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Deacon Keith A Fournier
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"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them (as their God). He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, (for) the old order has passed away." The one who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Then he said, "Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true." He said to me, "They are accomplished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water."

Revelation 21:1-5

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These wonderful words were revealed to the beloved disciple John, on the Island of Patmos, in a vision recorded for all at the very end of the Christian Bible. They are recorded in the last book, the Book of Revelation, or the "Apocalypse". They also address the heart cry of the entire human race and answer our deepest longing. At this time of the year, when we end one year and begin a new one, we are all drawn to deep reflection and all seem compelled to make resolutions. How deeply we want to be able to begin again, to be made new.

There is Good News! We truly can!

There is a powerful scene in the soon to be released Mel Gibson masterpiece "The Passion of the Christ". In it, Mary, the Mother of the Lord, is runs to her wounded Son who has just fallen for the third time, from the weight of the Cross. There is a flash back to an earlier day when that same son, as a child, is seen playing in the dusty streets of Nazareth and is about to fall. With the tender love of a mother, Mary reaches out to her Son.

Then the viewer sees her hand touch the wounded face of the Savior who looks at her, and through words addressed to her speaks to every human person, from the beginning of time until the end: "Behold, I make all things new." I was reminded of the scene this morning as I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, took stock of 2003 and offered myself afresh to the Lord for 2004.

I had the privilege of viewing this extraordinary film in a private showing in Washington D.C. The theatre, owned by the Motion Pictures Association of America, was filled with Washington "movers and shakers." Each of them had been glad-handing and talking through one another in the way that Washington insiders do, at least before the film began. They were different people by the time it was over. I am convinced that this is how this unbelievable film will affect millions in 2004, and beyond. It is an extraordinary work of art, no a profound encounter, with the only One who can "make all things new" Encounter Him we all did! By the end of this movie, there was not a dry eye in the place.

However, of all the scenes, that encounter between mother and Son was the one that grabbed me, at the core of my heart, and shook me to tears. They were tears of sorrow and joy co-mingled. It was so human and yet so divine, so full of promise and hope. The wounds on the Saviors sacred head, that had in the earlier scenes seemed so brutal, painful and hard to view, seemed to, almost in an instant, become beautiful. It all became clear that they were wounds of love, freely and redemptively embraced by the Savior, to "make all things new" for the entire human race.

With many others, I stayed in the theatre afterwards, to comment on the film for Mel Gibson and his team. This was an early release, unfinished, and they were eager to make this the best film that it could be. That kind of humility spoke as loudly as this treasure of filmmaking did. This movie is more than the triumph of Gibson's career; it is his legacy and gift for generations to come. I also had the privilege of discussing the film in a smaller grouping, after the event was formally over. The group included Mel Gibson and several "notables" who had lingered, like me, unable to leave the encounter that is "The Passion of the Christ"

It was in that small informal gathering that a very influential political figure in Republican politics, a man whom I have known for many years to be a dedicated evangelical Christian, made an intriguing comment: "Mel, that film was so faithful to the biblical text, except for one scene." "Which one" asked Gibson? "When Jesus meets his mother and says "Behold, I make all things new", he continued "that is not in the Gospel account".

I was compelled to immediately disagree. "To the contrary", I said "that scene summarizes the very meaning of the Gospel, and in fact is profoundly theological. It takes the words of Jesus from the Book of Revelation and positions them right within His redemptive offering of Himself in his suffering, Passion and death. It was one of the most powerful moments of the film!" I insisted. "Good" said Gibson "I wasn't going to change it anyway."

The comment was humorous and also revealed of the depth of sincerity and profound sense of calling that this film represents for Gibson. However, it says much more. It shows the instincts of a man of real, simple, yet profound faith. He keeps in tact the message that all men and women so desperately need to hear "I make all things new." That is the cry of the human race, to be made new! It is also the heart of what happens to all of us when one year ends and another begins.

As we repent for the failures of the past year, reflect with gratitude on the great gifts it brought and resolve to "be better" and "do more" that is good in the coming year, we are always confronted with the reality of our human condition. We all know that many our resolutions to change often end in failure. That is, when fulfilling them relies on our own human efforts. We are prone; it seems, to making wrong choices in the stuff that is daily human life. We sin.

Classical theology speaks of the inclination to sin as "concupiscence". The Apostle Paul hit the nail right on the proverbial head when he wrote about this universal experience to the early Christians in Rome in the seventh chapter of his letter:

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"For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if (I) do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand. For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

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Let's face it; resolutions can only go so far. There is a force at work in us that we simply cannot overcome on our own; an inclination. It is called sin. Only Jesus Christ can free us from that sin. That is why He alone can truly "make all things new!" - in our own lives and in the world and the universe.

So, as we all cross from one year to the next, let us make our first resolution to behold His face, wounded by love, as his mother did. This encounter is so beautifully portrayed in the "Passion of the Christ". Along with all your resolutions, go see this film, it will be released on Ash Wednesday (how appropriate) and it will be a highlight of the New Year.

Let us hear those words of extraordinary hope and promise and invite Him to live within us. Let us allow the Savior to take up residence in our hearts and in our homes, so that we can indeed begin again.

Happy New Year!

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Deacon Keith Fournier is a married Roman Catholic Deacon, with five children and one grandchild. He also serves the Melkite Greek Catholic Church with approval. He is a human rights lawyer and a graduate of the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, Franciscan University of Steubenville and the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law. He is a co-founder of the "Your Catholic Voice Movement" and the founder of "Common Good".

Contact

Catholic Online
http://www.catholic.org VA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - Executive Editor, 757 546-9580

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