Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Good News for all
by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register
(From the December 15, 2011 edition of the Inland Register)
Have you ever found yourself wondering how you would present a movie or historical novel about Jesus? The task certainly would call for a good measure of creativity. Here’s how I would open my movie titled, Jesus, Cosmic Savior:
The opening camera pan and background music would recreate a glimpse of First Century happenings on all parts of the globe – not just in Palestine. Just enough to establish a sense that what was about to unfold had universal significance. Native Americans would be fishing on the Northwest coast; pagan tribes would be fighting territorial battles in the Northern Isles; Mongolian tribes would be tinkering with their inventions; and of course, the Romans under Caesar Augustus would be trumpeting his decree that everyone get their noses counted.
Then I’d pick up the story in Bethlehem, where Joseph and Mary stand awestruck over the babe snuggled into the confines of a feeding trough in the corner of some barn. Their eyes are full of delight, wonder and mystery. But then the eyes of Jesus! The camera would zoom in on them as their bright sparkle illumined the entire room. Using the magic of computer technology the camera would “enter” Jesus’ own eyes as if to capture what he is seeing at the moment. The entire screen would burst forth into an explosion of planets and galaxies and whirling nebulae. The scene would last long enough to force a shift in the viewer’s consciousness from watching a mere historical event to an experience of its expansive grandeur.
My purpose would be to portray that what began at that moment in Bethlehem had not just implications for Planet Earth but also for the entire cosmos! The eyes of Baby Jesus would be cosmic eyes which embraced everything with their saving look of love – even to their nucleus, where quarks and positive/negative energy fields twist and whirl. What God has done here in Jesus is done for all!
It’s too late to have the movie finished in time for Christmas this year – but maybe next. It would be a real challenge to move from the opening scene to the rest of Jesus’ life in ordinary Palestine, but the theme would be constant. What is “hidden” behind the ordinary-looking person whose birth we now celebrate for the 2,010th time has cosmic significance.
I got to toying with this movie idea when a school teacher shared with me a question she had received in class from an inquisitive teenager. “When (not ‘if’) human beings eventually land on other planets in other galaxies – will we discover that Jesus has already been there?” This is a fascinating question that reveals what’s going on in young minds these days. (When I was that age, the greatest mystery trip was the scary possibility of a trip to Europe!) The feast of Christmas gives us an opportunity to reflect on this question. Christmas marks an historical event (regardless of the fact that we no longer know its exact date), but it also notes an event of tremendous impact. We Christians know the significance of Jesus has for us and for our salvation, for the fullness of our lives. God, the Creator of all things (including planets and galaxies) has manifest himself uniquely, definitively and irreversibly in Jesus, son of Mary. He is a fulfilled promise to the Chosen People of Israel and an absolute gift to the nations.
Yes, even to the cosmos! Wherever the disciples of Jesus go, they will carry with them the Good News of what God has done for us in Jesus the Christ, born in Bethlehem. The incarnation of his saving love brings with it a sense of mission, of letting others be touched by the gaze of that love – to be touched by his person. Whenever or wherever we encounter others who, like us, search for the touch of the Divine, we will tell them the Christmas Story. The young man’s question is not as spacy as we may think. Only a few centuries ago (a few milliseconds in cosmic time) the Christian community was faced with a similar puzzle as explorers “discovered” the Americas. (“Stumbled across them” would be a more accurate description.)
When they encountered what seemed to them to be savage and sub-human behavior, the key question carted back to the halls of ecclesiastical power in Europe was whether or not these beings needed to hear the Gospel. Translated into practical terms, did the Church need to send missionaries? The decision was a resounding “Yes!” These beings were people who showed signs of restlessness of heart and searching for the mystery of a self-revealing God. They did need to hear the Good News about Jesus and the gift of life’s fullness that was available to them, too.
Translated into contemporary, space-conscious terms, the question could one day confront the Church again. We will not discover that Jesus has already been on some planet which we “discover” some day. Jesus is not some pre-existent life-form that beams itself around this planet or the cosmos. The one whom we know as Jesus is intimately linked in time and space to Palestine, to places like Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem. But indeed, what has taken place in him for our salvation is Good News for all beings we may one day encounter.
(Father Savelesky is Moderator of the Curia and director of deacon formation for the diocese, and pastor of Assumption Parish, Spokane.)
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