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Posts Tagged ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’

Catching Fire Arena 2For parts one through four, click here.

Imagine being in the Hunger Games for a moment.  It’s very difficult for most of us.  But despite the stress of it all, the tributes endure their challenges with resourcefulness, perseverance, and bravery — and I think we would all do the same if our survival were at stake.

That’s the drawback of living in a society that has achieved unprecedented scientific and technological progress.  Yes, these are good — even praiseworthy — in and of themselves…but it may be that we have become a little too comfortable.

For all its perks, our society seems lost and unsure of itself, as do many individuals within it.  And no wonder…we have forgotten that we are at war.  Not for our physical survival, but for the fate of our immortal souls.

I typically try to avoid “preachy-ness” in my writing, as I don’t feel this is a good way to dialogue with people.  But I will take this opportunity to assert that if we want to rediscover true meaning and true purpose in our lives, we must once more acknowledge that we are at war.

It is very important, however, to realize that our war is not with people.  It’s not liberals vs. conservatives, East vs. West, etc.  Rather, our war is “with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12).

But we should not be somber, nor should we feel like we are walking on eggshells.  Indeed, our war is a joyful war, for the Good King has already won the victory.  While spiritual warfare may seem overwhelming at times, He supplies us with superabundant strength for it.

So let us abandon our own “hunger games,” and take on the fight nourished by the Bread of Life.

Image obtained through a Google image search.

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President SnowIf you’re just dropping in and would like to catch up, click here for parts one through three.

We just finished talking about how Christ destroyed Satan’s “false world” and opened up a whole new world to humankind with His death and resurrection.  Now let’s get back to the “Catching Fire” storyline.  What happens after Katniss brings down the Hunger Games arena and, by extension, challenges the “false world” constructed by Panem?

The Panem Capital starts cracking down like never before.  Peeta is captured, Katniss’ hometown is totally destroyed, and chaos is erupting.

SermonOnTheMountWhat can we make of this?  Well, I started this post series with the first liturgical reading for November 26, and now I think it would be appropriate to allude to that day’s Gospel:

“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.”  Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky. (Luke 21: 9-11)

Some of the greatest forms of evil our world has seen have occurred since Christ’s victory on Calvary.  This is especially true of the last century or so (the twentieth-century is widely recognized as bloodier than all other centuries of human history combined).

For all his intelligence and craftiness, Satan was not expecting the victory of Christ via the Cross.  In the face of an unforeseen threat, the forces of darkness have been thrown into a panic.  They are gearing up with ever greater force to destroy as many as they can, much as Panem cracks down more forcefully in the face of the challenge of Katniss Everdeen.

I hope I don’t sound all “doom and gloom” or apocalyptic here.  Christ is very clear about the end of the world:

But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son,* but only the Father (Mark 13:32)

In fact, my intention is exactly the opposite.  Hopefully this helps us realize that however bad things get, Christ has already won the victory.  If we persevere until the end, the aforementioned trials in the world will merely form our great Exodus into new life.

All this considered, I very much look forward to seeing what the third installment of “The Hunger Games” brings.

*Meaning He wasn’t sent to reveal this information in His human nature.

“Catching Fire” image obtained through a Google image search; picture of the Sermon on the Mount from Wikipedia.

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For parts one and two, click here. They’re listed in reverse order, but they’re both there.

Let’s sum up what we have gone over so far:

  1. Like many dictatorships, Panem keeps the populace under its thumb by keeping people imprisoned within a false, small world…as symbolized by the Hunger Games, in which competitors are so pitted against one another that they forget who the real enemy is.
  2. Katniss Everdeen breaks through the false “world” of the games — and, symbolically, of Panem as well — by bringing down the force field that holds the arena together.

What follows is an explanation of how this calls to mind the great Christian meta-narrative:

Cain and Abel

At the very beginning of human history, we sold ourselves to the devil, who immediately began to exercise his tyranny over us.  By making the spirit serve the flesh, the creature worship other creatures rather than the Creator, he closed us off from the spiritual world and enclosed us within a false world in which we are in all matters — temporal and religious — pitted against one another, all the while failing to realize who our real enemy is.

But conflict is not the only distraction we’ve had to endure.  Like the tributes in “Catching Fire,” who try to help themselves by forming alliances within the parameters of the game, we have striven in various ways throughout the centuries (through government, charity, programs for personal transformation, etc.) to overcome our plight within the confines of the “small world” we have inherited.  To be sure, many of these endeavors are good in and of themselves — but they can’t save us.

Moses lifts up serpentWhen Moses lifted up the bronze image of a snake on a pole in the desert (Numbers 21: 4-9), he foreshadowed the exposure of mankind’s real enemy.  This foreshadowing was fulfilled by Christ on the Cross.

Like Katniss, Christ puts Himself up against the tree in order to attract lightning to Himself — the lightning of Divine Justice.

By the way, this should not be construed as a vengeful act on the part of a vindictive God.  But here’s the thing: Sin causes a rupture in the Divine-human relationship.  And therefore, as with a rupture in any relationship, it incurs a debt.  The restoration of the relationship requires that the barrier that has been put in the way be removed.

Because sin is a “no” to the infinitely good God, it has infinite implications.  Therefore, while we must do our part to be saved, God must — and did — act first.

