The second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' No other commandment is greater than these." Mark 12:30-31
"The Candyman" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Earlier this past week the actor, writer and director Gene Wilder died at the age of 83. Loved for his comedic performances, we will always remember him for the classic children's movie, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Based in humor, some of it a little dark, the story is really a morality tale based on the book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl. Five children get the opportunity to visit the reclusive candy factory that hasn't been open in years. Yet one by one the children cannot resist what they see, and one by one they fall to to their temptations - and their parents, it is noted, are no help. In the end, even the poor boy, Charlie Bucket, fell into temptation. In the end Charlie is redeemed because he returns the candy given to him earlier -- candy he could easily give to Mr. Wonka's competitor, Mr Slugworth (who had offered a substantial bribe to Charlie earlier).
While not quite a Judeo-Christian tale, "Willy Wonka" reminds us that the things that are sweetest to us and attract us the most can be our downfall. One child loves chocolate and falls into the chocolate river: another child can't stop chewing gum and snatches a pieces of untested gum and turns round like a blueberry. So it goes for each child. They encounter something they cannot resist and it becomes their downfall. The movie asks us to examine what our downfalls are, where are we most tempted? Not by chocolate or gum, but perhaps by money, power, control -- by an image of success. All these things can cause us to become blinded to what is important in life: to love God and our neighbor.
The difference for us is that while we too often fall down, we can get up again and start over. We get a sense of this at the end of the story that hopefully the children have leaned their lesson. God in Christ forgives us and is there to pick us up again. God would "tempt" us differently: to find sweetness in serving our neighbor. There is nothing more scrumpdillyicious than the concoction of love, forgiveness, mercy and kindness. The best thing is that we can make it more delicious by the good things we add: patience, forbearance, joy. It's what makes the world taste good -- and we are called to be helpers in this masterpiece. Let us each add the ingredients God has uniquely give us to make our world a more delectable place.
We can even lick the spoon too.
Prayer: God of Divine Sweetness, show us that love what we are all searching for and what satisfies most. Teach us to create love and pass on your love throughout our day.