One of my most favorite movie scenes ever is from “The Mission.” Robert DeNiro’s character (Mendoza) kills his brother, played by Aidan Quinn. The leader of the Jesuit order of priests establishing a mission in a native South American village, Gabriel (played by Jeremy Irons), offers Mendoza a way to receive forgiveness.
Gabriel proposes he join him at the mission. Mendoza accepts. The mission is located high in the mountains of an Amazon jungle, surrounded by towering and deafening waterfalls. Terrifyingly beautiful. The priests must climb these mountains to reach the village.
Mendoza was a mercenary and slave trader. He hunted the natives in the very same jungles Gabriel and his priests are trying to preserve. He has to go the village and face the tribe of those he has captured and even killed.
Mendoza climbs the mountains, but he has tied to him a net carrying his sword and his armor. It weighs him down. It holds him back. He slips often and slides downward through the mud. The priests wait for him to catch up at different points along the mountain. It’s frustrating to watch; I wanted to help him.
When Mendoza reaches the top, his hair is slicked with mud, he’s on his hands and knees, like a sled dog pulling his master. The tribe’s chief recognizes him. He grabs a knife, goes to him, grabs him by the hair and holds the knife to his throat. The chief seems to be shouting threats at him. Then the chief and Gabriel exchange some words and the chief cuts the rope. Mendoza’s burden tumbles down into the river.
Mendoza cries. Still hunched over, his shoulders shudder, he sobs with tremendous relief and gratitude. The natives surround him, grab at his beard and smile and laugh with joy. Gabriel runs to him and gives him a big hug. Mendoza’s heart is lighter, his former life is gone, sloughed off, no more to be remembered. His sins are forgiven. He can start a new life.
That scene gets me EVERY time.
I forgot to wish everyone a happy Easter.
“…a broken heart and a contrite spirit …”
“…for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
“…through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah …”
Take advantage of the good news. It’s free.