Its Oscar fever! Every english movie channel on the tube seems to feature a marathon of the Academy Awarded films from the classics to the latest. Its a movie buff’s haven to be spoilt with choice from ‘Gone with the Wind’ to the ever elaborate ‘Titanic’, & most of these quality films are noticeably over two-hours in duration. So unless you are completely at leisure, its impossible to enjoy an entire film on a working day.
A week ago I caught up upon ‘Dead Man Walking’. It was showing after dinner time, & I had missed a vital half hour of the film. By synopsis, the movie is about a catholic nun who is requested by a criminal on death row to be his spiritual advisor. The accused man was sentenced for having raped & killed a teenage girl and her boyfriend along with an accomplice. Sean Penn plays the arrogant, cold, & typically racist murderer to be executed, while Susan Sarandon does an admirable job of the nun who emotionally connects with both the victim & the condemned. For the short time that I managed to watch the movie, two dialogues caught my attention: First, when the father of the murdered daughter, having refused to forgive the criminal explains to the nun, ‘He doesn’t deserve to be called an animal, even animals don’t rape & murder their own kind’; & the second was when the nun tells the murderer just minutes before the execution that he is a ‘Child of God’ & consequently he breaks down having set aside all his mighty arrogance he held on for so long.
That night during my reflection, I happened to agree with the victim’s father in standing by his decision to punish someone for such brutality. I myself am a protective person, & I have difficulty tolerating my temper against a person who may have misbehaved with any of my younger siblings. The next morning, the dialogues (still fresh in my memory) compelled me to research more into the film. It seems it was an adaptation of a book, based on a real story and authored by the nun herself, Sister Helen Prejean. She highlighted the need to choose life imprisonment instead of capital punishment in order to give the condemned time to return to Our Father. Ironically, the criminal’s last words addressed to the victims’ parents was that he hoped his death would bring them solace. He died peacefully, whereas the victims’ parents continued to live in hate & resentment to the extent that a few years later the father of the victim suffered from a major stroke. It is here I realised that forgiveness is a healing grace which fills you with the courage to live & let go.
It is easy to understand that we are all imperfect & that our Father still loves us. But we have difficulty in fathoming why we need to love those who commit atrocities against us. It was important for me to learn that love is not the fondness or romance displayed in a relationship. It is simply the courage to forgive. It is the grace that sustained King David for his murder, the grace that healed the paralytic man, & the same grace that gives matrimony its sacramental value.
“And if you love those who love you, what good is it? Don’t pagans do the same?” (Mt 5:46)