Monday, September 24, 2018

Jesus and Gehenna (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's video is now out!  Check out the intro below and you can subscribe over at Catholic Productions to watch the full version.  Thank you.

Catholic Productions' notable quote from this week's video:

"Before I jump into the Gospel, just as a preface: I think it’s really important to notice that although in our own day and time the topic of hell — the idea of eternal separation from God — has become very unpopular, it’s important to remember that in the Gospels — if you look at the New Testament and the Gospels as a whole — Jesus actually speaks about the fires of hell, the punishments of hell, and the reality of Gehenna more times in the Gospels than the rest of the New Testament combined.  So, this really an important issue in the teaching and preaching ministry of Jesus Christ.  And, so it needs to be important for us as well, however unpopular it might be."



Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Why Being Good Doesn't Pay: 25th Sunday of OT


When I was younger, especially from high school through my early days as a Protestant pastor, I had this strong sense that if a person always did what was right, “things would work out.”  That is to say, righteousness was the path to the good life.  God would pave the way in front of the person that does his will. 

There is some truth to that, of course.  A great deal of interior and exterior suffering is cause by our wicked and selfish choices.  When I used to work as an urban missionary, occasionally I would have the chance to witness a fairly significant conversion in the life of a person who had been living a life basically consisting of criminal activity.  Sometimes there would often be a “honeymoon” period after the person’s conversion, as so much stress and sadness in their life faded away as they stopped making evil choices.  

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Second Passion Prediction (The Mass Readings Explained)

This Sunday's video is now available over at Catholic Productions.  Check it out and subscribe today if you haven't already.

Catholic Productions' Notable Quote from this week's video:

"The description of this suffering righteous man in the Book of Wisdom is strikingly similar to what we see of Christ in the New Testament.  The most important part being here is that the righteous man calls himself “God’s Son.”  The reason that’s so critical is that in the Old Testament “Son of God” is a term that gets applied to the angels as a group.  It gets applied to Israel as a group — they are the “sons of God.”  But, whenever it’s applied to an individual, it’s exclusively applied to the King of Israel…  So, when the Wisdom of Solomon uses the language of a suffering, righteous, Son of God, it’s also a Messianic context.  So, this is about a coming Messiah who’s going to suffer, who’s going to be persecuted, and who’s going to die."



Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Paradox of Discipleship: The 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 
We have been getting a number of rousing challenges from Jesus in the past several weeks, as our readings have followed the progress of his ministry, and Jesus repeatedly makes clear that following him is not going to be easy in any way.  This Sunday we get another challenge from Jesus to “fish or cut bait” in our relationship with him.  Paradoxically, however, if we think we are going to preserve our lives and comfort by turning away from him, Jesus warns us: long term, that’s a bad strategy.

1.  Our First Reading is one of the Servant Songs of the Book of Isaiah:

Monday, September 10, 2018

Discipleship and Self-Denial (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's video is now out for The Mass Readings Explained.

Catholic Productions' Notable Quote from this week's video:

"Notice what Jesus is saying.  Not only will he be a suffering and crucified Messiah, but he calls his disciples to imitate that life.  He calls his disciples to also, in a sense, be crucified — die to this world and live for the kingdom.  The whole Church is supposed to be cruciform in its shape.  It’s not that Jesus dies on the cross so that I don’t have to.  It’s that Jesus takes up his cross so that I have the grace and the power to do the same in my own life … and in my own walk of discipleship.  …You can believe in Jesus without ever getting into the question of suffering.  But you cannot be a disciple of Jesus apart from self denial and the cross.  That’s what he’s saying here."




Friday, September 07, 2018

To See and To Hear: 23rd Sunday of OT


The reality of sight and hearing are a great mystery that natural science has difficulty explaining. 

Robots, of course, can be equipped with sensors to detect sound and light, and react in various ways to audio and visual stimuli.  But a robot cannot “see” or “hear” in the way that a human person does.  A robot cannot create the visual field that each of us “sees” when we open our eyes.  A robot can sense the frequencies of sound but cannot feel the harmonies of Mozart or experience the sensations of good music.  A robot is not conscious.  True sight and hearing are experiences of consciousness, of the mind.  Without the gift of the mystery of consciousness, everything is blackness and silence.  When God breathed into Adam the “breath of life” and gave him the gift of consciousness, then light and sound came into being for the first man.

