To go to Mass, to enter into a moment of prayer, to say the name of “Jesus,” to meditate upon his death and resurrection, what does it all really mean? Is it just a routine, a family tradition, a myth, a joke? Is there anything real behind it?
Nominated “Best Religious Short Video” in the 33 Telly awards, today’s video is a powerful production done by our friends at Outside da Box together with Spirit Juice Studios. It presents the piercing contrast between our oftentimes superficial and irreverent attitude and the seriousness and the depth of the event in which we are supposedly participating.
In the video we see that the two young men are simply reciting words. The formulas, for them, have no reality behind them. Bored and uncomfortable with listening to and reciting empty phrases, they find ways of distracting themselves. Only when the young man, by some form of vision, discovers that behind the formulas lies a real event, a real man, is his indifference shaken. As the video progresses, the young man discovers that the words of the Gospel retell both true events of the past, but also events of the present, the events of his present.
Zombies vs. Jesus
A Deeper Look
I think the video can challenge us to dive deeper into the mysterious nature of our faith. Sometimes it is difficult to understand and truly be present in our time of prayer and in the liturgy. Many times, we really do try to pay attention; to perhaps even imagine ourselves at the gospel scene, to discover what lights the experience of prayer can shed on our lives, etc.
These attempts are good and we need to continue to do them. Still, we probably do something similar when we read a novel or watch a movie with a good message. In the case of prayer or our participation in the liturgy, there is something drastically different going on and it’s important that we grow more aware of it.
To participate in the mysteries of faith through prayer and the sacraments, is to penetrate into an historic event that is presently actualized. The mysteries of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection are not just stories or historical readings; they are real, presently active, and transformative. Why? Because Christ is real, presently active, and continually knocks on the door of our hearts, seeking to transform us. By the grace of our Baptism, we are invited and called not to recite the story, but rather to accept Christ’s invitation to enter into the event of his mystery.
We can do this thanks to the grace of the Holy Spirit. “Christian liturgy not only recalls the events that saved us but actualizes them, makes them present. The Paschal mystery of Christ is celebrated, not repeated. It is the celebrations that are repeated, and in each celebration there is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that makes the unique mystery present. (CEC 1104)” Thus, our faith in the reality of God, the reality of his grace, the reality of his power to transform our lives is the bedrock upon which we must stand. Responding to that truth, we must seek to interiorize it, to silence our hearts and minds so as to welcome it into the deepest parts of our being. Through prayer, we not only listen and reflect; we truly are transformed.
Being a Christian
To be a Christian does not only imply merely attending certain religious events, following a moral code, and perhaps picking up the Bible every now and again. The adjective “Christian” isn’t just one amongst many on your Facebook profile. Being Christian implies, precisely, a new way of being. It transforms everything, from the deepest to the most superficial aspects of who you are and what you do. It transforms you because the living Christ continues to transform you by the love he lived on the Cross.
Being Christian implies that you follow Jesus Christ. This “following,” however, is distinct from how one might follow a coach, a role model, or someone guiding you along a path. To “follow” Christ means to “become” like him. Thus, becoming Christian, that life long process of conversion that we must live each day, means that we become another Christ. This is the mystery that we discover in Paul’s words: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20)
Cardinal Ratzinger, during the Spiritual Exercises that he presented to Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1983, follows a similar idea while speaking about prayer.
“To pray in the name of the Son is not a mere formula, not mere words. To have a part in this name requires following a path of identification, the way of conversion and of purification, the road to becoming Son – the actualization, that is of our baptism into lasting penitence. We thus reply to the Lord’s invitation: ‘I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself’’ (John 12:32). When we pronounce the liturgical formula ‘Through Christ our Lord,’ all this theology is present. Day to day these words invite us to the way of identification with Jesus the Son, to the baptismal journey, that is, to conversion and penitence.”
From this, I think it is safe to say that to live out a daily conversion is to make the continuous passage from the words to the reality behind them, from what I say to what I live, from what I say to who I am… To participate in the words of Scripture and the words of the liturgy is to allow ourselves to be inserted into Christ’s life and being.