[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Fifth Sunday of the Year 2005]
Barbara Nicolosi is a screenwriter in Hollywood—and a committed Catholic. I know those may sound like mutually exclusive categories—given what we normally see on television and in the movies—but Barbara is helping to show that they aren’t. In fact, if she has her way there will be many others like her in the entertainment industry in the near future. She’s the founder of an organization called “Act One: Writing for Hollywood.” There she teaches aspiring Christians the art of screenwriting.
Her purpose, of course, is to educate Christians in this skill, so that they can then write good scripts!—scripts with positive moral and spiritual messages—and slowly change the atmosphere in the modern media. Obviously it’s a very worthy goal: to transform “Tinseltown” from the inside. We should all pray that Barbara succeeds.
I mention her today because last week a parishioner sent me a link to a page on her blog site. Let me share with you now some of what she wrote on that page:
The Oscar [Nominations] are out, affirming once again, just how very, very sick America’s storytellers have become. I know many of you are very dismissive of the culture’s storytellers, but that is short-sighted. A country with sick storytellers dreams sick dreams, or doesn’t dream at all. Both are societal suicide.
When Jesus healed, some people called him a demon. Jesus then noted that, “All sins will be forgiven men, except the sin against the Holy Spirit.” The sin against the Holy Spirit, is seeing something that is good, something that God reveals to your inner being as good, and, then, calling it evil. In the same way, we could argue that it is a sin against the Holy Spirit to see something that is evil, and call it good.
So, this year, the top Oscar nominations have gone to . . .
. . . a movie that makes a hero out of a man who murders his adopted daughter.
. . . a movie that makes a hero out of an abortionist.
. . . a movie that makes a hero out of a discredited researcher who was obsessed with sex and encouraged many others to experiment with various perversions.
. . . a movie that lionizes a billionaire narcissist who died insane from syphilis.
. . . a movie that suggests it is funny when an engaged man sets off for a week of debauchery before his marriage with his drunkard best friend.
. . . a movie that glamorizes four alley cats dressed as beautiful people who fornicate and commit adultery with each other, and indulge in various sexual perversions until the movie ends.
. . . a movie that makes a hero out of a paraplegic in despair who wants to kill himself.
The truth is, secular Hollywood had next to nuthin’ this year. Really. Except for “Neverland” and the kids movie “Incredibles,” they got nuthin’ this year to give an award to. Nuthin’ that people will be watching in five years—nevermind in fifty. . . .
What makes this year’s [nominations] even darker is the fact that there was this one big cinematic elephant out there that, as we all predicted, was passed over for all the top awards. This movie was . . .
. . . the biggest independent movie in cinema history.
. . . the third biggest box-office movie of the year.
. . . a movie that moved millions of people to tears, had the entire world talking, and even led several murderers to turn themselves in!
. . . [a movie that was] the most courageous directoral achievement since “Citizen Kane.”
. . . which just happened to be the story of the redemption of the world by the Son of God. Too bad.
Yes, Barbara, it is too bad—much too bad. Although I don’t think Mel Gibson is losing an awful lot of sleep over it.
But it does highlight the importance of our Lord’s words to us in today’s Gospel text from Matthew 5: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
The purpose of The Passion of the Christ was to glorify the Savior, not Mel Gibson. But in order for the Savior to be glorified, Gibson had to be willing to take these words of Matthew 5 very seriously! And for him that meant more than just saying, “I love you, Jesus; I want to bring your light into the world.” For the Savior to be glorified, and for his message of love and forgiveness to go forth to millions of people on the silver screen, Mel had to be willing to take some very difficult risks. First of all, he had to be willing to put his own money on the line ($25 million of it, to be exact); he had to be willing to risk his reputation, his credibility, his popularity—and, ultimately, his career as an actor in mainstream Hollywood films.
That was the price he had to be willing to pay to let his light shine forth for Jesus Christ.
And, to some extent, he did pay a very hefty price by being called everything from an “anti-Semite” to a “religious fanatic” in the mainstream press—even before the film was released! And he continues to pay a price by being snubbed at these awards ceremonies, where he should be “cleaning up”!
I dare say any other movie that was the box office hit that the Passion was would be up for every major award at the Oscars this year! You know it; I know it; Barbara Nicolosi knows it; and the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences know it!
But it isn’t! Yes, they put it up for a few minor awards—no doubt to try to pacify the “religious right”—but not for the ones that matter most, like “Best Picture” and “Best Actor”.
Does Mel Gibson care? On the one hand, I’m sure he doesn’t. But it’s still a big slap in the face from his peers, so it has to hurt him, at least on some level. Lest we forget, he’s a human being like the rest of us.
What price are you willing to pay to let the light of Christ shine in and through you?
Really—what price are you willing to pay?
Are you willing to lose some money, to miss out on some financial gain? Are you willing to give up a few friends? Or a promotion at work? Or some of your popularity?
We know what Mel Gibson was willing to lose.
We can also figure out pretty easily what Barbara Nicolosi has been willing to lose. I’m sure there are many screenwriting jobs she’s been denied in recent years, for the simple reason that she’s a Roman Catholic who takes her faith seriously. That fact has immediately disqualified her! In these instances, those in charge probably didn’t even read her work; they had already made up their minds.
Jesus needs people like Mel and Barbara who are willing to take this Gospel text seriously and be “lights” for others. He needs those who are willing to take the risks and step out in faith. He needs those who will put their Catholic beliefs and principles ahead of their personal desires and preferences.
He needs those, in other words, who are willing to lose what will soon pass away, to gain what will last forever.
Are you willing?
That’s a question I need to ask myself, and it’s a question you need to ask yourself.
May we all give it some very serious thought before we answer.