To hear and to see are mysterious gifts of the creator God.  In this Sunday’s readings, we are invited to ponder more deeply the different senses of what it means to be blind and deaf, and how Jesus can heal us of these maladies.

1.  Our First Reading is from Isaiah 35:4-7:

Friday, August 31, 2018

Jesus Makes the Law More Demanding: 22nd Sunday of OT


It’s commonly thought that Jesus came to make things easier on everyone, and relax the moral laws that the Pharisees kept so rigidly.  So the Pharisees become the image of hated religious conservatives, people who think that there actually is right and wrong which doesn’t evolve with changing times.  

The truth is a little more complicated.  In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus teaches on the nature of God’s Law.  It is not that God’s Law is not demanding or that it changes with time.  God’s Law, however, does not consist primarily in do’s and don’ts of external behavior, as important as that can be.  It is primarily a rule of the soul, a guide for our interior person, which then reflects itself in our actions. 

1.  Our First Reading is from the introductory chapters of the Book of Deuteronomy.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Does This Shock You? The 21st Sunday in OT


There are many times in life when circumstances force you into making a decision that has lasting consequences.  There are times when you have to decide whether to accept an offer on your house or turn it down, whether to take a job or decline it, whether to propose marriage—or accept a proposal—or enter religious life.  Often we don’t want to decide, yet circumstances force us, and even not deciding will constitute a kind of decision.  These are stressful times, times of crisis.  The readings for this Sunday likewise put us in the position of having to decide whether we are going to trust God and his Word, or cast off on our own, trying to find salvation somewhere else.  

Our First Reading recounts Joshua putting the people of Israel into a "crisis" in which they must decide to follow the LORD:

Monday, August 20, 2018

Many of Jesus' Disciples Left Him - John 6, Part 5 (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's Mass Readings Explained video for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time is now out.  You can check it out below or subscribe here if you aren't subscribed and would like to see the full version.



Friday, August 17, 2018

The Feast of Wisdom: 20th Sunday of OT


Every Catholic should take the time at some point in their life to watch “Babette’s Feast,” a beautiful movie about a French cook in Denmark who wins the lottery and spends her entire earnings on a lavish feast for the two old spinsters she works for, and all their friends.

Babette’s Feast was an obvious and intentional Eucharistic allegory, and one can’t help thinking of it while reflecting on the readings for this Sunday (20th of Ordinary Time), which are all closely united by the themes of eating, wisdom, and thankfulness.

1.  Our first reading is taken from Proverbs 9:1-6:

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Bread of Life Discourse II - John 6, Part 4 (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's video for the Mass Readings Explained is now out.  Check it out below.  You can subscribe here and get a 14 day free trial if you'd like to see what this series is all about.


Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Strength for the Journey: 19th Sunday in OT


In J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, the hero Frodo, a hobbit or “Halfling”, while on his long and arduous journey through the land of shadows governed by the Satan-figure Sauron, finds sustenance in lembas, the elven-bread given to him by Galadriel the elven-queen in Lothlorien, the mystic land of the Elves.  Each loaf of lembas is round and flat and tastes slightly of honey, and strengthens a man enough for a day’s journey.  While wandering with his faithful companion Samwise Gamgee in a land of monsters, demons, goblins, and giant spiders, Frodo stays alive on the sweetness of the elf-bread that breathes the odor of the golden woods and the beauty of the elf-queen.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Bread of Life: 17th Sunday in OT





This weekend we begin a five-week stretch of meditation on John 6, a kind of summer Eucharist-fest that comes around every three years.  The rationale for this is that we are in Year B of the Lectionary, which covers the second Gospel, the Gospel of Mark.  Now, Mark is the shortest of the Gospels, so in order to fill it out, the Church inserts John 6 into the middle of the Lectionary readings, near Mark 6, which recounts the same event, the Feeding of the 5,000.  John’s account, however, is much longer and includes a long discourse on the theme “Bread of Life” after recounting the miracle itself.  John doesn’t have its own lectionary cycle year, but rather most of the Fourth Gospel is read during Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter or other significant feast days.  John 6, however, doesn’t fit naturally into either the Advent-Christmas cycle or the Lent-Easter-Pentecost cycle, so the Church shoehorns it into the middle of Ordinary Time in Year B. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Feeding of the 5,000 (The Mass Readings Explained)

For the next 5 Sundays, the Church will take us through John 6 in the Gospel readings.  Video 1 was just released for this Sunday's Mass Readings.



