A few weeks ago, I finally watched The Mission. Yep, my parents told me years ago that I’d like this movie, and they were right. Though, in a way, I feel like I needed to be at this place in my life to truly appreciate the power of this film.
So, spoilers, right? But, given that the movie came out in 1986, well, you should just deal, you know?
The two main characters are Father Gabriel, a Jesuit missionary to the primitives of South America, and Rodrigo, a mercenary/slaver turned Jesuit novice. (As an aside, seeing Rodrigo’s conversion experience is a big deal in the movie and a major part of the film.)
Politics has moved against the mission to the Indians headed up by Father Gabriel, and soldiers are coming to “liquidate” the mission. Rodridgo sees the injustice and renounces his vows of obedience to take up the sword once again to defend the Indians. This brings him into conflict with Father Gabriel, who is a pacifist.
One of the many powerful scenes of the movie is set on the eve of battle. The soldiers will arrive the next day, and Rodrigo comes to Father Gabriel to seek his blessing. Now, you need to understand that Gabriel and Rodrigo have argued bitterly over this issue, and we know what Father Gabriel thinks of what Rodrigo is doing.
And yet, Rodrigo seeks Gabriel’s blessing.
And here, Father Gabriel demonstrates his wisdom.
He rises and refuses to bless Rodrigo. His conscience will not permit it. And yet, he tells Rodrigo that, if he is in the right, that God will bless Rodrigo.
Did you catch that?
On the eve of battle, on the last night of their lives, Gabriel stands by his pacifism, but he is still humble enough to admit that he may be wrong and appeals to God on behalf of Rodrigo. That night, they part as friends. Their disagreement is not enough to divide them. They each go their own ways to their own methods of resistance (and they both die), yet they die reconciled and at peace with each other.
I wish that more Christians would comprehend and embrace this understanding of Christian brotherhood.