Not much that comes out of Hollywood is worth remembering, but every once in a while The Movies get something right. One of those moments is a great summary of today’s readings. If you’ve never seen “City Slickers” with Jack Palance and Billy Crystal, it’s worth a rental, if only for one scene.
Jack Palance plays a gruff cowboy named Curly who doesn’t say much, and because of that is rather intimidating to the little nebbish that Crystal plays. But when Crystal does open up about his many problems in life, and his inability to find meaning, Palance raises one finger—his index finger—and teaches Crystal that he must find the one thing that’s most important in life. He doesn’t say what that one thing is, but Paul does in today’s second reading. He tells the Galatians “The whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Of course that also covers loving God.
The prophets who came before Christ and then Christ himself—who is God—devoted their earthly lives to spreading that one message. As today’s readings show, they enlisted others to do the same. But when Elisha asked Elijah and one of Christ’s enlistees asked his master for some time to straighten out their earthly affairs before departing, they both got a very early preview of that Jack Palance scene. I can envision both Elijah and Jesus holding up their fingers and saying “Those things are not important. There’s only one thing that matters on this earth, and that’s finding the key to God’s Kingdom then passing it around.”
As Paul tells us, there’s tremendous freedom in that message. By focusing on the things of this earth we become a slave to those things. But if we are guided by the Spirit, we are not under man’s laws. Only God’s one key law—Love.