were willing to be put to death rather than deny their newfound faith.

In an effort to bring an end to the spread of rumors of a dead man rising from the dead, this Roman soldier tracks down the Apostles in order to discover where they hid Jesus’ body. At one point, he discovers them gathered inside a locked room. Clavius kicks the door open and is surprised by what he sees. The disciples are not frightened because they are gathered around the very man that Clavius witnessed die on the cross several days before and was buried in a sealed tomb. Clavius falls backward in amazement because he does not know what to make of it. At this point, Jesus disappears and the Apostles are reminded to go to Galilee.

Clavius ends up following the Apostles more out of curiosity than faith. He wanted to get answers to what he believed to have been impossible. Eventually, Clavius ends up joining the Apostles as they journey to Galilee where they hope to encounter the risen Jesus. Understandably, Clavius has so many questions in his head but he cannot fight the urge to discover the reason for the Apostles’ joyful manner of living. He is even amazed and puzzled that the Apostles welcomed him as a brother even though they knew that he was trying to bring an end to them.

In the movie, Clavius has an intimate conversation with the Risen Jesus. He admits that he does not know what to say or what to think. He put this man to death and now this same man is speaking to him not in condemnation but in love. In the end, Clavius finds himself admitting that he believes he is forever different from what he has seen.

For believers everywhere, the journey of the fictitious Clavius must be our journey as well. There must now be something different about us just as there was something different about the first disciples. Like them, something must change in us as we become more and more aware of the power of Jesus’ resurrection. That change in us is the same thing that Clavius saw in the first disciples. Namely, it is not only recognizing that Jesus is alive but that he has made every human being into a brother or a sister to one another. This was the power that motivated so many people to believe in Jesus even to the point of being put to death.

Will it be easy to recognize every human being as a brother or a sister? Will it be easy to call a brother or a sister that person who gets on our nerves or is so easy to hate? Will it be easy to say that someone who has hurt us is still our brother or sister? Will it be easy to accept someone who has done serious crimes as a brother or a sister? Of course, it will not be easy. But, it still is important to do.

The power of the resurrection may be lost on us if this is not the change we see in ourselves or help to bring to the world. The power of the resurrection becomes a moot point if the world does not see Christians living out of this sense of fraternal union with every human being. The power of the resurrection will simply be dismissed by many people as a false myth if those who profess to believe in Jesus are incapable or unwilling to see in every human face the face of a brother or a sister.

This is the power of the resurrection. This was how God made everything new. This was the truth that brought so many people to believing in Jesus. As we celebrate the Resurrection of the Savior, may we Christians become the first to imitate Jesus in embracing all human beings as a brother or a sister.

This is the power of the resurrection. This was how God made everything new. This was the truth that brought so many people to believing in Jesus. As we celebrate the Resurrection of the Savior, may we Christians become the first to imitate Jesus in embracing all human beings as a brother or a sister.

 

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