Sunday, April 05, 2015

The End of the Story

Student assembly, Easter Monday

"We are Easter people”, St. John Paul once said, “and alleluia is our song!”

TV producers would love my wife. Every emotional turn the movie makes, my wife makes that turn with them—highs and lows, joy and sadness--she experiences the whole gamut of emotion right along with the movie. She gets so into it that I tease her sometimes, reminding her that she’s watching a movie in a box in our living room; that she’s not a character in the movie itself. And if the movie ends well, she’s happy. And if ends sadly, it will take her a couple of days to get over it.

That’s why, whenever I’ve seen a movie and she hasn’t, she will ask me: “Will I like it?” That’s code for: “Will everyone live happily ever after?” If I tell her no, then she won’t watch it. "There's too much sadness in real life," she says. "Why would I want more sadness?"  It’s why she likes Disney movies so much.

A few years ago, we were both watching a made for TV movie that neither of us had ever seen, called “Blood Vows,”-- not the title of a movie that my wife would typically risk watching, but it starred Melissa Gilbert from “Little House on the Prairie” fame and a young and dashing Joe Penny, whom my wife liked. The story line is that Melissa Gilbert meets the man of her dreams, Joe Penny, who is fabulously wealthy, mysterious, good-looking, but also, impeccably well-mannered and charming. They get married in a huge, traditional Church wedding, so everything seems to be going well. However, over the next couple of months, Melissa Gilbert begins to realize what the family business is: Joe Penny is the only son of the godfather of the Mafia, and she’s now married into the family, the wife of a crime lord. Having made a blood vow to be faithful in good times and bad, what is she to do? That’s the fundamental conflict of the movie. At first, she tries to live with it, but the more she knows, the more horrified she becomes, and in the climatic scene, on a gazebo in the back yard of the family mansion late at night, Melissa Gilbert tells Joe Penny that she can no longer live this double life, that she loves him, but she cannot condone the family business, and that he’s going to have to make a choice between his family and her. Penny, with love in his eyes, says “Of course I choose you," and they kiss and embrace, when suddenly, a shot rings out and Melissa Gilbert slumps in his arms. The shot pans back, and the viewer sees the gun in Penny’s hand, and you realize he’s killed her. The shot pans back even further to a window in the mansion with a silhouette of the godfather rocking in his chair back and forth. The movie ends instantly and the credits begin rolling. 

My wife was so mad she could barely talk for a week.

I tease my wife, but there’s an important lesson in all of this about human nature: When we know the ending, when we are confident that things will end well, we can endure just about anything. 

Living as Jesus wants us to is a joyful life, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy one. Sometimes, we’ll be ridiculed for it, excluded by others, whispered about. Some times we’ll feel as if others take advantage of us, knowing that however badly treated we are, we’ll not sink to the level of our persecutors and retaliate or seek revenge. Sometimes, it feels like the bad guys win in this world, that the cheaters DO prosper, despite the phrase to the contrary. Sometimes, we wonder what Job from the Bible wondered: Why does God allow bad things to good people?

But God’s answer to that is the resurrection of Jesus. No matter how difficult the story, we know the ending: We, too, will be resurrected one day, and this world of ours, however much it appears that evil triumphs over good, God, ultimately, wins, goodness prevails, He redeems us and saves.

And that’s why, I think, authentic Christians are people of JOY. Think of someone you know who is truly religious—the real deal, not just a pretender. Every such person I’ve met in my life who is that kind of Christian is a person of great joy—optimistic about the future, kind, genuinely interested in how you’re doing, fun to be around. They are convinced, deep in their soul, that yes, life is sometimes difficult, sometimes sad, but that ultimately, sadness doesn’t have the final say. These people approach death with courage, knowing that they’re on the other side of a great homecoming, where they’ll be reunited to those they love, and ultimately meet their final destiny with the Lord. They know the end of the story. 

We, too, should be people of great joy. We, too, know the ending of the story. We are Easter people, and alleluia is our song!


Bad joke for the day: Why do kleptomaniacs have such a hard time understanding puns? Because they always take things literally.

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