Christ died in our place so that the devil’s claim against us could be removed.  Here is how St. Irenaeus of Lyons put it in the second century:

And since the apostasy tyrannized over us unjustly, … the Word of God … did righteously turn against that apostasy, and redeem from it His own property, not by violent means, as the [apostasy] had obtained dominion over us at the beginning … but by means of persuasion, as became a God of counsel, who does not use violent means to obtain what He desires; so that neither should justice be infringed upon, nor the ancient handiwork of God go to destruction. (“Adversus Haereses,” V:i — bold added)

Noel-coypel-the-resurrection-of-christ-1700By dying and then rising from the dead, Christ opened up to us a whole new and immensely vast world, to which the world we know is as the mother’s womb is to the world into which we are born.

In this way the tyranny of the devil — along with all other tyrannies — is effectively overcome.

Keep this in mind when we return to the “Catching Fire” plot in part four.

Images from Wikipedia

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TrainLikeTribute-595For part one, click here.

So we’ve established the Hunger Games as symbolic of the totalitarian regime that runs them (Panem) in that people are pitted against one another for survival within a controlled environment, or “small world,” and thereby kept unaware of the true enemy.

But in both of the “Hunger Games” movies that have been released, we have protagonists who fight back by refusing to play the game by Panem’s rules.

Hunger Games KissIn the first film, “The Hunger Games,” you have Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark feigning a romantic relationship, showing willingness to die rather than kill each other, and capturing the hearts of spectators.

In “Catching Fire,” we see the effect of this unique, dual victory on the people.  Katniss and Peeta become symbols of hope.  They embolden the populace and, for that very reason, are perceived by President Snow and the Panem Capital as a threat.

catchingfirefinnickkatnisspeetaAnd what is the Capital’s response?  Katniss, Peeta, and 22 others are put in an arena for the “Quarter Quell,” an event that occurs every 25 years and draws from the pool of past Hunger Games victors.

Once in the arena, several of the tributes strive to work together rather than against one another, recognizing that they share a common enemy.  But the bond they form is pretty vague, and they are operating within the enclosed “world” of the game.

Lightning-tree

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

But this time, Katniss takes her subversion even further by serving as a Christ-figure. This she does at the “lightning tree,” which is always struck by an artificially contrived lightning bolt at midnight (if I remember correctly).  At a decisive moment, she stands by the tree, bow aimed toward the sky, and then lets an arrow fly the moment lightning strikes.

In so doing, she redirects the lightning bolt toward the force field that holds the arena together.  This brings down the metallic ceiling of this contrived, artificial environment and disables all screens by which the Panem employees who control the games can see what’s going on.

We could look at this as a symbolic gesture: Katniss is bringing down not only the Quarter Quell arena, but also — and by extension — the false “world” created by the Capital, thereby inviting the people to see that their fundamental freedom is not, in fact, in Panem’s possession.

Hence, the rebellion is quickened.

She also shows her fellow tributes that victory cannot be achieved by playing the “game” they have been put into, even if they play through cooperation rather than competition.  If they are to achieve true victory, then there’s no way around it…they have to bring the game down.

We’ll explore the spiritual significance of this scenario in part three.  Thanks for reading.

Images obtained through a Google image search.

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Catching-Fire_poster

Francis Lawrence’s adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ “Catching Fire” is clearly dominating the box office — and with good reason.  It’s a great film, filled with emotion, depth, artistry, and impressive visuals.

I want to begin my reflections by noting a coincidence.  This post happens to coincide with some interesting and relevant liturgical readings from the Catholic Calendar.  I’ll just share today’s first reading, in which the prophet Daniel interprets the Babylonian king’s dream of a statue with a golden head, silver chest and arms, bronze stomach and thighs, and iron legs being struck and destroyed by “a stone which was hewn from a mountain without a hand,” which stone then grew to become a mountain that would fill the whole world:

Another kingdom (silver) shall take your place, inferior to yours (gold), then a third kingdom, of bronze, which shall rule over the whole earth. There shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron; it shall break in pieces and subdue all these others (…) In the lifetime of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever. That is the meaning of the stone you saw hewn from the mountain without a hand being put to it, which broke in pieces the tile, iron, bronze, silver, and gold. The great God has revealed to the king what shall be in the future; this is exactly what you dreamed, and its meaning is sure.

(Daniel 2: 39-45) (parentheses mine)

President SnowThe reality of the transitory nature of human governments  and their total dependence on God’s permissive will accounts for both the brutality and the urgent sense of self-preservation we see in totalitarian regimes, which seek to transgress their bounds and “play God.”

Panem, the oppressive government in the post-apocalyptic “Hunger Games” series, is no exception here.  As President Snow (Donal Sutherland) basically admits in “Catching Fire,” it is a fragile system that must assert itself desperately through the use of force.

How do such governments manage to hide their vulnerability and keep people in check?  Well, an excellent tool — one used very effectively in the “Hunger Games” series — is to keep the masses trapped within a superficially tiny world, one small enough that a dictatorship could exercise complete authority in it.  What they must do, in other words, is keep people blind to the transcendent, to the larger world and/or larger reality.

catching fire arenaThe Hunger Games are wonderfully symbolic of this whole situation.  Think about it: The Panem Capital takes a group of people — “tributes” — puts them into an artificial and controlled environment, deprives them of necessities, makes them have to fight for survival every minute, and has them compete against one another for this survival.

What then happens is that they get so busy fighting each other that they lose sight of who the real enemy is.

But, of course, you have the hero figures Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) who strive to stand against the status quo.  I’ll get more into this in part two.

“Catching Fire” poster from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search.

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