Posted April 2, 2004
The Movie -- Thinking of You
By Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick
I finally did get to see "The Passion of the Christ." Actually, I saw it last Sunday afternoon with our vocation directors and some young fellows who are discerning a priestly vocation. I knew that I was going to write you about it, so from the very beginning I tried to keep track of my thoughts and emotions. I really wasn't able to do that, since I found myself swept up in the awesome story of love and sacrifice that we all know so well and that was portrayed so movingly.
After the film is over, there is a long series of credits, mentioning just about every name of anyone who was involved in the production. I was glad for those few minutes. They gave me a chance to come back from the emotions of that awesome narrative and as the house lights went on again to relocate myself in the world of today. I found the presentation of the passion of Jesus to be powerful and moving. For anyone who has meditated on the events of those terrible hours, it was a meditation come to life.
I cried a little; I closed my eyes at the somewhat overdone scenes of the brutality of the Roman soldiers; I followed the wonderfully sensitive portrayal of Mary with concentration and affection; I was deeply touched by the portrayal of the centurion's conversion at the cross. All of us came away from the theater silent and reflective and needing time to sort out our thoughts.
I did not find it anti-Roman or anti-Semitic. I would be very troubled if anyone went away from the film with hatred in his heart. As many Catholic reviewers have already said, the movie invites all of us to see our own guilt and sinfulness in the redeeming death of Christ. It is true that the depiction of the role of some of the Jewish leaders was harsh and critical, but they are presented more as angry and suspicious individuals rather than as representatives of a race or an ethnic group. Someone who left the film with a grudge against anyone except himself would have missed the whole point of the picture and indeed the whole point of the Gospel. What a terrible denial of God's love that would be. I found myself saying during the portrayal of Christ's suffering, "Lord, I have done this to You. Be merciful and forgive me."
Although I would not recommend it for children because of the extreme cruelty that it portrays, it was a good meditation for me. Since I had been thinking of you as I was watching it, you can be sure that I thanked the Lord many times over for His passion and death by which you and I are released from sin and given the grace to live a good and holy life.