Thursday, July 19, 2018

Good Shepherds and the Sheep: 16th Sunday in OT


At this time in the Church year, we are working our way through the Gospel of Mark, approaching the record of the Feeding of the 5,000 (Mark 6).  In the next five weeks, we are going to take a break from Mark in order to meditate on John’s account of the same event (John 6), which will provide a lengthy opportunity to reflect on the theology and biblical basis for the Eucharist.  This Sunday, however, we will only read the introduction of the account of the 5,000, and focus on the issue of leadership for God’s people rather than the Eucharist itself.

1.  Our first reading comes from the prophet Jeremiah:
 Jer 23:1-6:

Friday, July 13, 2018

Unlikely Candidates for God's Service: The 15th Sunday of OT


Ancient Photo of Amos Found Among the Dead Sea Scrolls (colorized)
The readings for this upcoming Sunday are united by the theme of God’s choice of his messengers.  And, as is typical for God, he chooses some unlikely candidates. 

1.  Our first reading is from the prophet Amos 7:12-15:

A Catholic Introduction to the Bible: The Old Testament is Shipping!

The Catholic Introduction to the Bible that Dr. Pitre and I have been working on since 2012 has finally appeared in physical reality!  What you see in the picture is one of the fifty copies that magically appeared on my porch late last night.  I've heard that the printer has delivered them to Ignatius and Ignatius is trying to fulfill the orders as quickly as possible.
This book started with a conversation between Dr. Pitre and myself in a hotel room at what I believe would have been the 2009 SBL Annual Meeting in New Orleans, if I remember correctly.  We discussed the need for a biblical introduction for Catholic major seminarians and masters-level students that was on par with the introductions provided to Protestant seminarians and graduate students.  It took two years to gather the necessary funding and arrange the sabbaticals to have the time to write, but I began the first draft of the Old Testament volume in January 2012.  I would have had it completed by December, but in October of that year the birth of my special-needs son Niklaas, after a high-risk complicated pregnancy, really cut into my productivity and delayed the project, and when I went back to full time teaching in Jan 2013, I could make hardly any progress.  Although I was almost done in December of 2012, just the last two chapters, on The Twelve and Maccabees, took about six months, until around June 2013.  It took Dr. Pitre another year to make his editorial additions (largely the Patristic exegesis portion of each chapter, but many other improvements as well), and in July 2014 we sent the "final" draft to Ignatius Press.  That was about a year and a half later than planned, which caused difficulty with the press, as they had several high-profile books in the works that took priority. The project lay dormant until Spring 2016, when Ignatius began the layout and editing process in earnest.  That involved a great deal of work on the part of Dr. Pitre and I, as multiple drafts went back and forth, cleaning up images and footnotes, revising text, etc.  Finally, at the beginning of 2018, it felt like we were getting close to seeing this become a reality, the "light at the end of the tunnel," and now finally it is out, in time for adoption as a text for Fall classes, for those so inclined.
This book is a labor of love, and if it is long, it is because love wants to linger.  St. Josemaria said, "You think the Mass is long because your love is short."  The same concept applies to this book for those who might think it is too long.  Dr. Pitre and I well understand the need to be succinct and pedagogical, and I challenge any other Bible scholar to write something more succinct than my Bible Basics for Catholics, for example.  However, this book is not for the same audience as Bible Basics.  This is for serious Catholic students, who want to move on from milk to meat, so to speak.  It's written for persons who presumably have a strong grasp of English written rhetoric, some familiarity with the Scriptures, and a strong desire to embrace the Scriptures more fully with mind and heart.
Every single book of the Old Testament is precious to Dr. Pitre and I, and we treated each one with loving care, like a father who proudly lines up his children to introduce each one in turn to a respected guest who has come to visit.  Each biblical book is a universe in itself, and the Gospel can be found in each, though each time painted in different tints and hues.  We hope this book will find a warm reception from Catholics who love and are in love with God's Word, who have the patience and time to sit with the Word and develop a relationship with him.






