Stories of Glory

Readings for the 6th Sunday of Easter – Year C

Liberty Films was an independent motion picture production company founded in 1945. They only produced two films before dissolving six years later. Their first film, released in 1946, was the story of a depressed loan officer in upstate New York who is contemplating ending his own life. The critical reviews to the movie were mixed. It had good stars and did rather well at the box office, but not well enough to recoup its production costs and show a profit. It won no Academy Awards except for one in Technical Achievement; for developing a better way to simulate falling snow on a movie set. The co-founder of the company and director of the picture would go on to consider this his favorite film, screening it towards the end of every year for his family. However, he said that creating Liberty Films had proven virtually fatal to his professional career.

After Liberty Films folded up, the ownership of rights to the film changed hands from one media company to the next. I suspect the movie would have been largely forgotten today, if not for a providential oversight. You see the Copyright Act of 1909 granted copyright protection to original creative works for twenty-eight years. This copyright protection could be renewed for an additional twenty-eight years by filing out some paperwork and paying a nominal fee. However, the new owners of the film neglected to renew its 1946 copyright, so the film automatically entered the public domain. As a result, from 1974 until 1993 (when other laws came into play) anyone and everyone was free to copy, sell, or broadcast the film without paying any royalties to anyone. TV stations showed it repeatedly during the Christmas season, more than one hundred distributors sold it on tapes, and the film became immensely popular. I would bet you’ve seen this wonderful film yourself. Today it is considered one of the greatest movies ever made, and rightly so. The name of its main character, the loan officer in upstate New York, who is persuaded by an angel not to end his own life, is George Bailey, and the film is Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

In our Gospel, Jesus says: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” And throughout “It’s a Wonderful Life,” we see George Bailey denying himself out of love for others. He gives up his dreams of going to college, of becoming a rich and famous architect, in order to keep his late father’s Savings & Loan open. He gives up his around-the-world honeymoon vacation to save Bedford Falls’ Savings & Loan again to protect the community from the wicked Mr. Potter. He is willing to suffer in place of another when old Uncle Billy loses track of the Savings & Loan’s $8,000 cash deposit. George, the good man, goes through many trials. As Paul and Barnabas tell us in our first reading: “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

In our Gospel, when Judas had left the the Upper Room and the Last Supper to go and arrange Jesus’ arrest, our Lord said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once.” Remember: Jesus was about to suffer crucifixion and death, but also be raised again. Similarly, in “It’s a Wonderful Life” we find George Bailey at his lowest point; he’s worse than sick, he’s discouraged, on the edge of abandoning all hope. But Clarence the angel shows him all the positive difference that his life has meant, and the dark despair surrounding George is lifted. As our second reading tells us, one day God “will wipe every tear from [our] eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order [will have] passed away.” After glimpsing a world in which he was never born, George realizes how very blessed he is. He still thinks he’ll be going to prison, but he’s overjoyed to have his life, his wife, and his children back. “Behold,” says the Lord, “I make all things new.” When George’s many friends come to his house and come to his aid – donating to cancel out his debt – the long-suffering Mr. Bailey realizes that he’s actually the richest man in town.

Our psalm says, “Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord, and let your faithful ones bless you. Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might.” This is what I have been discussing, for God’s might and glory in his Kingdom are manifested in ways we might not expect. The Roman Catholic Frank Capra was inspired to make “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and it was his subsequent business failure which allowed this work to become recognized and celebrated as one of the most beautiful stories on film. The character George Bailey’s darkest night led him, with heavenly help, to more clearly see the light. Jesus’ Passion and death proved to be the means of Our Lord’s glory. And so it is our life’s trials. What we give and endure for love of God and others, which will prove to be the means of our greatest glory as well.

One Response to “Stories of Glory”

  1. Anne Says:

    What a nice story! Well paralleled to the gospels. Some days aren’t always a “Wonderful Life” kind of day, but He makes all things new!

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