Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mercy and Grace in the midst of colonial injustice

Last night my wife and I watched The Mission. Although it was made almost thirty years ago and has a very famous musical score I had never seen it before.

It is based partly on true events: in the mid 1700's Jesuit missions to Guarani, indigenous people  in South America, became pawns in a political battle between Portugal and Spain. The Catholic church hierarchy is more concerned with preserving their power and influence than siding with the weak. Unfortunately, this leads to massive slaughter of the Guarani, including un-armed women, children, and Jesuits. It is tragic and depressing.

The movie highlights the convoluted and perverse relationships between Western churches and colonial expansion and ruthless business interests. Money, power  and violence trump humanity, community, and peace.
Questions are raised about whether Christians should use violence to stop oppression and injustice.

But there are a few redeeming moments in the movie.
There is one particularly powerful scene is featured in the Youtube video below.
Mendoza [Robert de Niro] was a slave trader who is trying to do penance for the guilt of killing his half-brother. He carries a burden of all his weapons up the falls to the Guarani who he previously killed and enslaved. He is then confronted by them. How will they react?

We have "killed" and offended God who has the right to judge and condemn. We are burdened by guilt. We sometimes try to redeem ourselves by doing good works. How will God react?
With mercy and grace, forgetting our offenses, and taking away our burden.
Not because we deserve it but because what Jesus did on the cross.

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