Monday, July 09, 2018

Jesus Calls the Twelve Apostles (The Mass Readings Explained)

The latest video for this upcoming Sunday's Mass Readings is now out.  Jesus sends his twelve apostles, the prophet Amos is rejected by Amaziah, and the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick are all covered in the Scripture readings for this Sunday's Mass.


Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Neck Stiff? Heart Hard? Get Jesus! 14th Sunday of OT


This Sunday’s readings draw a comparison between three groups: (1) stiff-necked Israelites in the time of the prophets, (2) the townsfolk of Nazareth in the days of Jesus, and (3) you and I sitting in the pew.  The message to us is: repent, and believe the Good News.

1. Our first reading comes from near the beginning of the book of Ezekiel, when that great prophet was receiving his initial call from God:

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Pilgrimage to Holy Land and Qumran, May 16-25, 2019

To coincide with the release of my new book on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jesus and the Scrolls: The Jewish Roots of the Church (Random House; April 2019), I'll be leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with special attention to Qumran and the Scrolls.  The specifics are here. I hope to have an electronic sign-up form available soon.  Till then, you can contact me for a pilgrimage application.


The Goodness of Life: The 13th Sunday of OT


The readings for this Sunday focus on the theme of death, and God’s power over it.  They discuss God’s relationship with, and intentions for, the natural world: topics that resonate with Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment Laudato Si. The first reading poses some issues that have to be discussed:

Reading 1 Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Birth of a Glorious Failure: The Nativity of John the Baptist



This Sunday we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist, a great saint and biblical character who led a very difficult life and ministry. 

In hindsight, the conflict that led to his demise and martyrdom has a strangely modern ring to it: he was jailed by Herod Antipas for speaking out on marriage (Mark 6:17-18).  Specifically, John the Baptist held to the principle of one man, one woman, for life—a theology of marriage founded in Scripture (Mal. 2:13-16) and reflected in the Essene movement at Qumran (CD 4:19–5:2) and in the teachings of Our Lord (Matt 19:3-12).  This got him into trouble with the nation’s chief executive, Herod Antipas, whose own views on marriage had evolved: he had wed Herodias, his divorced ex-sister-in-law, who was also his niece.  John the Baptist said the marriage was unlawful.  Herod invoked executive privilege to have John arrested and detained for expressing his intolerant views on marriage in public.  Eventually, Herod had him beheaded at the request of his wife Herodias’ daughter Salome, who gave a “hot” hip-hop performance for the king and his cabinet that earned her a political favor (Mark 6:14-29).

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Now Seeds, START GROWING!: The Readings for the 11 Sunday of OT


In this week’s Mass readings, Jesus teaches us about himself and the Church using agricultural images.

We have to get re-oriented to what is going on in Ordinary Time of Year B.  The Gospel is moving ad seriatim (sequentially) through Mark.  We are going to read a substantial amount of Mark this year by the end of November, with the exception of the Passion and Resurrection accounts (Mark 14-16), which were already read at Palm/Passion Sunday and Easter.  

The second reading is moving through Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians.  

The first readings for the rest of the year are selections from the Old Testament chosen to complement the Gospel reading.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Thursday, June 07, 2018

The Reality of Satan: 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time



This Sunday we return to Ordinary Time for the first time since February 11.  That was the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, but the seventh, eighth, and ninth Sundays were overridden by Pentecost, Trinity, and Corpus Christi.  So we pick up with the Tenth Sunday in Year B on this Lord’s Day.  We are still near the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, following Our Lord’s early ministry.  On this Sunday, the readings are tied together by the theme of defeating Satan.

