Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Lesson In How to NOT Promote Ecumenism

We are hoping that:
If you enter here as a tourist, you would exit as a pilgrim.
If you enter here as a pilgrim, you would exit as a holier one.
                                               Words on a sign near the entrance to the Church
                                                     of the Nativity, in Bethlehem, quoted in
                                                 Jesus: A Pilgrimage, by James Martin, SJ (2014)

I don’t think I was totally naive in believing that something like this could be a realistic hope for a meeting of over 200 people (bishop, priests, nuns, lay people) meeting to discuss evangelization in the Diocese of Tlapa, here in the mountains of Mexico: that we might all emerge from the meeting just a little bit holier.
Some participants in the diocesan meeting
But I confess that I was shocked on Tuesday evening after Father David (name changed to protect the guilty) showed a two-hour movie, Jesus of Nazareth according to the Gospel of Luke, that was narrated totally in Nahuatl, one of the three native languages that is very common in the diocese.

After the movie, the following conversation ensued between Father David and the audience:

Father David: “Did you like the movie?”

Audience: “Yes, it was great.”

“Did you notice what was missing in the crucifixion?”

“What do you mean by ‘missing,’ Father?”

“Do you want to see that part again?”

“Sure, Father.”
A participant in one of the liturgies
Father David returned to the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion and showed everyone the final moments of Jesus’ life. Then he started up the conversation again:

Father David: “Did you notice this time what was missing?”

Audience: “No, Father? What was missing?”

“Where was Mary? Did you see her at the foot of the cross?”

“Oh, Father, we’re not sure.”

“OK, I’ll show the crucifixion scene again.”
A seminarian (Miguel) helping in the kitchen to prepare pozole for all participants
Father David showed the crucifixion scene once again. Then he asked:

Father David: “Did you see Mary at the foot of the cross?”

Audience: “No, Father, we didn't.”

“Do you know why you didn't see her?”

“No, Father. Why?”

“Because this movie was made by Protestants, and they don't like Mary. So they took her out of the movie.”

“Oh, Father, how terrible! How can those darn Protestants be so devious and deceitful?”

I couldn't take it any longer. I raised my hand and got permission from Father David to speak:

Mike: “I don’t think that we can blame the Protestants for removing Mary from the foot of the cross here.”

Audience: “Why not?”

“Does anyone remember the title of the movie?”

“Yes, it’s Jesus of Nazareth according to the Gospel of Luke.”

“Yes, everything in the movie is taken from the Gospel of Luke. Does Luke place Mary at the foot of the cross?”

“We don’t know. Does he?”

“Does anyone have a Bible here?

“Yes, here is one.”

“Could you please read what it says in Luke 23:49.”

A reader read: “But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”

Mike: “Yes, that’s why Mary isn't at the foot of the cross. Luke didn't put her there; she is ‘at a distance’ along with other ‘acquaintances.’ The only gospel that has Mary at the foot of the cross is John’s. But this movie is based on the Gospel of Luke. So it’s not the Protestants who removed her; it’s Luke.”

Audience: “Oh, maybe the Protestants aren't as devious and deceitful as we thought they might be. Maybe it’s us that have to know our Bible a little better.” 
Some more participants in the diocesan meeting

We still have a long way to go to promote and live ecumenism in the mountains of Mexico, but my hope is that, at least, we “pilgrims” in that meeting emerged just a little “holier” than when we entered—and just a little bit more open-minded about our non-Catholic acquaintances.

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