Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
May you have a blessed Third Sunday of Easter! I would like to share with you my experience, while watching the movie, Paul, Apostle of Christ, with some of our sacristans. After weeks of hard work preparing for our Triduum and Easter celebrations, we had a great time watching and discussing this film, which gives a wonderful witness of our faith. Paul, Apostle of Christ describes the situation of the Christians in Rome in the year 67 AD, through the eyes of two men: St. Paul, put in the darkest and bleakest prison cell by Emperor Nero, who accuses the Christians of setting Rome on fire; and St. Luke, Paul’s friend and physician, who risks his life to visit Paul, and to write another book, one that details the beginnings of Church. For a synopsis of the film, please, see paulmovie.com.
One of the most striking things for us was the strong faith of the early Christians and the transformative impact that this faith had on the world and society of their times. The early Christians and the Church changed the world by choosing to love and to forgive their enemies instead of seeking justice or taking the vengeance route. They knew the life-changing power of believing the Gospel message and celebrating the Sacraments. In these, they received Christ’s new Risen life, which helped them to transform the Roman world and establish the foundations for our Western civilization.
The movie invites us to look at the situation of our world, a situation of sad lack of love, of violence, selfishness, crime and anger. The early Christians lived the Gospel and believed in the Good News of Christ dying for his enemies to give them a new life. They loved each other, and love conquers evil. We see this love in the movie in the relationship between Paul and Luke. The pagans said with admiration when they met the Christians: "Look, how they love each other!" In this film we see the great power of Christian relationships in the rapport between these two great missionaries. Luke risks his life to spend time with the prisoner, Paul of Tarsus; and Paul shares his entire life, hiding nothing, with his brother and son in the faith.
Furthermore, Luke encourages the Christians before going to die in the Circus. There's a scene that helped me personally. Luke goes down to the gauls where the Christians are waiting to go out unto the arena to be devoured by the wild beasts in the Roman circus. Luke announces Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, as the only Truth that saves the world. His message of faith gives
them joy, trust and determination to sacrifice their lives united to Christ. I see the importance of the preaching of Christ in my ministry, in all our ministries, and in our building project, as today's world keeps telling us that what we teach is not acceptable, fashionable, or doable in our society.
But we see in the film that there is a high price to pay for being a Christian. For Paul, it was his head. For others, imprisonment. For others deportation. For others, it was death in the circus - the Roman Colosseum. Being a Christian is to risk your life, to give your life, not through your own effort, but with God’s grace. And while we are dying, the world receives life. We see in the movie how Luke saves the daughter of a Roman Consul, the man who was going to execute Paul. This is being a Christian. “For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 11:12). All of this is very relevant to us today. We at Queen of Peace have
a chance, with this parish center project, of making a huge statement: that the Catholic Church is the biggest patron in works of mercy, of caring for the elderly, of defending every life, of welcoming the immigrant and the stranger. This is Christian love.
In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus opens the minds of his disciples, so that they may understand that through suffering, Christ enters into glory. “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, ‘Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all
the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things’” (Lk 24:45-48). It’s through death that we enter life. That’s the Paschal Mystery into which we have all been baptized.
I won’t say more about the movie, because I don’t want to spoil it for you. I encourage you to go watch it with your whole family. I was saddened to see so few people when I went to see it. We watch so many terrible things, but here we have an opportunity to see something good - great production, well-done, with actor Jim Caviezel who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ. We should take advantage of this. Keep in mind that this is a Christian movie - not Catholic. It tries to stay faithful to the writings of Paul, but not necessarily to the traditions of the Church. However, that does not take away from the movie, and I hope you will watch. Feel free to share your thoughts with me!
Father Felix P. Medina-Algaba