In the 2009 Disney Pixar film Up, Carl, voiced by Edward Asner, becomes an angry prisoner within the world and himself. Jesus seeks to ease us out of such inner prisons. Photo from Wikipedia

Christ’s way will bring us to truth

  • September 3, 2022

In the animated movie Up, a shy lonely man knows joy, married to the love of his life and delighting in their little home, even with its sorrows. After Ellie dies, Carl becomes increasingly sealed in by grief and pain, his frown deepening into fixed furrows, the beautiful nest becoming an airless bubble. Soon, booming industry and development surround and dwarf the little house, until Carl becomes a bewildered, angry prisoner within the world and within himself.

I wonder if the man in the parable, who hid the gold coin instead of investing it (Luke 19/Matthew 25), was like that? Was he, too, locked up in grief and anger, narrow and fearful without knowing he’d become that way? There’s nothing wrong with being fearful, ashamed or angry, but when we get stuck there, we can get as mixed up as the gold-coin-buryer.

Jesus seems eager to roust us out of such inner prisons. For Him, it’s urgent. He shows us we’re like lamps, meant to be lighted, to be seen, and to help others see the light.

Jesus exhorted His listeners not as individuals, but as members of a faith, a community. As a Church, too, we can get locked in and unaware we are nursing fears and angers. Then, not only we ourselves, but the world around us, loses out. Like depressed people, we might believe the lie that we’re worthless and the world better off without us; we are as surrounded by that false assessment of the Church as Carl is by cranes and tall buildings. And the more we believe it, the more it seems to come true: like Carl, Church people can get crabby and belligerent. The bushel-basket we cover the lamp with is dingy and unattractive, but we imagine it’s the lamp that’s the problem.

What to do when built-up shame, fear and anger become the burying places, the bushel baskets, where we Christians hide the word of God we carry? These emotions, given to help us, can become tortuous when they’re misplaced or misused.

Fortunately, God enters our prisons with us, and His glory is never imprisoned. “It will flame out, like shining from shook foil,” wrote G.M. Hopkins. Try it sometime: get out your aluminum foil in a dark room, light a lamp, shake the foil and see what happens. 

Three recent examples, for me, flamed out from the “shook foil” which could have become crusted-over fear, shame and anger.

At a summer fair, fair-goers of all ages and backgrounds were carrying walking-sticks. Inquiries led to a booth where an evangelical organization was giving out the sticks to those who listened to their preaching. Whatever one might think about the contents of the preaching, or the requirement to listen before receiving the gift, the small team’s creativity and courage meant those walking-sticks spread themselves around the whole fair ground. What creative ways we could find of carrying the word to others, instead of staying home afraid of being seen and heard.

A lay community called St. Egidio, recently visiting, told how community members once found themselves in the surprising position of mediating a peace agreement in Mozambique. The community members were neither experts, politicians nor bureaucrats, but through their relationships with people in that country, they had won trust. They could listen and understand the needs of both sides enough to assist in creating a long-lasting peace agreement where hopeless war had held sway. The community is centred on prayer, the poor and peace. It’s important to talk with one’s enemies, they say. Shame can keep us at home, talking only with those who like us.  Compassion can bring us out where we are exposed and vulnerable.

At Mass one day, a retired priest was presiding so the pastor could take holidays. A feeble, elderly man, the visiting priest had trouble finding the right book and microphone to read from, needed help to climb the sanctuary’s two steps and took long pauses during prayers at the altar. But at the sermon, he became a flame of fire. His suddenly powerful voice seemed angry in a way, but with an anger that pierced through things to the centre, rather than destroying things. Not only did he know the Bible through and through, he lived and breathed it. He was preaching on the text, “I have come to bring fire to the world” (Luke 12:49), not the fire of destruction, but the fire that purifies, cleanses and renews our own hearts.

The listener’s heart could not but burn within, as the frail priest showed how the Scriptures show the way. Not the way to become activists, fix the world or tell others what to do: but the way of Christ, which brings us all to the truth. 

How else could we break through the destructive fear, shame and anger that keep us hiding, and show forth the light we carry? “To flame out, like shining from shook foil.”

(Marrocco can be reached at