On the heels of the release of the raunchy pseudo-romantic film ’50 shades of Grey’ which has just premiered worldwide a few days ago, come its antithesis: the message of the 40 days of Lent. Both propose a ‘number’ but with a radically different intent.
The film portrays a toxic and deceptive picture of love, a stark contrast to the true meaning of the word which the gospel proclaims. Maybe some may protest that it is just a story, harmless entertainment. In reality it is yet another manifestation of this warning from the Word of God:
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
Deep within their hearts, what every man and woman are really searching for is real love, where I am valued and embraced for the unique, unrepeatable person that I am. This is not based on my achievements (which can even be lost) or my appearance and talents, which can be found in others at a level better than mine. It is not a love which masquerades as unbridled pleasure which in the film degenerates into dark sado-masochistic abuse; it is a commitment of sacrificial self-giving with tenderness, sensitivity, compassion and of course truth. This in fact is a description of the ‘love of God’ which we are called to be filled with and to live out in our closest relationships.
But our western society is very short on it, having believed the lie that God and faith are an obstacle to love and happiness rather that their true and only source. So people are running, and running and running – but many don’t know where to. They just join the race, follow the crowd and run without knowing the way and the address. After all there isn’t one is there? Truth is relative, life is what you make it and even God is now ‘custom-made’. The instigator behind all this is none other than the devil himself, a lie that he has been propagating since the dawn of time. Someone once said that grey is the ‘devil’s favourite colour’ having managed to dupe many (even professing Christians) into believing that there is no such thing as objective truth and morality, all is relative. There are no more rules to live by except the ones you make up yourself – and never mind the disastrous consequences. True love is no where to be found so from now on just live for yourself !
Then there is the the way of the gospel, a ‘narrow way’ (Matt 7:14) which few travel on, even though it is open to everyone. It is the gospel of life, of grace, of joy, of healing, of mercy, of forgiveness, of infinite chances to begin again and of genuine human growth. It is the place in our hearts where we hear Jesus knock, where we respond by opening ourselves to Him and listen to His voice. It is the only hope man has to rediscovering his real dignity and destiny.
Lent is the signpost which points us in this direction. During these 40 days we are all called to acknowledge our own ‘fifty shades of grey’, those that reside in our hearts; we are encouraged to take responsibility, to turn away from sin and compromise and to genuinely draw close to God. With our eyes on Easter we look forward to the ‘colours’ of hope, peace and joy to replace the ‘shadowy greys’ of our lives. This is what that the resurrection of Jesus brings through the gift of the Presence of the Holy Spirit.
On this journey, we don’t lose heart because we don’t travel alone. Many people today are discovering this way and encouraging each other to walk in it, despite the occasional set backs and the challenges we sometimes face. But it is worth it because Jesus tells us that it leads to life, real life. It is a life which is also lived in anticipation of the day where we will arrive at our final address, our eternal home where ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ (Rev 21:4).
40 days or 50 Shades? It depends on who we will listen to. The choice will always be ours. Lent is a time of grace which invites us to choose again. And to choose now!