Saturday, November 14, 2009


"But of that day and hour no one really knows..." Matt. 24:36

The movie 2012 - about the end of the world as predicted by the Mayan calendar centuries ago - is a classic disaster movie in the vein of Armageddon, Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, Earthquake, or The Towering Inferno.

And while it might seem odd for a church worker like these, I love watching these disaster flicks. But it's not just for the special effects and epic scale of these movies; it's seeing how humanity reacts whenever they know their imminent doom is approaching.

2012 follows the journey of Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), an incredibly lucky guy in the face of the apocalypse - it's truly amazing how he can outrun earthquakes and volcanos while everyone else just perishes. To put it simply, the planets are in alignment, which means that the sun is erupting in violent ways (why? i don't know...) and thus, the earth is cooking like a microwave - it's plates are shifting and moving at incredibly fast rates, causing turmoil for us earthlings.

But no matter how it happens, from plate tectonics to an alien invasion, asteroid, or global warming, these "the world is ending" disaster movies challenges audiences with the same question over and over again: why will it take Armageddon for us to finally learn how to be loving, compassionate, and merciful towards each other?

Why can't we learn that lesson now - before the aliens, the asteroid, or the erupting sun hurls towards us?

In the first century (just like at the years 1000 and 2000 A.D. and several other occasions), there was a widespread fear of the "end times." Even the disciples of Jesus were caught up in the hysteria, to which Jesus looked at them and said,

"But of that day and hour no one really knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son - no one except for the Father. For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the Flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and going about their days up to the day Noah entered the ark. They did not know it was coming... Therefore stay awake... be prepared! For you do not know on which day the Lord will come again." (Matt. 24: 36-39, 42)

Sadly, the disciples and the early Church didn't get it - and they continued to live in fear that the end was coming tomorrow. When the fear wore off after several centuries, quite sadly, the people (including the Christians) forgot their humanity and we entered the dark ages.

There's a popular saying that goes something like: "Look busy... Jesus is coming!" That seems to be society's mentality - let's wait until the last possible second to start living the gospel; in the meantime, just look busy.

Perhaps as long as society keeps forgetting to be more peaceful, loving, compassionate, and forgiving with one another (on a personal and a global scale), we will keep having disaster movies to keep reminding us of the message: Be prepared, live the gospel, love one another - for you do not know on which day the end will come.

PS: This message hit home for me this week. One of my co-workers suddenly and unexpectedly passed away yesterday. In my reflection on this tragic event, I wondered what my last words were to her or how I treated her in this last week of her life. Was I prepared and did I treat her with gospel compassion and love - or did I forget this timeless message?

Whether the last days are coming in the year 2012 or if they come tomorrow, let us all pray that we will live each day as if it were our last.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

This Is It

"Let the one among you without sin be the one to cast the first stone." John 8:7

Michael Jackson left the world in late June 2009 - his voice silenced for the last time. But his spirit comes alive in This Is It, a film from concert producer Kenny Ortega who, with Jackson, was developing a London concert experience when the artist unexpectedly passed away.

The movie is part documentary and part music video - a delight to anyone who enjoyed Michael Jackson's music, dancing, and ground-breaking concert experiences.

But underneath the songs and choreography is the image of a simple child-like man who just wanted to perform for his fans. While it's true that Michael Jackson has endured much scrutiny in recent years (some deserved, most not), the musician-artist in this video is far from the monster that a number of people have painted him out to be.

Throughout the movie, you can hear Jackson apologizing to the dancers, musicians, and crew, not wanting to offend anyone by his direction - or gently telling others, with utmost sincerity, "God bless you." It seems all he wants to do is love others completely for who they are.

It's evident that the public negativity has affected Michael, despite his genteel demenour. With passion he belts out the troubling lyrics of "They Don't Really Care About Us"... You're raping me of my pride, O for God's sake, I look to heaven to fulfill its prophecy: set me free. These words (and the other haunting lyrics of the song) show us a Michael Jackson beat down by those who just didn't understand him or humiliated him before the world.

The situation that Michael Jackson had to undergo reminds me of the biblical story of the woman caught in adultery. In John's Gospel, the scribes and Pharisees chase an adulterous woman to the feet of Jesus who admonishes the crowd: "Let the one without sin be the one to cast the first stone." (John 8:7). Jesus reminds us that it's easy to point fingers in accusation, to see the speck of wood in another's eyes without tending to the beam in our own eyes (cf. Mt. 7:1-5) - so easy that we forget our place in judgement.

But in This Is It, we see a gentle spirit beaten down from years of hatred - one who responds not with vengence, but with reminders about the environment ("Earth Song"), about racism ("Black or White"), about war ("Heal the World"), about comforting others ("I'll Be There") and about self-reflection and discernment ("Man in the Mirror").

Michael Jackson was not perfect, but through his songs, he was a prophet and an inspiration. Seeing the impact he made on the crew and the other dancers on stage, we can see how he impacted the world for the better, no matter what insults came his way.

Let us all pray that we will be slow to judgement and abundant in kindness, that we might be as blessed as Michael Jackson to make a difference in this world.