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Jesus on the Silver Screen
Jesus on the Silver Screen
Posted by Sr. Hosea on March 28, 2013 18:30 Article Rating

Lent has flown by and here we are at beginning of the Easter Triduum, the most sacred time of the Church’s year. It’s an opportunity to contemplate the love of God made manifest to us in Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection by entering into deeper prayer and reflection.

Movie watching can help lead us into this contemplative experience. This is the time of year when the “Jesus” movies make an appearance on broadcast television or are brought out of the corner of the household DVD library. When I was younger, Jesus of Nazareth was the one my family watched every year. The intensity of Robert Powell’s eyes made me feel like Jesus was looking right into my soul. In 2000, Jesus was released starring Jeremy Sisto (Law & Order). I found myself enjoying the portrayal of Jesus as a friend I could relate to, someone you joked around with and splashed at the town fountain. Then came The Gospel of John with Henry Ian Cusick (Lost). This Jesus seemed to me good balance of divinity and humanity. I especially loved the washing of the feet scene. When Peter wanted to have his “hands and feet as well” washed, Jesus just chuckles and gets on with business.

When we sit down to watch a Jesus film, we can approach it from any number of perspectives. We can look at it from an historical perspective—how well does it represent reality? We could take a theological approach. Does the film support Scripture scholarship and church tradition? We could even analyze what the popularity of The Passion of the Christ indicated about a culture seeking solace and spirituality just a few years after the events of 9/11.

These approaches are all worthy endeavors but the one I would like to suggest for celebrating this Easter is a spiritual approach. What does the film say to you about the person of Jesus? What are you attracted to in the actor’s portrayal of Jesus? What turns you off? This will tell you something of how you see Jesus in your own spiritual life, how you relate to him in prayer.

When I was thinking about various Jesus films, I noticed that my favorite parts of these films changed as I grew in my own life of prayer and my understanding of who Jesus is for me and how I relate to him. The Jesus I related to when I was a teenager is different from the Jesus I know today. Actually, it’s really the other way around, isn’t it? Jesus is the same. He is still the face of the love of God to the world, to you, to me. I am the one who has changed. I’ve aged (yes, in years, as the gray in my hair tells me) but I’ve also matured in my grasp of just what it means to be called a daughter of God and a sister of Jesus, my brother, my Savior.

As you watch your favorite Jesus film this Easter, let the Holy Spirit guide your viewing. Maybe you’ll see a side of Jesus you never thought about before. You just might be surprised at what you notice. Whatever it is, let it lead you into a deeper experience of God’s love this Easter Season.

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