1. Our First Reading recalls the sorry introduction of Satan’s influence into human history: Gn 3:9-15:

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Scandal of Divine Intimacy: The Readings for Corpus Christi


This is a truly joyful time of the Church year as we conclude the long sequence from Advent to Pentecost with these great feasts celebrating central truths of our faith: the Trinity last Sunday, and the Eucharist this week, followed by the Sacred Heart on Friday.

One might ask, What is the relationship between the Trinity and the Eucharist?  Why does the one feast follow the other?

There is, of course, a strong inner unity between the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of the Eucharist.  It is striking, for example, that Jesus’ clearest teaching on the Trinity—the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit—is all delivered during the Last Supper Discourse (John 13–17), in the context of the institution of the Eucharist.  In a sense, it is in the Eucharist that the reality of the Trinity becomes most personal to us, and is applied to each one of us.  Yes, we speak of receiving Jesus “body, blood, soul, and divinity” in the Eucharist, but we must remember that in Christ we also receive the Father, for “the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (John 10:38), and the Spirit, who is the bond of love between the Father and Son.  So there is a sense in which the whole Trinity comes to live within us through the Eucharist: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” and, “the Spirit of Truth … dwells with you, and will be in you” (John 4:23 and 4:16).

The readings show us that the Eucharistic meal is the culmination of a tradition of sacred covenant meals throughout salvation history.

1.  The first reading is Exodus 24:3-8:

Monday, May 28, 2018

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity


This coming Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  While the Trinity might evoke a “Ho-hum, don’t we know that already …” response from many Catholics, the doctrine of the Trinity is essential to—and distinctive of—the Christian faith and is vital to our daily prayer and walk with God.  The doctrine of the Trinity touches on who God is; if one has this doctrine wrong, one has the wrong idea of God and may in fact be worshiping a god who does not exist.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Feast of Pentecost!


(For a better biblical-theological understanding of Pentecost, it’s best to read the commentary on the Vigil readings below.)

Now let’s turn to the Readings for Pentecost Sunday Mass during the Day.

The First Reading is, finally, the account of Pentecost itself, from Acts 2:1-11:

The Vigil of Pentecost: Gathering the Family of God




Pentecost is a very important feast in the liturgical life of the Church, and it has it’s own vigil.  Not only so, but the Readings for the Vigil are particularly rich.  I cannot think of another that has such a wide variety of options, for example, for the First Reading.  Even though only one First Reading will be proclaimed in any given Mass, it is well worth pondering them all, in order to come to understand the significance of Pentecost more deeply:

The First Reading Options for the Vigil:

Monday, May 14, 2018

Pentecost (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's Mass Readings Explained is now out.  You can check it out below and subscribe here to get your 14 day free trial.



Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Royal Priesthood: Readings for the 7th Sunday of Easter

(Readings for Ascension Day are below)


Those of you fortunate enough to live in a diocese where the Ascension is observed on its proper Thursday will be able to hear proclaimed this Sunday the proper Readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter.  Pre-empting this Sunday by the Solemnity of the Ascension is a bit unfortunate, because it damages the pattern of the Lectionary.  During the later Sundays of Easter, we read from the Last Supper Discourse (John 13-17), culminating in the Seventh Sunday, on which we read the grande finale of the Last Supper Discourse, namely the High Priestly Prayer (John 17).  Ironically, although John 17 is important enough that it is read on the final Sunday of Easter in all years (A,B,C), due to the transference of Ascension Day, this remarkable and beautiful chapter—the longest prayer of Jesus recorded in Scripture!—is never read at a Sunday Mass.  A passage that the framers of the Lectionary wished the faithful to hear every year is thus never heard.  Hopefully some kind of adjustment will be made in the future. 

God Mounts His Throne with Shouts of Joy: The Readings for Ascension Day




In the Diocese of Steubenville, as well as in most of the USA, Ascension Day is observed this Sunday.  I wish the traditional observance on Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter was retained, but reality is what it is.

Therefore, this weekend we will look at the powerful readings for Ascension Day. 

Monday, May 07, 2018

Jesus Prays for Unity (The Mass Readings Explained)

This weeks Mass Readings Explained is now available for the 7th Sunday of Easter.  In it we discuss Jesus' prayer for unity among his disciples and the casting of lots in Acts to replace Judas with Matthias.


