Day #31: Wednesday, April 1

Movie of the Week: The Gospel According to St. Matthew by Pier Paolo Pasolini 1964

Clip: 34:00 – 38:45

Old Testament: Isaiah 61:1-3

New Testament: Matthew 5:1-12

Practice: Reflecting on art

Music: “The Beatitudes” by Hillsong; “Turn My Heart;” “Jesus You’re Beautiful” by CeCe Winans

            Perhaps the best way to describe Pasolini’s Jesus is “intense.” The rapid and sharp cadence of the Italian in which the actors speak probably helps confirm that impression, but I do think his intensity is worthy of our reflection. What other kind of leader could have recruited such a ragtag, diverse group of disciples. The way that Pasolini intersperses some of Jesus’ teaching on discipleship with the calling of the Twelve and then sending them out is a powerfully effective artistic touch.

            The reading from Matthew today offers a sharp contrast to the Jesus pictured in this scene. The meek, the poor in spirit, the merciful . . . the Beatitudes must be seasoned with a picture of Jesus that is driven, committed, and even stubborn. Nothing is going to get in the way of his mission. He lays out a pretty bleak prospect for the disciples: people will hate you; people will ignore you; people will harm you. The call of discipleship is not one to take lightly. Our calling should be seen through the perspective of this Jesus.

            Matthew includes many of the discipleship teachings from Jesus, and Pasolini includes many of them in the film. They deserve our reflection. In his discussion on “cheap grace” in The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer notes, “‘Follow me.’ It was the first and last word Jesus spoke to [Peter.] A whole life lies between these two calls.”[1] Our response to Jesus is our response to his calling us to follow him but following him comes at a cost (thus Bonhoeffer’s title). Too few are willing to pay that price resulting in cheap grace. “The word of cheap grace has been the ruin of more Christians than any commandment of works.”[2] Today, we ask ourselves, “How have I counted the cost of following Jesus?”

            When our family was in Glasgow last summer, we were fortunate enough to catch a quick glimpse of Salvador Dali’s most famous religious panting, “Christ of Saint John of the Cross” in the famous Kelgrove Museum. To fully appreciate the cost of discipleship, we must constantly be reminded of that cost. Dali’s painting powerfully juxtaposes the crucified cross with a boat. It’s hard not to reflect on Jesus’ call to make his disciples and become fishers of men, and to be reminded that Jesus gave his life. Spend some time reflecting on Dali’s famous painting, and if you have some time, research the meaning and significance others have found in it. 

Christ of Saint John of the Cross - Salvador Dali
Christ of Saint John of the Cross – Salvador Dali

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 1963 edition, (New York: Collier Books, 1949), 48. 

[2] Ibid., 59.

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