Fr. Anthony Velez
Pentecost is just three days away, the event that gave birth to the Church, the event that effectively completed the passion and ministry of Christ. Pentecost is crucial in the celebration of the Church year because it is the event by which our lives are existentially connected to the life of Christ, it enables our story to be taken into his story because it is through the outpouring of the Spirit that all that belongs to Christ is graciously shared with us. Jesus himself declared, “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” On an immediate level this seems counterintuitive, for it seems that Jesus’ going away will disable us, but the truth is, his going away means our empowerment to live in the world as he was in the world.
It was the Spirit who began the incarnate ministry of the Son of God by overshadowing Mary to draw forth from her humanity the very humanity of Jesus. It was the Spirit who fell upon Jesus at John’s baptism and remained upon him to empower his ministry to establish the Kingdom. It was by the Spirit that Jesus made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, and the mute to talk. It was by the Spirit that Jesus calmed the seas, walked upon waters, cast out demons, and raised the dead. It is this Spirit, that Jesus intimately relied upon throughout his Kingdom ministry, that he sends to all those who look to him by faith.
By Katie Tjerrild
There is no shortage of movies, TV series, and plays depicting the life of Jesus--The Passion of the Christ, Godspell, and Jesus Christ Superstar come to mind, among others. These portrayals vary as much in quality as in medium, and new content about the life of Christ rarely feels worth the watch. Because of this, my first reaction upon seeing the YouTube thumbnail for The Chosen was to groan and wonder whether the series’ cardinal sin would be poor acting, uninspired storytelling or the casting of a too-smiley (or too-stern) Jesus. I was pleasantly surprised. The Chosen demonstrates a real commitment to excellence in its production, storytelling, and acting, as well as its attempt to honor the gospel narratives.
The Chosen is a multi-season series about the life of Jesus, and is available on YouTube or The Chosen’s free app. According to its website, The Chosen is the “largest crowdfunded media project of all time”—an impressive accolade for Christian media. Because the series will consist of multiple seasons, of which the first and part of the second have been released, the show allows for a more fully-developed look at the life of Jesus than other projects have in the past. The creator and director of The Chosen, Dallas Jenkins, who is himself a committed Christian and an accomplished director, forecasts that there will be seven or eight seasons total, all of which will be funded by viewer contributions.
So, a disclaimer: if you’re looking for a barebones portrayal of the life of Christ that limits itself to scriptural dialogue and detail, The Chosen is not for you. If, on the other hand, you’re comfortable with imaginative elaboration on scripture (within the general bounds of plausibility, cultural realism, and the intent of the gospels), then The Chosen might serve as a fresh, enriching way for you to encounter the life of Jesus and his disciples anew.
Overall, the series’ imaginative yet faithful writing is a triumph. The show explores the rich inner and relational lives of many of the gospels’ characters. Nicodemus, for example, is shown grappling at length with the competing pulls of Christ’s invitation to follow him and his wife’s preoccupation with tradition and status. The show also portrays Matthew as being on the autism spectrum—a characterization that’s consistent with Matthew’s detail-oriented job as a tax collector and his knack for precision in his gospel.
by Paula Velez
This past year of pandemic upheaval has also been an opportunity for me to pause and reflect on what is most needed for our children’s ministry. The Lord brought to my attention the ministry of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) and I’ve become convinced that this approach would be a very good fit for the families of both our English and Spanish speaking congregations. When everything started shutting down last spring and there was a huge push to make all things virtual, I started to ask myself if going virtual was what our children needed. I questioned the wisdom of making everything virtual, especially for our youngest members who developmentally are best able to engage relationally and concretely. Even as I looked at the needs of my older children, I realized we are ALL being inundated with information and technology and have to work much harder at slowing down, creating space, and simply being present in the moment. So, I began to research ways that we could bridge the virtual-sacramental gap for children and their families. Because of this I started looking for other options and found myself looking again at Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. I had looked at CGS in the past when others had brought it to my attention (Jeanine Werner, Beth Conkle), but each time it just didn’t seem to be possible.
I have been involved in children’s ministry as a leader, teacher and parent for over 30 years. In more recent years as I have tried to find resources and materials to fit the needs of our children, I have noticed a few things about Sunday School curricula and materials: