Devotion comes through the heart, which is the center of love. Dr. Lewis, when asked how to truly love God, replied: “Through willpower.” Take that feeling in the heart, grab it, and offer it upward to God. “Try it,” Brother told us.
There is a story about Ernest Borgnine, the actor who played the Roman centurion in the film Jesus of Nazareth. When time came for the filming of the crucifixion scene, the camera was to be only on Borgnine looking up at Jesus on the cross, so it was not necessary for the actor playing Jesus to be there. Instead, the film’s director, Franco Zeffirelli, put a chalk mark on the cross where Borgnine was to look.
Borgnine asked for someone to read aloud the words that Jesus had uttered as he hung on the cross. Zeffirelli found a Bible, opened it to the Book of Luke, and signaled for the camera to start rolling. As Zeffirelli began reading Christ’s words aloud, Borgnine stared up at that chalk mark, thinking about what might have gone through the centurion’s mind at that moment.
“That poor man up there,” he thought. “I met him when he healed my servant who is like a son to me. Jesus says he is the Son of God, an unfortunate claim during these perilous times. But I know he is innocent of any crime.”
“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” The voice was Zeffirelli’s, but the words burned into him – the words of Jesus. “Forgive me, Father, for even being here,” was the centurion’s prayer that formed his thoughts.” I am so ashamed, so ashamed.”
“Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise,” said Jesus to the thief hanging next to him. “If Jesus can forgive that criminal, then he will forgive me,” Borgnine thought. “I will lay down my sword and retire to my little farm outside of Rome.”
As Borgnine stared upward, instead of the chalk mark, he suddenly saw the face of Jesus Christ, lifelike and clear, the most beautiful, gentle visage he had ever known. Pain-seared, sweat-stained, with blood flowing down from thorns pressed deep, his face was still filled with compassion. He looked down at him through tragic, sorrowful eyes with an expression of love beyond description.
Then his cry rose against the desert wind, not the voice of Zeffirelli, reading from the Bible, but the voice of Jesus Himself: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” In awe he watched Jesus’ head slump to one side, and knew that he was dead. A terrible grief welled up within, and completely oblivious of the camera, Borgnine started sobbing uncontrollably. “Cut!” yelled Zeffirelli. Olivia Hussey and Anne Bancroft were crying, too. He wiped his eyes and looked up again to where he had seen Jesus. He was gone.
Borgnine later wrote, “Whether I saw a vision of Jesus that windswept day or whether it was only something in my mind, I do not know. It doesn’t matter. For I do know that it was a profound spiritual experience and that I have not been quite the same person since. I believe that I take my faith more seriously. I like to think that I’m more forgiving than I used to be. As that centurion learned two thousand years ago, I too have found that you simply cannot come close to Jesus without being changed.”
Bro. Bhramananda, convo talk excerpt, devotee notes