QUESTIONED BY A MONSTER MOVIE (Mt 21:28-32): Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (28 September 2008)
Someone recently handed me a DVD of “Cloverfield,” a 2008 monster movie produced by JJ Abrams of the “Lost” TV series. I had seen the provocative trailer on the Internet weeks before the release, and wanted to know why its poster showed a headless Statue of Liberty standing before a burning Manhattan skyline. I had been warned that watching it would make you dizzy because of its hand-held camera technique reminiscent of “The Blairwitch Project.” Just the same I watched the movie the first chance I got.
Here’s the story: Jason throws a surprise farewell party for his brother Rob, who’s moving from Manhattan to work in Japan. When an explosion interrupts the party, the guests climb up to the roof to check out the cause, but another explosion in the distance causes a rain of fire and debris, forcing them to run and take cover. Later, when they finally spill into the streets, a large object falling from the sky turns out to be the Statue of Liberty. They barely escape when a gigantic man-eating monster pounds the streets, and they’re crossing the Brooklyn Bridge when the monster slams down on the bridge, killing hundreds including Jason.
In the midst of all the panic, Rob gets a call from his best friend Beth, who tells him that she is stuck in her apartment and needs his help. The phone call is interrupted. The following scenes reveal just how horrible and dangerous the monster is, but Rob and his friends brave the chaotic streets of Manhattan and its subway tunnel, battling parasites from the monsters and foregoing a helicopter ride out of Manhattan, in order to rescue Beth.
You’ll have to watch the rest of it to see how it ends, but this movie left me much more shaken than I had expected–not so much because it was scary, but more because it left me with a number of disturbing questions. Would I do the same thing if I were Rob? Of course I’d like to say that I would also most certainly rush back to rescue my friend! Who wouldn’t, right? But would I? Would I really forego that helicopter ride to go back for a friend who I’m not even sure is still alive?
What struck me most about Rob’s decision was that he went back even if he wasn’t sure if there was even any point in going through all the trouble and risking his life and his friends’. The odds were immensely against him. Should I find myself in such a situation, confronted with the danger of losing my own life, wouldn’t I be too paralyzed with fear, probably barely able to make it to the helicopter to save my own life?
In today’s gospel, our Lord teaches us that what matters is not what we think or say that we will do, but what we actually do. In the parable of the two sons, the first tells his father that he isn’t going to do what his father has asked, but later changes his mind: He goes ahead and does it. The second son, on the other hand, is all words, promising his father that he would go, but changes his mind too and ends up not going at all.
No two sons can be more different, but we each have both of them in ourselves, representing the talker and the doer in us. Our Lord is looking for the doer in us, not the talker. After all, it is our decisions and actions–not our words, not even our good intentions–that ultimately shape our souls.
So here’s a Quick Question for you: When it comes to doing God’s Will, which of the two is the more predominant one? In other words, are you more a talker or a doer? It’s worth thinking about. And if you feel up to it, share a thought, a feeling, or even a question.
Note: Here’s the trailer of the movie, “Cloverfield.”