Saturday, May 05, 2018

Mary Arose!

Although it is the Easter Season and this might be more appropriate for Passion Week, I thought I'd share this beautiful song, "Qamat Mariam," ("Mary Arose"), sung by Fairuz, who is something like the Celine Dion or Barbara Streisand of Lebanon.  It was sent to me by someone who spent 8 years in a Syrian Catholic monastery, serving the Syrian Catholic community.  


Here is the English translation:

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

All You Need is Love! 6th Sunday of Easter


In 1967 the Beatles wrote and performed a song for one of the first world-wide TV broadcasts called, “All You Need is Love.”  It became a classic and as late as the 1980’s I can remember working on the trombone line of an adaptation of it for high school band.  It’s one of a number of Beatles songs where they stumbled on something true out of their Christian heritage, without understanding the full implications.  In fact, they actively distorted the real implications.

Be that as it may, “All You Need is Love” could serve as the theme for this Sunday’s readings, but as we will see, the Readings define “love” in a far more demanding way than the Beatles would have. 

1.  The first reading is the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Roman centurion, Cornelius:

Thursday, April 26, 2018

How Do You Know That You Are Saved? 5th Sunday of Easter


Back in the nineties, when I was serving as an urban pastor/missionary in West Michigan, I did a lot of door-to-door and contact evangelism.  I was trained to talk with people and hone in on their assurance of salvation: the key question was, “If you died tonight, are you sure you would go to heaven?”  This would often lead to a follow-up where I would share some Scriptures with them that seemed to show that you could know with certainty that you were saved provided you “believed” in Jesus. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Book on Work Comes Out

I was delighted to find in my mail today my contributors copy of the book Work: Theological Foundations and Practical Implications (eds. R. Keith Loftin & Trey Dimsdale; London: SCM Press, 2018).

I was given the opportunity to write the first chapter of the body of the book (after the intro), on the theology of work in the creation narratives and the Pentateuch. 

This was a lot of fun, as the other contributors included luminaries like Miroslav Volf (Yale), Jay Richards (CUA), J├╝rgen von Hagen (Bonn) and Darrel Bock (Dallas Seminary).

I thoroughly enjoyed writing the chapter, and am indebted to my colleague Jeff Morrow, who has written several similar essays.  As is often the case, I started off with some ideas I knew were present in Genesis 1-2, but as I pursued those themes through the canon, many new insights arose that I had never seen before.  Human work is an important theme in Scripture and is an integral part of salvation.  I really encourage economists, theologians, Bible scholars, and those interested in social justice to pick up a copy of this essay collection.

Cajetan and His Continued Relevance

A student who is something of an expert on Cardinal Cajetan sent me a brief essay that I found very edifying and relevant for Catholic believers soldiering forward nowadays in this valley of tears, so I thought I'd share a portion of it:

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Scandal of Jesus: The 4th Sunday of Easter


The readings for this Sunday’s Masses are truly “scandalous” in more ways than one. Our English word “scandal” comes ultimately from the Greek skandalon, “a stumbling block.”  A “scandal” is something that causes people to “stumble,” i.e. that offends or injures them in some way.  As we will see, the exclusive claims made for and by Jesus in the readings for this Sunday are scandalous to the “inclusive” and “diverse” culture we live in today, which does not recognize the possibility of a religious truth binding on all humanity.


1.  The first reading is Acts 4:8-12:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Salvation History as a Good Movie: The 3rd Sunday of Easter



One of my favorite movies is M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs.”  It’s a cross between Robert Benton’s “Places in the Heart” and Roland Emmerich’s “Independence Day,” and probably a couple other movies I’m forgetting at the moment.  Anyway, one of the marked features of the movie is its foreshadowing.  Shyamalan introduces all sorts of strange themes associated with the different characters who surround Fr. Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), an (Anglican?) priest who’s lost his faith and left his ministry: the strange last words of his dying wife, his brother’s obsession with hitting home runs, his son’s asthma, his daughter’s water-drinking compulsion.  The significance of these motifs does not become clear to the viewer until the final scenes, where one discovers that a strong hand of Providence was guiding the life of Fr. Hess through it all.