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How To Stay Awake During The Gospel Readings

Joseph McCullough

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Jonathan Roumie as Jesus in an official press photo from Season 4 of The Chosen.

How To Stay Awake During The Gospel Readings

And not drool all over your Sunday best…

As most longtime Catholics know, it’s easy to hear the Gospels repeatedly preached on Sundays, but not to understand, remember, or (consequently) truly value any of what you’d just heard. If you fall into this category of "Distracted Listener," you’re not alone; in fact, Jesus talks about them in Matthew 13:13-15. Speaking of which…
I am ashamed to admit that every Sunday – try as I may – listening to, processing, and mentally connecting the Gospel readings to my own life often requires considerable concentration on my part. And to be honest…
I’m not always successful in my efforts to listen attentively.
Lately, I’ve learned from my non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters that all my striving comes to nothing when it isn’t rooted in God’s Strength. (That’s why these days, I’ve been asking God for the gift of understanding, instead of trying in my own strength. Try asking – it works!) But they’ve also taught me something else, something about the deeply personal nature of the Gospels, and how each recorded instance of Christ healing the sick is also His way of personally inviting me to receive healing in the present moment…
If you’ve not yet had the honour of watching Evangelical Christian Dallas Jenkins’ The Chosen TV series – a Spirit-led historical drama on the life of Jesus and His disciples – then prepare yourself to receive a soul-soothing consolation unlike anything that you’ve ever experienced in your life. Time and time again, this show has demonstrated its unique capacity to make the suffering of the sick from the Gospels seem so real, so raw, so relatable, and so personal. 
Because of that, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this show will deepen your understanding of God’s unconditional, unfailing love for you, just like it did for me. Consequently, I firmly believe this series will help you go from "Distracted Sunday Gospel Listener," to "Attentive Sunday Gospel Listener.”
Take a moment to consider the Gospel story of the woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. Mark 5:25-34 tells the story in the following way:
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. 
Yet she was not helped 
but only grew worse
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” 
Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. 
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” 
But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. 
The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. 
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.
Consider the depth of this woman’s suffering. Her hemorrhages were, of course, extremely painful. But imagine the physical, psychological, and emotional trauma of enduring great suffering at the hands of physicians who were supposed to heal you…
Furthermore, consider the persistent health issues that have besieged you during your own lifetime. Whether it’s cancer, diabetes, allergies, asthma, arthritis, or – as Scripture scholars and even a medical study suggest regarding this woman’s medical condition – painful menstrual cycles, these are all terrible sufferings to endure. They also have a tendency to leave us very emotionally vulnerable and distraught, particularly during prolonged periods of suffering. When this happens, the mental anguish can be enough to drive you into profound hopelessness and desperation.
Now imagine what it would be like to suffer with your existing health condition consistently for a total of 12 years, and to be ostracized by religious authorities, family, friends, and strangers because you are found to be ritually unclean
Saints preserve us…
For most of us, this kind of suffering would lead to a loss of faith.
But not for the woman with hemorrhages…
If you ever wondered what it looks like to have faith that moves mountains, I’d say that this exclusive clip from Season 3, Episode 5 of The Chosen is a pretty accurate depiction. Take a look:
So much about actress Zhaleh Vossough and Jesus-actor Jonathan Roumie’s performance in this scene is simply breathtaking. And as you can see, the camera rightly spends a good deal of time stationed at a medium closeup as her character undergoes an intense emotional breakdown as she hyper-anxiously repeats the phrase, “Just one thread. Just one thread, just a fringe, one touch, and I’ll be healed.”
When I watched this scene for the first time, I realized…
These are the same facial expressions that I myself have worn in moments of profound physical and mental agony.  Not only that…
But the sentiments expressed in the phrase, “Just one touch, and I’ll be healed” have been the same sentiments expressed in my own private prayers when I too have sought physical healing from the Lord, either for myself, or for loved ones.
All this culminates when this same woman, in an act of profound trust and self-abandonment, pushes through the dense crowd and throws herself through the open air, falling toward dust and dirt so that as she falls, her fingers might gently grasp the thread-thin tassels that line the hem of Jesus’ garment…
It’s here that The Chosen strongly demonstrates its uncanny ability to give us an emotionally raw, relatable, and deeply personal experience of the Gospels. That’s because this scene is the outward expression, the personification, of what your heart feels like when you choose to trust God without reserve.
The moment when you push past all your fear and anxiety…
The moment when you allow your heart and mind to let go of every single doubt…
The moment when you trust in the Lord’s healing power no matter what your visible reality tells you about what is and isn’t possible…
That moment is a total emotional free-fall into the arms of God. And this deeply relatable, interior emotional conflict is exactly what’s depicted on screen in this clip from The Chosen
Every aspect of the production – from the screenwriting to the directing, the lighting, the camerawork, the acting, the music, the editing, the colour grading and beyond – it all oozes and exudes the rush, the shame, the desperation, the resolve, the fear, and the spiritual revival that occurs as we journey toward the Heart of Jesus, and the fight that our souls endure when we chooses to “walk by faith, and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 2:5).
All in all, this kind of raw, emotional depiction of the Gospel in action is what helps to make every Sunday Gospel reading deeply and profoundly relatable in a way that our mind sometimes struggles to imagine. Not only that, but seeing the Gospels depicted in this way is what inspires us to have greater faith in the healing power of Jesus.
Greater faith leads to greater closeness to God. And a fruit of greater closeness to God, is great healing – physical, mental, spiritual, emotional.
And I am convinced that the faith that this series inspires in its millions and millions of viewers is what contributes to The Chosen’s astronomical success as the biggest and most successful crowd-funding project of all time.
Well, that and the presence of the Holy Spirit, of course. More than anything, He’s the secret ingredient to every holy production’s success ;)
Not too long ago, thanks to Christian marketing firm Graf-Martin Communications, I was able to attend a screening of the Season 4 premiere in the Toronto area. Let me tell you: Season 4 did not disappoint. I still felt the same relatable emotional energy, the same raw tension and conflict, and the same tender love of the Holy Spirit that I did during the show’s first three seasons. That reminder that I am loved by God, that God cares about me, is still very much the core theme of this ground-breaking, Spirit-led series.
And I always cry. Every episode, without fail, there is at least one tear. And I said as much to the writers when I met them at this same Season 4 screening (I can’t help it, I’m such a fanboy). Not only was it crazy amazing that I got to meet them, but what’s even crazier is that Salt + Light Media’s very own Deacon Pedro Guevara-Mann had a chance to sit down with them for an exclusive interview regarding the show’s unwavering commitment to accurate representation of Holy Scripture.
Salt + Light Plus subscribers can check out the interview in the February, 2024 episode of BEHOLD.
Also, check out Seasons 1 to 3 of The Chosen FOR FREE! Do it for the sake of your own mental health and spiritual sanity! And if this show resonates with you, be sure to DONATE! The streaming release of Season 4 is currently delayed, but with your help, we can make it happen soon! The goal is to make this God-inspired series available to everyone, everywhere, indefinitely, so…
Let’s make it happen people!
God bless you, Reader.
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