Friday 29 June 2012

For Greater Glory: Becoming More Like Christ

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

Recently, I watched the film For Greater Glory starring Andy Garcia, which tells the story of the Mexican civil war over religion in the 1920s. In short, after the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and the promulgation of the Mexican Constitution of 1917, a secular government emerged from Mexico City. The government felt that established religion was getting in the way of Mexico's progress and decided to outlaw public religious services, proclaiming that all education systems in Mexico should be free from any religious orientation. In addition, the government imposed further restrictions on the Church as time progressed.

The film itself focuses on the restrictions put forth by the government, and the subsequent responses by the Catholic League in Mexico. At first the League attempted to engage citizens in petitioning the government to change its rules and to ease the restrictions. I find that the film is somewhat ambiguous about the tension between the non-violent and the more militant contingents of the Catholic League. More can be said about the responses of Catholics in general. Furthermore, in light of the recent events pertaining to religious liberty in Ontario, Canada and the United States, such an issue could have been addressed in more depth.

Yet, what engaged me the most about the film are the stories of three of the characters: General Enrique Gorostieta (played by Andy Garcia), Father Vega (played by Santiago Cabrera) and Blessed José Luis Sanchez del Rio (played by Mauricio Kuri). These three story-lines all portray a growth into greater intimacy with Christ, and in doing so, they become more like Christ. On the other hand, the Cristeros – those fighting for religious freedom in the war – fought under the banner of Christ the King. Their motto was “Viva Cristo Rey!”, meaning “Long live Christ the King” in Spanish. I neither advocate for violence nor endorse war, and I am well aware of mistakes that were made by the Cristeros in their use of force and violence. But here I would like to focus on following Christ the King.

In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola gives us the meditation of the Call of the King. In it, Ignatius asks us to consider how Christ calls us to labour under His banner in order to conquer human hearts. There is one specific aspect of this meditation that is specially helpful to understand the stories of Enrique, Padre and José. Ignatius tells us that following Christ is primarily about becoming more like Christ. Following and imitating Christ is not about performing any specific tasks; it is about becoming more like Christ; it is about conforming our hearts to the Heart of Jesus. The more we come to know and love Jesus, the more we will learn to see as He sees, feel as He feels, thinks as He thinks and love as He loves.

That is the story of these three characters. It is the story of men and women who follow Jesus under the banner of the Cross. Our vocation as Christians, as human beings, is to become more like Him. May we find the courage to accept His invitation to build the Kingdom of God by becoming more like Him. The Christian is called to be another Christ. May we make His way our way. May we no longer live, but Christ live in us. May we surrender to the Spirit of Love and Truth in order that we do everything for the greater glory of God. Viva Cristo Rey!

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