As I was reading Linda Hirshman’s column “Culture” in the October 25, 2010, issue of Newsweek, I was struck by the comments made by actor Willie Repoley and playwright Tony Kushner regarding the play Angels in America. According to the article, Repoley says the “play taught him the power of theater to convey the reality of people he had never even met.”
Kushner, who wrote Angels in America, says, “The theater is the only place where trickle-down actually applies. Something that happens in a small part of society can radiate out.”
Like the playwright Tony Kushner and actor Willie Repoley, I have seen how theater can mirror the plight of those who suffer and how it powerfully affects lives. It is a moment to treasure when compassion is stirred, the heart is opened and a moment of hope is shared. Yet, the theater is not the only place where this “reality of people” is experienced. It is not the only place where a trickle-down effect actually applies. There is another place where suffering and triumph can be realized. There is another place where the capacity for love and change can “radiate out.” This place draws its power from the very One who gave us His own life.
This other public event attended by a small part of society is the holy sacrifice of the Mass. There, the realities of life are openly declared and placed on the Eucharistic altar. Our sorrows, our alienation from God and each other are surrendered and taken up in the passion of Christ.
We are offered access to over 2,000 years of a trickle-down effect—the mercy of Christ. From this trickle-down effect we know the compassion of God and can share this miracle with others.
St. Francis, himself shared in the passion of Christ crucified. He loved the Eucharist and allowed grace to change his life. When he embraced the suffering leper, he was at once a man touched by the compassion of the Lord and radiating God’s saving love. His example shows what a single changed heart can do for the world, even 800 years later.