When the movie “The Mission” came out, I remember seeing it in the theatre with some friends. And I remember the thought I had regarding the character played by Robert DeNiro, who was a professional soldier who made a living by trapping the natives and selling them as slaves. My thought was such people are so blind to God’s love, they never change.
I was deeply moved to see, however, the repentance and the change come over him in the movie. The penance he levied against himself was to carry his armor by himself up the mountain with the missionaries. Several times he slipped and almost fell, but finally he reaches the top, his strength spent, and totally at the mercy of the natives, who could easily have slit his throat in vengeance. Instead, they cut the rope that bound his heavy burden to him.
It reminded me of Psalm 81: “I relieved his shoulder of the burden.” The reference is of course to God’s setting his people Israel free from their slavery in Egypt, but it is just as valid for us today to hear God’s admonishment, lest we become hardened in our hearts by our sin.
In the reading for this weekend, we are instructed about the attitude we should have before the table of the Lord. David and the Psalmist confess their sins, and the woman in the Gospel has received God’s gift of mercy towards her so she is filled with love and gratitude. The Pharisee, on the other hand, apparently does not perceive or receive the forgiveness being offered him and treats Jesus only as a curiosity.
May we invite Jesus to be the guest of our hearts and the Lord of our lives with true faith, with love and gratitude for the love with which he has loved us and the mercy he has shown us.
Fr. Michael Phillippino