This weekend, we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension, Christ joining God the Father, and promising to give us the gift of the Holy Spirit. To those who do not understand the reality of the Resurrection, the Ascension likewise makes no sense.
To those who believe that God intends and invites us continually to come to His great feast, death is not the end, and there is a joy possible even amidst great grief, because grief does not reign forever. The people who saw Jesus after His crucifixion understood the reality of death, and what the Resurrection revealed.
At a follow up appointment with my radiologist, the receptionist told me, she’d lost her husband nine weeks ago. She wore his wedding ring on her cross around her neck. I told her I would pray for her and her husband, and she thanked me, and I thought about that reality, that she and I agreed in the course of our exchange, was something other than what reality claims. She knew she would see him again, because she believed in the Resurrection. I knew praying for her, for her husband’s soul, would be efficacious, because God hears all our prayers, and most especially those of the broken hearted –which she clearly was. The sharing of her grief and faith in the momentary exchange, was for her a source of comfort, and for me, a reminder that we are to comfort the mourning.
That revelation is something which this world cannot comprehend or offer. The peace the world cannot give, comes from the God who created everything we can and cannot see, and it is a promise from the God who can never lie, that He loves us from our beginning to forever. His friendship is a forever offering which will burn our souls if we freely, willingly refuse it.
I sat there thinking, the resurrection remains forever odd to everyone other than those of faith. To those who do not know the resurrection or who will not consider the witness of those who ate with Christ, how does God get their attention and how do we witness the reality of this truth that we know only through faith? In the evening, we built a fire and sat watching the stars. We saw meteors and shooting stars, that were the result of a broken up comet. Before learning that, I’d told God, I wanted to see a shooting star with a long trail, and before I’d even finished the thought, we all saw it, a beautiful star with a trail of sparks behind it, a celestial firecracker.
My husband looked up the meteor shower that was visible for the first time, having come from a broken up comet in 1995. Some might consider the scientific explanation as proof it was not God, but God can orchestrate the world to allow a comet to brake up twenty-six years in advance of my throw away wish for a star, just to delight this particular silly soul. God doesn’t mind courting us by even our whims, and is willing to use decades or even eons of time to orchestrate that moment to delight our souls.
I bring this up because we watched “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once” and I thought about all the multiverse series I’ve read/seen over the course of the past ten years without including the Multiverse of Madness. The uptick in stories that focus on creating alternative realities or include multiple realities parallels our deeper dives into the shallow reaches of the internet. We have access to everything, everywhere, all at once –and so our decisions about what to do or not do, carry weight they did not before. Ignorance is no longer necessarily possible –and less so as we age, because again, we have access to everything, everywhere, all at once.
I did see in the film, how those who identify as LGBQTA+ see the absence of their parent’s affirmation as a zero sum consequence that makes death seem preferable. Pope Francis talked about learning how to love and welcome those in our community who identify as “other” in any capacity –that it is our job to welcome, it is God’s job to sift, because He sees beyond what we can see, and knows deeper than we can fathom. Our job is to love them. I didn’t love the film, but I did think it conveyed in a tangible fashion to those of us who might otherwise not understand, how rejection or even feigned ignorance or preserved silence injures, and because of that, I recommended it to friends who I thought also would find that element of the story important. I know that loving my children, however they identify, is my primary role as a parent, teacher, Catholic. Everything else stems from that reality.
It struck me like the stars, like the meeting of the receptionist, that the message of these multiverse films and stories –whether marvel or otherwise, often involve coming to terms with the decisions we make, and the consequences of those decisions. Every film wants the “happy ending,” where the person who transitions from one world to the next, achieves some sort of peace with their past and present and future, and the moral: “Be kind,” (Everything Everywhere, all at Once) or “Know they will be loved,” (Multiverse of Madness). The messages reminded me of, “He spoke to them in parables.” because the world right now cannot bear God being too visible, so He’s peaking at us through beauty, through shooting stars and symphonic performances. He’s presenting his message of love to a secular world via a secular medium, so that people who are serious and worship an unknown God, might come to know Him by how they treat those they encounter and how those they encounter, treat them. The admonishment in the secular films, cuts both ways, whether we are the recipient or the giver.
How do I know this? I look at the world, and the cries out of those in the world in pain. The world still understands and wants people to be courageous, to be merciful, to be charitable, to be good stewards, to be kind in word and deed, to be sacrificial for others –serving, to be a source of comfort to others, to not use people, and to be honest. The world still wants above all, the peace it cannot create by legislation, custom, or community, but only by cooperation with grace. The world waits, hoping more of us will do just that in our everyday lives, to help others know this unknown God by our known actions.
These are values that pattern a person after God’s heart, even if we do not know it is God we serve.