I have a tendency to watch movies years after they are in the theaters, so my reviews are rarely timely. Now that it is 2020, Silence has been out for several years and everyone has already given their take on it. In short, allow me to offer some reflection why I believe any one of us are no different than the Apostate Priest, Rodrigues.
Yes, any one of us can be holier-than-thou and not only fall from grace, but live an entire life devoid of it. Turning from God, cursing God, and denouncing Him. Repeating our apostasy again and again, by word and deed. That can be any one of us, going to our death beds offering no prayers for forgiveness, being buried in the Buddhist matter–but unbeknownst to all clutching onto a pathetic little cross. There is just a shred of true faith that the cares of this world and its pains have not taken away.
I am sure Scorsese’s point was that even Judas himself could be saved–that a sliver of faith gives us hope. Many Christian interpreters, whether they are holier-than-thou or not I do not know, denounce the ending of the movie for the opposite reason. The man is an apostate, he broke the first most important commandment (to love God with all one’s heart) in order to follow the second (to love one’s neighbor as oneself.) There is no way he can be saved because of his continued apostasy–“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His glory” (Luke 9:26). The saints even encouraged their own children to die rather than apostatize (2 Macc 7).
I can speculate that maybe a “Godly suicide” akin to what we see in 2 Macc 14:41-43 would be a way out for someone subject to the physical and psychological torture of Father Rodrigues. Even apostatizing can be given some sort of Biblical merit given the circumstance. The desire to be damned in order to save others is commended by Saint Paul himself: “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people” (Rom 9:3). I have my doubts the Church blesses the former and also by doubts that we are every really posed with a situation like the latter. Even in the movie, the persecutions were ceaseless. No one was ever really saved by the apostasy of another.
Further, I very much doubt anyone who has given himself over to sin, such as apostasy, would be blessed with even a shred of grace to hang onto a cross like Father Rodrigues. So, the movie poses us with a situation that would never happen.
But, this is my mind speaking and not my heart. My heart tells me something different. When I see Father Rodrigues’ ignominious end, I cannot help but see that the pathetic man clinging onto the cross surrounded by his sin is any one of us.
We are the apostates. We apostatize daily. Foremost, we pride ourselves on not being apostates. However, we forsake even ourselves by our sin of pride.
We apostatize by not fasting. Here we are, in our comforts, rewarding ourselves sumptuously for our own sin. Our life of comfort destroys more souls than persecution.
We apostatize whenever we do not turn the other cheek.
We apostatize by not trusting God to be our provider.
We apostatize by solving our relational problems through actions and words, but not by patience.
We apostatize by being late for worship, by ignoring the ones we love, by contemplating temptation–we forsake Christ all the time.
Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the Law, which commands, “You shall be blameless before the Lord your God” (Deut 18:13). We daily do not offer Christ what He daily offered on our own behalf.
How many of us would be willing to die for Christ, under sustained psychological and physical torture–when we cannot say no to our stomachs, turn the other cheek when hearing a false accusation, and exercise trust in His provision? The man who cannot survive a small degree of hunger or a little insult cannot possibly survive persecution.
How can we judge the apostates when our whole lives serve as evidence for daily apostasy?
In reflection upon all of this, I can only think of how our only salvation is throwing ourselves at God’s feet and beg for mercy.
We can take some comfort in this one thing–the grace of God to accomplish the impossible. “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). God can bless us with the gift of perseverance, and it is not our own, it is the gift of God.
But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak, for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you (Matt 10:19-20).
So, let’s look at the body of Father Rodrigues’ in the funeral pyre and shudder. We must remind ourselves who we are and then daily pray for the grace to have sincere, undying faith in Christ.
It is us buried in the pagan funeral pyre clinging onto the crude cross.