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Love, Forgiveness, and Other Wildly Cosmic Subjects

At the risk of being WAY too theological, here goes…

Our nuclear family has created a lot of traditions through the years.  One that we’ve enjoyed since the kids hit their teen years is watching “Jesus Christ Superstar” together sometime during the three days at the end of Holy Week.

It took a lot of convincing for them to get me to even consider giving this musical a try, though I’m generally a big fan of the musical theater genre.  I’d seen bits of the 1973 version, and the freaky hippies with really fairly rotten voices turned my stomach.  But a new incarnation came out in 2000, and suddenly I got it.  The excellent acting and brilliant voices bring Jesus’ story to life in a way you might only get if you’re a theater geek…but it’s really meaningful to me (even with its often-questionable interpretation of the story).  A lot more so than the somber, solemn, liturgically correct Holy Week worship services I’d been going to for years.

Every year something new hits me when I experience the music and emotions of the characters in this film.  This year what struck me most was the theme of giving and accepting of love, probably because I’ve been forced to do a lot of thinking recently about life, the universe, depression, and everything (apologies to Douglas Adams).

In this 2000 production, it’s clear that Jesus wants desperately to show his continued love, acceptance, and forgiveness of Judas after the betrayal.  He himself feels pain as he sees Judas’ suffering. It’s equally clear that Judas believes himself utterly out of the reach of Jesus’ love and compassion.  He’s unable to believe in it so he doesn’t recognize it, and his despair over this fact and over his actions, which he believes are unforgivable, leads him to kill himself.

I can’t help but wonder if similar feelings aren’t sometimes behind depression and suicide in our world.  Living in close quarters with a depressed person, I’ve seen how completely depression robs people of their ability to see themselves as lovable and worthy.  The illness can make a depressed person believe that every single mistake they’ve made or hurt they’ve caused is of monstrous, unforgivable proportions. Certainly  we very fallible humans can have a hard time loving and forgiving when someone is unpleasant and difficult to live with, even if these negative traits are caused by mental illness.

My heart aches when I consider how very many people believe that even God can’t love them when they feel unlovable. Too many people have been taught that we have to live a certain kind of life, do certain things, hate our natural selves, in order to earn God’s love.

So this year, what I’m taking away from our annual JCS viewing – and I’m sure this sounds ridiculously corny – is the look of love in Jesus’ eyes and the tenderness with which he reaches out and tries to touch and comfort his friend Judas.  I’m convinced that’s the truth of God – unconditional love, compassion, and mercy for all.

May we all, through whatever pain and suffering we may experience in our lives, learn to accept and feel that love and comfort.

Happy Easter!




2 Responses

  1. I love JCS. I was in a production of it at college, and whenever I hear the music, it takes me back to the mixed emotions I had at that age (I was terribly unhappy at that time), but the music was a positive force in my life.
    I believe Judas’ decisions are the most important lesson to take from the Easter story. That doing what you think might be right for you without looking at the greater picture are mans greatest weakness. I do also believe that he is one of the most important people in the Christian world, because without him the crucifixtion would not have happened at that time.

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