It was a date. We were going to watch the movie “Paul, Apostle of Christ” on Palm Sunday, March 23rd. It was supposed to be a good start to Holy week. However, Easter came and went, and when we eventually made it to see the movie, on the up side we had a private showing, on the down side the theatre was empty except for the two of us. What a pity that people missed a good movie!
Having watched Jim Caviezel who portrayed Jesus in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” I was expecting another amazing performance. I was not disappointed, for in the role of Luke, Paul’s companion on the journey, Jim became the caring friend, the good physician, and so much more.
When interviewed, Jim admitted that he liked the script, and prepared for this movie by going to Mass, and praying the Rosary. He also carried relics of St. Luke and St. Paul. When he felt under attack, he called out to Our Lady for help. To quote Jim, “the devil is more afraid of me, than I am of him.”
Against the backdrop of the Roman empire under Nero’s corrupt rule, the movie showed the reality of the persecuted Christian community in hiding. There was a darkness that lay like a pall over everything.
The Christians were experiencing internal struggles and tensions, and Paul, their mentor was in prison. Even the prison was in shadows, with a small window letting rays of light into the room. Yet it was here that Paul dictated his words to Luke, reminding him repeatedly to, “Write it down.”
The relationship between Paul and Luke was clearly demonstrated in the movie. It was undoubtedly a spiritual bond. When they looked at each other, one could sense the spiritual fraternity. In whispers, often hard to hear, Paul (actor James Faulkner) passed on his important message that love is the only way. This became a refrain in the face of all kinds of evil.
It is interesting to note that the movie focuses on Paul’s later life. His dramatic conversion experience is re-told through flashbacks, when Saul the persecutor, became Paul the great evangelizer. He is portrayed here as an old man, wiser, but so human. Paul acknowledges that he is saved by grace.
Shot in Malta in places suggesting the ancient world, director, writer Andrew Hyatt wanted the world to see Jesus in Luke. The depth of pain was felt – the neglect that God feels that the world is indifferent to him, the world does not love him.
The extent of the suffering of Paul, and the frightened Christians is powerfully conveyed. Luke says to the people, “I know you are suffering persecution. Faith is the way. I’ve come to Rome to find Paul, to write his story.”
Paul refers to Luke as the beloved physician, but Luke was also Paul’s disciple who displays a depth and humility about himself that is admirable. It is Luke who brings Paul’s wisdom to all – “Where sin abounds, grace abounds more.” In the face of many dark days, by the light of flickering candles, Paul says, “Evil can only be overcome with good.” And again, “We cannot repay evil for evil.”
It is obvious that Luke admires Paul when he says, “The day I heard you preaching,…. I saw Christ in you.”The movie depicts a faithful, faith filled Luke who endangers his own life to listen and record Paul’s messages.
While the actors’ performances are powerful, Paul’s words are more potent. There is a natural flow in the dialogue between Paul and Luke, and topics like forgiveness at all costs, runs like a thread through the story.
While Luke walks the streets of Rome shuttling back and forth between the new Christians and Paul, he has a goal which is evident in his whole demeanor. In the dimly lit prison, Paul is tired, soft spoken and gentle.
One of the powerful moments in the movie is when he dreams about killing Christians. The scene is repeated with Paul chasing a little Christian girl when she prays after her family is killed. Paul raises a club, and awakens saying, “Your grace is sufficient for me,” reminding us of 2 Corinthians 12, that God’s grace is all that we need.
A miracle was thrown in with Luke ministering as a physician to a Roman warden’s (Oliver Martinez) dying daughter, who recovers to the delight of her anxious parents.
This movie is a good biblical story with strong character development, when we are invited into the wisdom of Paul’s writings. Released in 24 countries around the world, it will hopefully have a positive impact on many.
As I left the dark world of the theatre and walked into the Spring sunshine, the words “Love is the only way” kept ringing in my ears.