Updated: Dec 19, 2022
Sunday's readings can be found: [HERE]
Back in the late 1990’s, a science fiction film came out, called, The Matrix, which I’m sure many of us have seen. The plot seemingly takes place in the year 1999, during which a computer hacker, who goes by the alias, “Neo,” senses that something is wrong with the world, but he’s unable to say why. That word, "Neo," means "new" or "young."
Neo eventually meets a man named, “Morpheus,” who offers him a choice between ingesting one of two pills: a red pill that will lead him to the truth about the world; and a blue pill that will return him to his ordinary life.
Neo chooses to swallow the red pill, and when he does so, the reality in which he exists disintegrates. He wakes up and finds himself covered in liquid. He’s in a pod and connected to cables. His pod is amidst countless other pods, which also contain people, all of them attached to an elaborate electrical system.
As it turns out, the life that Neo thought he had been living was nothing more than a shared simulated reality known as The Matrix. The world he knew had only existed in his mind and in the minds of others. The “real” world was closer to the year 2199, two hundred years after what he had believed. Artificially intelligent machines had conquered the world and had imprisoned humanity in these pods to be used as a source of energy.
Only one last human city remained, named Zion. Certain citizens of Zion had escaped from the Matrix, but would occasionally return to it in order to invite others to that same freedom, until the arrival of a prophesied Messiah would come who would destroy the Matrix, defeat the machines, and set free all of humanity. The protagonist, Neo, is this person, who achieved the height of his power after his death and resurrection within the Matrix.
When I first saw the movie many years ago, it struck me somewhat of an allegory to the relationship between this world which we experience now, and the reality we know by faith as the Kingdom of God. In that view, the Matrix symbolizes this world, and the real world to which we actually belong is the life that awaits us in the Resurrection. The destruction of the Matrix, and the awakening of humanity from the Matrix symbolizes the end of the world, and the arrival of the Resurrection of the Dead on the last day.
You’ll notice that, as we approach the end of our liturgical year, our readings tend to focus on the end of the world and the Resurrection of the Dead on the last day.
In our gospel passage, we hear Jesus say:
“All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down. When you hear of wars and insurrections… such things must happen… Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky…
“…They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name… You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name…”
In short, the words of Jesus, who is the neo human being—the new man—the new Adam—can seem terrifying, because he prophesies the disintegration of reality as we know it and the destruction of every institution and framework we're familiar with.
But we're not meant to be terrified at the prospect of the end of the world, but rather to long for it. This world is nothing more than a pale shadow compared to the life and reality to which we really belong. We may be in this world, but we are not of this world.
God created our souls to be eternal, but this world and our flesh are not eternal. Both this world, the universe, and our flesh are in a state of decay. But we live for that day when our flesh, the world, and the universe are restored to immortality, subject to our already immortal souls, that are in the process of being refined to purity in preparation for the Resurrection.
This existence will pass away in the blink of an eye, in comparison to the eternity that await us. “New wine cannot be put into old wineskins,” says the Lord. The glory that will accompany the second coming of Christ will burst the wineskin of this existence. This existence must pass away before we truly awaken at the Resurrection.
In The Matrix, when Neo and many others ingested the red pill, they gained access to the true reality. For Catholics, when we ingest the Eucharist, which is God himself—Jesus Christ—we enter into true reality, true existence, true life. “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” says the Lord.
By the grace of this Mass, may we look forward to our Lord’s return with hope and perseverance, for we are citizens of the heavenly Zion, called to true freedom and true life in the Kingdom of God.
Michelangelo’s, The Last Judgement. 1535 – 1541. Fresco. Sistine Chapel, Vatican City