Yesterday I watched ‘The Way Back’ for the first time. Before doing so I checked its reviews online. I had heard good things of the film and I was surprised that, though good, the reviews were not better than they were. In a way, though it is a splendid film and well worth watching, the assessment was fair. There is so much potential in the film it is surprising it does not make more of it. In particular the ending seemed to resolve the narrative less elegantly than it might. Not that it does not end fittingly, but given the craftsmanship of the film the last sequences seem almost desultory. Nevertheless, what struck me most forcibly was the cosmic significance of the film’s essential premise. The protagonist escapes from the Gulag, journeys across frozen forest, burning desert and impassable mountains to return to Poland to his wife who denounced him to the Soviet secret police – so that he can forgive her. This thirst to forgive her is why he does not give up when he is dying of bodily thirst in the desert. Is this not the essential history of the entire universe? How could one possibly do justice to such a theme? Our Lord didn’t just endure the Cross to save us, it was we, His thankless bride, who crucified Him and yet He endured our ingratitude and infidelity precisely so He could forgive us for it. More terrifying still is that not only did He die for us while we were still sinners, but He died for those of us (the ‘many’ of Luke 13:24) who will never accept His forgiveness. He traversed the desert of our ingratitude even for those for whom His sacrifice would never bear fruit, even knowing that.

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