Browsing Pastor's Corner

Kevin Costner and Purgatory

Nov 9, 2017

Field of Dreams Come True

In today’s Gospels Jesus reprimands the Religious leaders because they “tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.” There is no more oppressive burden to carry in life than the weight of our sins.  But when that burden is carried with us into the next life, we rely on others to help eliminate that weight so that we can rise and soar to our Heavenly home.

Souls in purgatory rely on us to provide them with some kind of relief. To better explain the nature of our assistance, the movie Field of Dreams may help.

The protagonist Ray Kinsella one day begins to hear a voice out in his Iowa corn field saying: “Build it and they will come.” The remainder of the movie depicts Ray’s response to this voice, and the many sacrifices he will make and the humiliation he will endure when he realizes it is a baseball field he is too build.  And having built this ball field right in the middle of nothing special USA, players begin to appear out of the corn. 

First Shoeless Joe Jackson appears and eventually his teammates, the men he played with in 1919. Sacrificing his time and energy to complete this project, Ray runs the risk of losing his entire farm and bankrupting his own family.

The men who appear are those same White Sox players who were implicated in the Black Sox scandal of 1919 who were charged with throwing the series. More than building a park, this is a project of faith, hope, healing and reconciliation: this is a story of purgatory and the power of our charity. 

The first step in this process is the faith of Ray. He could have just as easily ignored that voice and played it safe with his life, whose vision would be limited to only what could be seen in this world.  His faith becomes the catalyst of great healing and peace for the deceased men who show up to play.  Ray’s response to their needs becomes the second chance at making their lives right again, which was denied them by the Baseball Commissioner.  

Like these athletes, no one is able to get through life without getting dirty. Often, there isn’t enough time to get clean or the weight of that dirt is such that you can barely come out from beneath it.  We are left with a terrible ache in our hearts that we feel can never be healed, if only we had more time, and the right kind of help. 

Purgatory is that merciful time, and our prayers and sacrifices are those kinds of healing helps. Explaining his pain, Shoeless Joe says: “Getting thrown out of baseball was like having part of me amputated.  I’ve heard that old men wake up and scratch itchy legs that have been dust for over fifty years…that was me.  I’d wake up at night with the smell of the ball park in my nose, the cool of the grass on my feet.”  When confronted by the truth of our sinfulness, the affliction of remorse stings. But God applies the ointment of His perfecting love and healing mercy upon all our wounds, but He requires our help especially for those in Purgatory.

Ray soon realizes that his act of charity means more than giving a bunch of ghosts space to relive their glory days. He is preparing them for their eternal glory days, for no sooner is the field completed that the Voice asks: “Ease his pain.”  And it is this invitation which lies at the heart of this movie, and at the heart of our Christian lives.  It is easing the pain of God’s suffering Son Jesus Christ in all who are in need of forgiveness and second chances. 

At first Ray thinks that it is to ease the pain of the White Sox players, and he is partly correct. But more so, his turbulent adventures bring him face to face with his deceased father with whom he was not able to reconcile before he died.  

When Shoeless Joe takes a long look around at the new field he asks: “Is this Heaven?” And Ray responds: “No, its Iowa.” But because of Ray’s faith and hope, and his daring to believe that others who though deceased are still in need of help, he is able to initiate the reconciliation of all players and their healing, most of all his dad’s.  But it is a charity whose process works both ways.  For in doing what he does, Ray is able to bring great joy to his entire family, the whole community, and a profound peace in his own hurting heart having helped his dad. 

And what of the movies concluding scene…a very very long line of cars with headlights on approaching this field with its inviting lights and more inviting atmosphere of peace…like so many souls in purgatory having been paid attention to through the prayers of those on earth, having had applied to their hearts the tremendous healing power of Jesus Christ offered for them in the Mass. Souls afire with love now make their way to Heaven in a spectacular line of joy. Our sacrifices for those in need are worth whatever we have to suffer to assist them, and there is no more rewarding trade off than when our best efforts at charity are applied to those souls in purgatory who call out to us: “Ease our pain.”

 

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