Lent with ‘The Chosen’

(OSV News) — Season four of “The Chosen,” the wildly popular series on the life of Jesus that began its existence as a crowd-funded streaming series, is finally here, much to the delight of fans around the world. This time around, all episodes will enjoy a theatrical release before debuting on streaming and broadcast outlets.

At nearly the same time as season four is released, Catholics begin the liturgical season of Lent. “The Chosen” provides much inspiration that could kick start your Lenten reflection on how God might be inviting you to metanoia, or conversion, during this penitential season.

The first episode deals with the death of John the Baptist (David Amito) and the fallout of that for Jesus (Jonathan Roumie) and the apostles, especially Andrew (Noah James), one of John’s early followers. John’s faithfulness to his God-given vocation, even through imprisonment and death, encourages us to reflect on our own responses to God’s invitations. How have we responded to God’s prompting? How do we even recognize how God summons us to follow him on a daily basis? Are we courageous in the face of persecution, whatever form that may take, or do we shrink from it?

In episode two, things heat up for Jesus following John’s execution. More than that, though, there is dissension in the ranks when Jesus declares that Simon (Shahar Isaac) is no longer Simon but Peter, the rock upon which his church will be built. That night around the campfire, the apostles start to bicker with comments like, “Is Peter the best?” and “He doesn’t act like a rock.” Have you ever felt disappointed in those in leadership positions? How did you respond? What place does humility have in your life? How might God be inviting you to deepen your humility?

Fans of the show will remember that Matthew (Paras Patel) is depicted as having some form of autism. He’s extremely precise — that made him a good tax collector — and he really doesn’t like physical contact. There’s a small scene in episode two when Matthew encounters his old friend, the Roman, Gaius (Kirk B.R. Woller). Gaius observes that Matthew seems different, more relaxed and at peace. Matthew’s response is all about trust in Jesus and surrender to God’s will. He says, “I have only one thing to do today: Follow him. The rest takes care of itself.” What if every Christian could have that attitude? What would happen if we could let go of the problems that worry us and give them all over to God? Is there one thing in my life right now that I need to let go of and relinquish to God? How might I do that this Lent?

Lent is a time to think about the need for reconciliation and forgiveness. In “The Chosen,” the ongoing tension between Matthew and Simon (now Peter) started way back when Matthew almost turned Peter over to the Romans for unpaid taxes. Matthew has never apologized for his actions, and Peter holds onto his resentment. With hostility increasing all around them, Matthew feels unsettled and seeks out Jesus. Jesus helps him to see the need to own up to his actions and reach out to Peter. Jesus tells Matthew that one apologizes to repent, but that forgiveness is a gift from another person. It cannot be demanded.

The thing is, neither Matthew nor Peter is ready to reconcile. Jesus is gentle in his prodding saying, “There is no peace when two of my followers hold resentment against one another.” Since there are over 2 billion Christians in the world, it can be assumed that there are enough resentments to displace the peace that comes with following Jesus. What is one resentment that you could let go of this Lent? Do you need to apologize to anyone? Do you have the power to offer the gift of forgiveness to someone who has hurt you? What’s holding you back?

Yes, “The Chosen” is a made-up television series and not the Gospel itself. Yet, the power of media stories is that they show real, flawed humans, just like you and me, interacting in an imaginative way. “The Chosen,” in particular, can inspire us to take what we see on screen and prompt us to look at our inner selves and the quality of our own following of Christ, especially during this Season of Lent.

Sister Hosea Rupprecht, a Daughter of St. Paul, is the associate director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies.

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