Almost anyone who grew up in my generation is familiar with the "Indiana Jones" movies. While considered the height of action movies upon their release, the lessons we can learn from them- in this case- "The Last Crusade"- might also help us on our spiritual journey.
At the end of the movie, Henry Jones (Indy's father, played by Sean Connery) has been shot, and is on his way to certain death- only a drink from the Holy Grail can save him. They are located in the "Canyon of the Crescent Moon", in a temple where the Holy Grail is supposedly housed. The problem with reaching the Grail is the obstacles on the way- some which will test knowledge, others which will test faith.
Before I continue with the story, I want the reader to consider a question: Can we reach God with our God-given intellect? Many think it would be in the best interest of God for him to be discernible with our minds- alas, he is not. Nobody can say for certain why God would choose to remain hidden- indeed, this is a problem for many non-believers.
I want to attempt to answer the question with another question: Will God reveal Himself to those who don't want to believe, and violate their Free Will? I personally believe that God would not do that, since the gift of Free Will includes even the ability to reject the idea of God- something self evident from the Atheist community.
So, the logical next question seems to be: How can a person who doesn't believe in God come to believe? I hope to briefly explore this with the help of Indiana Jones and his trial in the temple of the grail.
The first test in the temple involves "The Breath of God." In Henry's journal, it says "only the penitent man will pass." Indy observes the decapitated bodies of those who have previously failed the test. He whispers the words to himself, and finally understands what to do just as the pendulum's blades approach his head- he kneels in humility to this symbolic "Breath of God."
There are many places in scripture that laud humility:
-"God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6)
-"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Mt. 23:12)
-"So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time." (1 Pt. 5:6)
So what is the role in humility in the obtainment of faith? I believe that it takes humility to open us to the possibility of God- to allow us to have faith. How many times have we been in a discussion with someone who seems to have an answer for everything? Now, that is not to say that every answer is strong and impossible to scrutinize; but have you ever recalled somebody in one of these arguments answering "I don't know"? Why are we (believers and non-believers alike) so afraid to say this? Why are we so afraid to appear weak? In admitting weakness, we admit that we have more to learn- we possess humility; in not admitting weakness, yet trying to give answers where none are available- we lie to ourselves and our "opponent." We also pretend that we have all the answers about God (or a lack thereof) when we are not honest about our ignorance. Without humility, the growth of each person is stymied.
Indy's final test involves crossing a great abyss- without any visible path. I find it appropriate to return to the earlier point about trying to reach God with our intellect, and I repeat that we cannot reach God with our minds. The modern standard is that everything "real" falls under scientific scrutiny, but we then also have to humbly admit that perhaps God is impossible to detect with scientific means, and, even if the data existed- how are we sure that we can understand it? The best (or worst) evidence is still subject to the limitations of human intellect.
So, mankind stands with Indiana Jones at this moment of Truth- do we take the step, believing that your feet will not fail; or do you stare into the abyss, wondering of it's impossibility? Indy, leaving behind all he feels he knows about the world and the laws that govern our existence, takes a step...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_-BOvWVycM&feature=related (try to ignore the cheesy graphic at the end if you can)
I can hear the criticisms now: Are you asking us to take a step off a cliff? Obviously, I am, but not a physical one. I would ask that anyone who hears nothing but silence in their souls when they pray to not give up. Humbly admit to God that you do not know how to come to Him on your own, and that you need the gift of Faith to see Him with the eyes of your soul. Create a prayer that you say daily (or more often); start a routine of scripture reading- one that is humble about the contents of the Word of God, and not presumptuous about the certain meaning of every verse- the USCCB website has daily reading and short video reflections here:
If you still feel emptiness, keep in mind that many who are proclaimed as saints have went through the same ordeal: St. John of the Cross wrote about this in his work "Dark Night of The Soul":
"Once in a dark of night,
Inflamed with love and wanting, I arose
(O coming of delight!)
And went, as no one knows,
When all my house lay long in deep repose
All in the dark went right,
Down secret steps, disguised in other clothes,
(O coming of delight!)
In dark when no one knows,
When all my house lay long in deep repose.
And in the luck of night
In secret places where no other spied
I went without my sight
Without a light to guide
Except the heart that lit me from inside.
It guided me and shone
Surer than noonday sunlight over me,
And lead me to the one
Whom only I could see
Deep in a place where only we could be.
O guiding dark of night!
O dark of night more darling than the dawn!
O night that can unite
A lover and loved one,
A lover and loved one moved in unison.
And on my flowering breast
Which I had kept for him and him alone
He slept as I caressed
And loved him for my own,
Breathing an air from redolent cedars blown.
And from the castle wall
The wind came down to winnow through his hair
Bidding his fingers fall,
Searing my throat with air
And all my senses were suspended there.
I stayed there to forget.
There on my lover, face to face, I lay.
All ended, and I let
My cares all fall away
Forgotten in the lilies on that day."
May we all find the dawn, and when we arrive, may we rest peacefully at the bosom of our Creator. And, may we, like Indiana Jones, find the cup of eternal life, our salvation, across the great abyss-surmounted by our faith- our free gift from God. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.