In the movie, Good Will Hunting, will (played by Matt Damon) is a 20 year old genius who works as a janitor at MIT.  He was severely abused as a child and has been in trouble with the law ever since. When Will finally agrees to get counseling to keep himself out of jail, he meets a therapist named Sean (played by Robin Williams). Their relationship is rocky, but Sean won’t back down, for he knows this kid is throwing away his life.  In one interchange, Sean offers – in part – this challenge to Will, speaking from the pain of his own lived life:

  • “So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that.
  • You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “Once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help.
  • I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes that the terms “visiting hours” don’t apply to you.
  • You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself.

“You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself.”

The stunning glimpse of God we have just heard in today’s passion shows a God who loves us exactly that way.  There is nothing “theoretical” about this love.  This is not an intellectual concept.  This is not some romantic feeling.  This is what love is.  This is what love does.  If we hear this story rightly, we could never again think of God as aloof, separated from us, unable to truly understand what it is like to be us…  The incredible pain in the heart of God we recount is all because Jesus loved his God more than himself, and he loved us in that same way.  As we make this journey together this week, let that be our prayer – to accept the gift of a salvific love from the one who loved us all more than himself – and to ask for the courage to love that way in return.