Six years ago, director Martin Scorsese released a film called Silence. Based on a novel by Shusaku Endo, the film was a fictional story about 17th century Portuguese Jesuits who travel to Japan in search of a missionary member of their order who has renounced his Christian faith. The film was a passion project for Scorsese. It was not widely distributed or widely seen, despite its universal theme of keeping faith in hostile situations and dangerous places.
Actor Andrew Garfield had one of the leading roles, playing a priest committed to his vocation. When interviewed, Garfield admitted that he was completely unchurched when he accepted the part. He knew next to nothing about Christianity, so he contacted a priest and asked the priest to help him engage the spiritual exercises of St. Ingatius of Loyola (the founder of the Jesuits).
Although nervous at the start of that process, Garfield’s professional experience gave him a foundation from which to begin. He said that acting prepared him to engage the exercises, which include imagining oneself in Biblical scenes in order to gain insight into the will of God. “There were so many things in the Exercises that changed me and transformed me, that showed me who I was…and where I believe God wants me to be” he said, adding that the most remarkable thing about the work was “falling in love, and how easy it was to fall in love with Jesus.”
As we prepare for the great festival of Easter, may our Lenten observances (whatever they are) take the form of opportunity rather than chastisement: opportunity to tell the truth, the whole truth about ourselves, knowing that God understands us and God forgives us. Opportunity to fall in love with God in Christ, again or for the first time, with the assurance that God loves us so very much.