This week in the Maronite Church we hear about the people that Jesus appeared to after his Resurrection. On this Easter Monday, the Risen Lord appears to Mary Magdalene. Today I attended Mass and read the Epistle. It happened to be Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). Paul is speaking to them of the Risen Lord:
“Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.”
By coincidence this set the scene in which I watched the newly released movie, Paul, Apostle of Christ. I often attend new Christian movies with trepidation, as at times they have been ordinary. I am glad to report this one is wonderful. At its core is the Christian message, Christ came for our salvation and ultimately our reward will be with Him in his Kingdom.
The movie captures the fears, hopes, anger, faith and anxiety of the early Christian community in Rome being persecuted by Nero.
Paul is wonderful and moving, but some of the lesser characters of the story also shine. Luke, the Physician, Evangelist, writer of the Gospel, scribe of Paul’s letters and author of the Acts of the Apostle, is believable. In the midst of death and persecution, like any of us, he struggles with faith.
The married couple Aquila and Priscilla are endearing. As the elders of a newly formed Christian community, they serve in patience, reason and love. Even though at times they despair, their faith is unwavering, and they are firm in their mission in Christ. In particular their reaction to the young men who insist that they should take up arms and overthrow Nero is clear – that is not Christ’s way and it will not be theirs either.
This is more than a narrative of historical events. It is a story of hope and of love. It serves as reminder of the persecution of the earliest Christians. It was on their bones that the altars of the Church were built. It reminds us that the Church can and has overcome struggles before by using only one weapon – love.
The movie can be a little slow and heavy at times, but in the end, this is not an action movie. It refers to scripture and you can hear the words of Paul littered throughout. The end is stunning.
I took my 13-year-old daughter and I felt it was appropriate for her, but parents should consider carefully whether to take children who are younger as there is blood and some scenes of persecution.
On this Easter Monday I will leave you with another reminder from that Epistle in which Paul is speaking of the Risen Lord:
“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures”