Saturday, July 25, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

"He who fears the Lord honors his father and serves him... Even if his mind should fail, be considerate towards him, and with all your strength, do not revile him. For kindness to a father will not be forgotten - it will serve as an offering to God and take lasting root." Sirach 4:7, 13-14

For six years, Harry Potter has struggled to find (and keep) a father figure since learning about the tragic death of his parents to save his life. Characters like Hagrid, Lupin, and Sirius Black have served as temporary guardians over the course of six films, but none has had the lasting impact as Hogwarts Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore.

In this sixth movie, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Price, Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) has decided to stop the games and start sharing important lessons and memories with Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) - so to prepare him for what must come next.

Up until now, Harry and the Headmaster have had a challenging relationship. In past years, Dumbledore stayed distant from his prize student to protect him from harm - although Harry incorrectly interpreted this as indifference. Now in Harry's sixth year as a student at Hogwarts, Dumbledore must become the father figure and mentor that Potter deseprately needs.

This caused me to think back to the teachers and father figures in my own life - the people who have passed on their wisdom through their words or deeds.

I recall the charismatic pastor of my church growing up, who exemplified what it means to serve others and lead with inspired vision. He baptized me as an infant and was a powerful presence in my childhood and adolescence - and remained a role model in my young adult years. Sadly, he passed away a short while ago. What I regret is that I am no longer able to learn from him or watch his example. That priviledge I enjoyed as a youth has been taken away from me.

What role models and mentors do you have? Who has had a profound impact on you? And who continues to make a difference in your life story? - in other words, who is your Dumbledore? As you reflect on this, ask yourself if you spent enough time "at the foot of the master," whoever that might be for you. Are you living up to being the person that your role models and father figures would expect of you?

On the flip side, are you a Dumbledore to someone else? Perhaps you are, but don't realize the mark you have made on others' lives. How have you helped someone else, and even more importantly for you, what have you learned from those you lead?

In addition, when people come to you with questions or the desire to be guided, do you shut them off or do you embrace that relationship? From my personal experience, I have had other role models in my life who have been "too busy" to teach me. This has caused me some distress and uncertainty - so if you find yourself doing that to someone, be sure to heal those wounds.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, The Book of Sirach (a lesser-known work found in Catholic Bibles and in the Apocrapha of Protestant ones) talks about the lessons of one generation to the next. In it, the author states: "He who fears the Lord honors his father and serves him" (Sirach 4:7). Honoring past generations and teachers is key for those of all ages.

"Even if his mind should fail him, be considerate towards him, and with all your strength, do not revile him," says the author - bringing to mind a key climactic scene in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. "For kindness to a father will not be forgotten - it will serve as an offering to God and take lasting root." (Sirach 4:13-14)

Be kind to the generations who have gone before you. Learn from them. If you have a mentor or father figure, cling to them and listen to what they have to say. If you do not have such a person in your life, find one before they pass by. And if you have lost touch with that teacher, reconnect before it's too late.

I wish I had another moment with the one in my life who passed away too soon. But God has given us memories to guide our way when we're on our own. Like diving into the Headmaster's Pensieve in the movie, take time to reflect on the past and continue learning from it. As Sirach says, let it take lasting root - and you will be forever changed.

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