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Posts Tagged ‘Argo’

Director Ben Afleck’s latest film, “Argo,” did very well at the Oscars.  I’m sure Afleck and all those associated with this movie will never forget being presented with the Best Picture award by First Lady Michelle Obama — a quite interesting occurrence, given the nature of the story.

Set during the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979-1980, ‘Argo’ features Afleck in the lead role as Tony Mendez, the CIA agent charged with rescuing six escaped American hostages receiving shelter at the Canadian ambassador’s home in Iran.

Mendez’ plan involves joining the six of them in posing as a Canadian film crew scouting exotic locations for a (fake) science fiction film called “Argo.”  When he arrives at the ambassador’s house, he gives each of the hostages a script with complete information about their fake identities — including minute details such as where they went to school, their middle names, their parents’ professions, etc.

And it is this aspect of the film that I want to focus on.  The hostages must memorize their roles to perfection, and in a very, very short period of time.  Watching the movie comfortably on our couches, we could easily ask ourselves: “How can they possibly do that?  Who could muster the discipline and brainpower for that kind of thing?”

But the answer immediately comes to us along with the question itself.  If our lives depended on it, as theirs do, we would do the same thing.  No matter how hard the task, we would find a way to do it.

The connection I am about to make to Christianity may seem forced, but this aspect of Mendez’ rescue mission turns my attention to God’s great rescue mission.

How many of us, if we truly understood the importance and the urgency of our conformity to God’s will, would become more zealous in our faith?  How many of us would then strive to know our faith and grow in virtue as best we can (without becoming scrupulous, of course), knowing that any moment could well be our last?

I think that the role memorization scenes in “Argo,” while not being among the most memorable or attention-catching parts of the movie, can be very useful in helping us Catholics (and other Christians as well) to think about this.

Jesus Christ does make many demands of us, most of which seem virtually impossible (and indeed they are from a merely human standpoint).  I would say that there are two things that need to be kept in mind here:

  1. The stakes are infinitely higher for us when it comes to living our faith than for the American hostages in memorizing their fake identities.  Their lives are at stake, but our immortal souls are at stake.
  2. While the stakes are higher, the pressure is, in a certain sense, lower.  As Mendez was happy to remind the American hostages, one very small error in communicating their cover-up stories to Iranian interrogators would get them killed.  But with the faith, as long as we are truly doing the best we can to grow in the faith and in holiness, God will not withhold His grace.  In fact, it is safe to say that, due to remaining imperfections, most of us will not go to heaven immediately after we die.  Fortunately, the Catholic Church teaches us that God’s mercy extends beyond this present life, so that all those who die in a state of grace but still without the perfection necessary for heaven will go through a final purification.  We call that purification Purgatory.

So in effect, our sense of the stakes and the urgency can protect us against negligence, while trust in God’s mercy and kindness can protect us against scrupulosity and servile fear.

In both cases, we see God’s mercy at work.  What God wants is not to make things hard for us, but to change us, to make us more like Him…to give us life.

I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10)

And He will not fail to give us the strength to do whatever we cannot do on our own, so that we are never taxed beyond our capabilities.

Actually, there is another — though intimately related — aspect of “Argo” that relates to the spiritual life.  When Mendez comes to the six hostages with his plan, he asks them for total trust, assuring them that he has “never left anyone behind.”

Jesus Christ asks us for such trust as well.  And since He is God incarnate and love itself (1 John 4:8), our trust in Him is well placed.

In conclusion: Yes, the challenges of the Christian life can be very daunting.  But hopefully the most recent Academy Award-winner for Best Picture helps, in its own indirect way, to put these challenge in perspective.

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