“God is love, love is God.”
That’s the theology of actor Liam Neeson, who was interviewed on January 19 by the website Patheos.
Neeson is promoting his new film “Silence,” in which he plays the apostate Jesuit priest Fr. Ferreira. The film takes place during the anti-Christian persecution that took place in 17th century Japan; Neeson’s character renounces his faith after being tortured and witnessing other Christians being tortured.
Neeson was interviewed by Sister Rose Pacatte. He argued that even though his character apostatizes, Fr. Ferreira “believed that Christ would work through him and this gave him the freedom to learn the language and to serve the people in other ways that were meaningful.”
How was Christ working through Ferreira?
We have to bear in mind that we did not live through Stalin’s Russia. You couldn’t trust anyone, your mother, father or children. You never knew if they’d tell the authorities if you were doing something religious. This was kind of similar to what was happening in Japan at the time of the events in the film.
Christ was working through Ferreira in a very dangerous time.
From my research, Ferreira was a very learned man, he knew medicine and astronomy and he was a philosopher. Part of his decision to apostatize, I think, was that he believed that Christ would work through him and this gave him the freedom to learn the language and to serve the people in other ways that were meaningful.
What do you think his idea of God was?
The Jesuit training, through the Spiritual Exercises, is very profound. You strike up a relationship with Christ through the Gospels, so that ultimately Christ becomes your brother, someone you talk to regularly, every day, throughout the day. We see it happening with Rodrigues, this prayer, but God is not returning his calls. Only in the silence does he hear Christ’s voice: “I am still with you. …”
I think Ferreira had gone through something similar, lonely nights of thinking, “What should I do?” They tortured him for five hours, hanging upside down over a pit. Some of the Japanese Christians lasted for days.
I think Ferreira’s idea of God was ultimately one of love, but this is what I choose to believe myself. If God were a stern master, I would have given up the faith long ago. God is love, love is God. I have had personal experiences of God’s love, beautiful and calming, all the things the Psalms talk about. If he was a stern master, well, I don’t know.