The Mission

This summer I finally watched the classic film The Mission. I was familiar with the soundtrack and believe “Gabriel’s Oboe” may be one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever (I especially like Yo Yo Ma’s recording here).

But the movie has a lot of ugliness in it. I’ll try not to spoil the plot for those who haven’t seen it, but it’s about the political battle surrounding a Jesuit mission in South America. There’s a lot of sin and corruption and murder and exploitation depicted here. And it ends tragically.

However, the most ugly, horrific, atrocious, twisted, despicable, awful scene in that movie surrounds the relationship between the priest – Father Gabriel – and a cold, mercenary slave-trader – Rodrigo Mendoza. Mendoza finds his younger brother, Felipe, having sex with his fiancé he ends up killing Felipe with a knife. He then spirals into a guilt-racked depression. He meets with Father Gabriel and Gabriel asks him,

“So is that it? Is this how you mean to go on?”

“There is nothing else.”

“There is life.”

“There is no life.”

“There is a way out, Mendoza.”

“For me, there is no redemption.”

“God gave us the burden of freedom. You chose your crime. Do you have the courage to choose your penance? Do you dare do that?”

“There is no penance hard enough for me.”

“But do you dare try it?”

Then there is a long and painful sequence in which Mendoza is carrying a weight up the falls to the very tribe that he had been kindnapping from. Some of the other priests press Father Gabriel to lighten his penance. But he doesn’t. Here’s a condensed clip:

Most people find that to be a very moving scene. I say it contains the most evil lie. Where is Jesus Christ in this, his blood, his sacrifice, his finished work on the cross? NOWHERE!! It is man ascending the mountain, atoning for his own sins. It seems so right and good to us, but it is the essence of our warped disease.

“But now [Christ] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26).

Praise God for the gospel! May it be understood aright and shared with a world that has no idea and has so many false gospels.


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