YOU ARE WITNESSES OF THESE THINGS
So about a week or so ago, James Cameron’s mega-hit movie from 1997 Titanic was re-released in movie theaters. With ticket prices being what they are and seemingly more and more people having 40 + inch screen TVs in their homes, its somewhat surprising that a movie 15 years old would make another $47 million dollars in less than three weeks (on top of what was already an astronomical $600 million dollars, just in the US, the first time around) I had assumed when I heard that it was coming back into movie theaters, that the reason for the re-release was with IMAX, 3-D and all these new advances in visual technologies/etc that they wanted to see how it looked with these enhancements. It didn’t occur to me that it was being re-released in time for the 100th anniversary of the actual sinking of the ship. I might have felt slightly embarrassed that I didn’t catch that, but this past week, whatever slight embarrassment I might have had completely disappeared when I read this headline “Yes Virginia, the Titanic was a real thing.”
It seems that, quite a few people hearing the news of memorials surrounding the 100th Anniversary of the tragic sinking of the Titanic which killed 1,500 people – went on their twitters to share some of the following (what did we do before people so self-revealed their stupidity?)
“I didn’t know Titanic actually happened, thought it was just a film.”
“Nobody told me titanic was real...? How am I just finding this out?!”
“The titanic was real holly [that’s not a typo on my end, it actually said holly followed by a word I’m not going to repeat] s--- im never gooing on a cruise,”
“Is it bad that I didn’t know the titanic was real?”
Yes my young twitter friends - it was bad that you didn’t know that! To think that so many people would be so easily confused or misinformed to not know this human tragedy was real is jarring. I mean, the thought that perhaps 100 years from now people could see a movie and think that 9/11 was just a story or a movie seems inconceivable to me.
Which perhaps underscored the importance of something that happened on campus. This past Thursday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. Our friends from Hillel, the Jewish Student Union was selling bracelets that simply said “Never Again.” Thinking about the Titanic story just brought the importance of this to light... In a world where fact and fiction are so strangely mixed together; where with photoshop, or everyone being an amateur-who-looks-professional video editor and all, the line between what is real and what is made up is harder and harder to be distinguished. So the students bearing witness to the horror that was done, the killing of over 6 million of their brothers and sisters (as well as another 5 million non-Jews) is vital to all of us. It’s true, they weren’t there themselves to see what happened. But there hearing the voices of survivors - whether immediate family members or passed down from other family members – there is an intimacy, a way of “knowing” that is far more convincing than simply books, movies and pictures. They testify to the horror that they have a direct connection to, and give voice to the blood of those innocents, crying out to us removed by these events only by decades ”NEVER AGAIN” to allow such evil atrocities to occur.
There’s something vitally important to being witnesses to things. To not simply memorizing a story, getting some facts and details down, and repeating it. Sadly, the Titanic tragedy has become so romanticized due to the tragedy being the setting to a fictitious story one of the biggest blockbusters in movie history - the fictitious story became more remembered then the real story. Those who suffered through the atrocities of the Holocaust have recognized the importance that humanity doesn’t forget what humanity did to it’s own people. So the horrors and atrocities are remembered through the testimony of witnesses. (Perhaps that’s why the powerful, yet fictitious film Life is beautiful was not as well received as the historically based movie Schindlers List)
In today’s Gospel, on this third Sunday of Easter - this third week where we continue to celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead, the Gospel contains a line that seems to stand out. We can get lost in yet another exciting account of Jesus appearing to the disciples after being risen from the dead. How he stands in their midst, offers them his gift of Peace and inviting them to touch, see, know that he was indeed really there before them, alive in the flesh. Yet there’s one line that Jesus says that stands out :
You are witnesses of these things.
That could be read as a statement or acknowledging a fact or maybe it’s something more, a revelation, a command: You are witnesses of these things... Yes, he entrusts to his disciples the vital task of not simply telling his story, not just passing along details. He calls them to be invested themselves in the story. Putting their voices, their names and reputations, their lives to the story - to His story. And throughout 2,000 years His message, His Gospel, His very Life has been made real through the Church from generation to generation to generation. Yes, costing people their very lives - whether in martyrdom where people were slaughtered for His name or in laying down their lives in service, in devotion to Him. Being witnesses of these things.
In all the excitement that we as Newman Catholic have been experiencing this last week and a half since our being chartered as a Class I organization of the Student Government Association - which we rightly give thanks to Almighty God from whom all Blessings flow and for whom we do all that we do – there’s an element that is so important that in the hoopla, in the joy, in the Ice-cream cakes and pizza - that I don’t want any of us to miss.
Newman Catholic is at it’s best not when we throw a Pool Party or a Barbeque (or God Help me) a Princess Party. We are something far more important than this honor, we are at our best when we are witnesses to Jesus Christ. When we testify by our lives the importance of Christ crucified and risen. When we witness to the life, the love, the joy, the peace, the light that He brings to us here and now in this place, on this campus. When we speak in small ways, in big ways - in all ways to fellow students, to faculty, to staff, to administrators that there is a God who so loves the world, who so loves each and everyone of us – who so loves them that he sent His only son to bring them life and that life to the full...When we show the beauty and joy and love of the Catholic Church that he founded. When we do this, we distinguish ourselves as something more than just another Class One organization of the SGA - but part of a more important community, disciples of Jesus Christ here and now - part of the continued community of witnesses.
Yes, we rightly celebrate the amazing work of Newman Catholic members and the dedication of our Eboard officers and student leaders over the past 5 years... we appreciate the support of the many partners, administrators on campus, especially the SGA legislature and the SGA Eboard officers for the collective efforts that helped bring us to this moment in our organizations history. But my deepest hope and prayer is that all of us see what is possible when we as the local Church listen to the Holy Spirit's prompting and direction in our lives and come together united as disciples of Christ. When we do, we don’t simply become “Class One” or retell a story passed along now for some 2,000 years - we bear witness to the Risen Christ who calls us to share His good news “to all the nations” - making him real and present in our day and age.
That’s the bottom line – 'Making Him real'. If Christ is real to us - if we allow him to fundamentally, radically alter our lives for the better - then we can't help but make Him real to those around us, both here at Montclair and wherever else His grace may lead us. And, through us, His Love will become so real that a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand years from now, no one will ever have to tweet or post or in any way ask if Jesus Christ was real. Our witnessing to His Love for us by showing our Love for Him will stand as credible testimony that He was, and is, and ever shall be.
Posted by Fr. Jim Chern