This is the homily I gave yesterday in Sacred Heart Edinburgh for the 14th Sunday, Year C.
Four years ago there was a fascinating film released called the Book of Eli (spoiler alerts!). It was set in a post-apocalyptic America and stars Denzil Washington who is on a special mission taking a valuable parcel to a safe spot on the West Coast of America. It is a dangerous mission because post-apocalyptic America is lawless, most of the population are dead, no institutions are left standing, there is no law and order – Just groups of violent gangs – killing and robbing…..
It becomes clear that the parcel our hero is carrying is seen as very valuable. He has to fight off many groups who wish to take it from him, I should warn you that it is quite a violent film. You are left wondering – what is in this parcel that everyone is trying to get ….. well it is a surprise to find out that is only a book….. It turns out that in this post-apocalyptic world many libraries have been destroyed and so there is a community that has based itself on a remote Island – where Alcatraz used to be – and the mission of this community is to try to rebuild a library and thus preserve what is left of human knowledge.
Our hero is trying to get the book to this island – then he encounters a gang who realise how precious this book is…. And for the second part of the film they hunt him down…. In one speech the leader played by Gary Oldham says
Don’t you see? It’s not just any book. It has the power to motivate people. It can give them hope, it can terrify them. It can shape them. Control them. That book is a weapon. Aimed right at the hearts and minds of people, Just imagine what I could do with it.
You might have realised by now that the book that he is carrying is the only surviving copy of the Bible…. His mission is to get it to safety. Another twist is that it comes apparent that our hero is blind – which is a shock when you realise how adept he is at fighting people off. It becomes clear that he has an incredible sense of hearing and also claims he is being led by the light of his faith……. Unfortunately towards the end of the film Gary Oldman’s gang catch up with him seriously wounding him and capturing this precious book. Then the final twist – when the only surviving Bible is delivered to the baddy – he opens it up to find out that is written in Braille…. He can’t understand it …. Meanwhile the wounded hero has just made it to Alcatraz – aware that he is slowly dying – he waves away treatment because he has an urgent task – and the final scene is him lying down surrounded by secretary’s – as he starts dictating the Book of Genesis …. in his long journey across America he has memorised the whole of the Bible.
This film reminded me how we have lost a sense of the power of the Bible – we take it for granted – for many of us we only expose ourselves to it when we listen at mass – and even then sometimes we are only half-listening. Gary Oldman’s character is right – the Bible is dangerous when we take it seriously – The New Testament especially has had a huge impact on shaping the world, even in a secular society – many of our assumptions about justice, about charity, about care, about law – are all hugely formed by the words of the Bible and the New Testament. It truly has changed societies.
Today’s reading about the Kingship of the Messiah – Zechariah’s prophecy of a king who will bring peace, who will make war obsolete, no need for armies. A king who will ride on a donkey – all of this is turning the logic of the world on its head. Then in the Gospel we hear that the message of this King is only fully accepted by those who become child-like – those who become ego-free, not the childish but those who are child-like. A child who can be blissfully happy in a simple environment, who has a sense of wonder as they discover the world, who has a great openness to life, not preoccupied by status, not worrying about the future – it is only with this childlike openness that we can co-operate with grace, that we can help build this Kingdom.
It is also when we set aside our worries and concerns that we can ‘rest’- Jesus says come to me those of you labour and rest – this isn’t just the rest of sleep – there is a deeper rest than that – there is a recreative rest, have you ever seen a child totally absorbed in play? When we put aside things and get caught up in a great conversation, or absorbed by a fascinating game, or listening to sublime music – it is refreshing, and more than physically resting, it recharges our creative batteries – Jesus wants us to come to him and rest – by savouring his word, by having the courage to go into silent contemplation.
If enough of us take the words of the bible seriously – then they these dreams of a kingdom of peace will become a reality , we will change our lives and become more open. Less interested in ‘Rich Lists’ and ‘Celebrity Culture’ and more in rediscovering wonder and having an open heart. And maybe in a frenetic age – we will rediscover how to rest …. In God’s wisdom and in his love. And that would be worth fighting for ……
Book of Eli on IMDB (link)