Cut it loose!

It’s a grueling scene of a man tortured by his own guilt—beyond what he could bear. He had stabbed his brother to death in a fit of rage when he found him in bed with his fiancée. The inner agony of his soul cried out for relief, but there was no relief from the pain. He would have welcomed death, even by his own hand, but he was condemned to live with the agonizing sentence of his tormented mind.

It’s a scene in The Mission. Rodrigo Mendoza, played by Robert de Niro, is a mercenary and slave trader. Its the18th century in the South American jungle, home to the Guarani Indians. Father Gabriel, played by Jeremy Irons, is a Spanish Jesuit priest who built a mission there so he could introduce the Indians to Christianity. After Mendoza killed his brother he begged Father Gabriel to impose a heavy penance for his sin, so the priest gathered all of Mendoza’s weapons and armor together in a net and tied the burden to the grief-stricken man’s waist with a heavy rope.

For what seems like an eternity, Mendoza attempts to claw his way up the Iguaza Falls, stumbling under the weight of his guilt-laden burden. But nothing will stop him. Time after time he yanks the net past the roots and branches that impede his punishing progress. Dogged determination paralyzes his face of steel as he grinds on.

John Fielding, a Jesuit priest serving under Father Gabriel could no longer stand to watch the agonizing scene so he viciously hacks at the rope with his machete. He set Mendoza free. The cumbersome net rolled back down the slope into the river. Exhausted, Mendoza goes after it, retying the penance to his waist, and sets out once again to scale the falls. It’s excruciating to watch. We want him to let it go.

If only we could see our own burden-laden net so clearly. Most of the time we forget it’s even there. The way we navigate our way through life has become awkward, but it’s a familiar kind of awkwardness. Our spirit is battered and worn out, but we’ve become accustomed to it. The limp we’ve developed in our gait is obvious to others. They see the burden of our accumulated debris. Sometimes we see it too, but we’re inclined to pretend we don’t. Otherwise, we might have to take responsibility and cut it loose. But why on earth wouldn’t we want to?

(Excerpt from Holy Libido, Chapter 13, by Rod Smith, 2012)

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