Read Daniel 4:8-33
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:49 NRSV)
One of my favorite Walt Disney films of all times is an animated film called, “Beauty and the Beast.” It is one of those rare stories that transcends its medium (e.g. animation) and reflects a truth and/or reality within its viewers. On the surface, the story is about a beautiful french peasant girl named Belle (whose name means beauty in French) who wants nothing more than to escape her present reality and live more than “this provincial life.”
Of course, based on the classic fairytale, we all know that Belle gets more than she bargained for. She finds herself locked up in a castle by a ferocious, hideous beast. Overtime, though, the Beast finds himself falling in love with Belle and, in turn, Belle finds herself falling in love with the Beast. It is, of course, that mutual love between them that will lift the curse on the beast and his castle, and will transform him from a beast into who he was created to be, a charming prince.
What I love about this tale is not so much the “happily ever after” end of it, but in the dark reality that leads up to the need for a “happily ever after.” In the Walt Disney version, each of the characters are shown to have inherent flaws. The prince, at the outset of the film, was cold-hearted and self-centered. When a beggar woman came to him to seek shelter from the cold, he rejected her because of her haggard appearance. Of course, that woman was really an enchantress and she cursed the prince, making his external appearnce match his internal self: a cold-hearted, fercious beast.
His court ended up cursed with him. While they had nothing directly to do with prince’s wicked actions, they were cursed as well. Perhaps some were undeserving of the curse but, as is often the case, they suffered the consquences of the sins and evil of someone else. Some of them were cursed to be transormed into the objects that represented their daily duties. For instnace, the maid became a feather duster, the head master the staff and spokesman for the prince, became a clock. The womanizing servant Lumiere became a candelabra. In essence, the very castle that objectified its subjects, and saw people as a means to an end, became doomed to be objects as well.
Moving beyond the prince, the other characters are imprisoned by their flaws too. Gaston is imrisoned by his own vanity and pride. LeFou, Gaston’s sidekick, is imprisoned by his desire to have status by virtue of his association with Gaston. The townspeople are imprisoned by their fears and ignorance. Maurice, Belle’s father, is imprisoned by is preoccupation with his inventions, allowing them to take precedence over his time with his daughter. Finally, Belle is imprisoned by her desire to have more than what she currently has. She doesn’t want to be stuck living the simple life, with simple people, settled down in a family that keeps her from exploring the world.
In the Broadway play, as the Beast and Belle start to fall in love, there is a musical number that the enchanted objects (e.g. Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, Chip, Cogsworth, etc.) begin to sing entitled, “Human Again.” Seeing that the Beast and Belle have begun to understand what actually means to selflessly love, there is hope that the kingdom can be restored back to being “human again.” The heart of this song has an important message for us all. If we are to be truly human again, if we are to be as we were created to be, we will be consumed by selfless, unconditional love. In the meantime, we are only shadows (some of us even beastly shadows) of our true selves.
While not everyone will learn what it means to be love, those who do will be restored to their true humanity. Jesus Christ showed us what it means to be truly human, and what we need to do in order to be truly human again. Our challenge is for us to study Jesus teachings and examples one what it means to be love, and to begin to allow Christ, through the Holy Spirit, to perfect us in being truly human again. Let’s not just admire Christ, but begin to live and love like him.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Like a real human does, I’ll be all that I was on that glorious morn when we’re fin’lly reborn, and we’re all of us human again!” – Alan Menken and Tim Rice, “Human Again”, Beauty and the Beast
Lord, free me from everything that is keeping me from being truly human. Amen.