A Short Film Nomination for the Religious Oscars

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Years ago, I was fortunate enough to teach a class of seventh graders about the Rosary. In rereading my notes I came up with my next Lecturers Report. With all the buzz about the Oscar’s and our KC Councils devotion to the Rosary, I thought it would be fun to draw parallels to meditations being a way to write and direct our brains to create “short films” of the Mysteries instead of grunting, “Jesus is lost and found” and droning into the ten Hail Mary’s. I recommend you do this with all the Mysteries and engaging your senses while you imagine each of the specific Mystery settings sights, sounds and smells. Here’s an example:

 

The Rosary Mystery of the child Jesus being lost for three days, then found, teaching the elders in the Temple Israel

 

Passover had just finished and the weather had begun to warm up. Everything was beginning to bloom. Jesus was now twelve years old and still considered a child under Jewish tradition. His Bar mitzvah, during his 13th year would be the start of his journey into “manhood”, as it is with all young Jews, but until then he would enjoy the privileges of childhood. As a perfect, sinless child, he had already picked up a number of carpentry skills from Joseph and helped out as much as he was allowed by his earthly father. Occasionally, he would join the other kids of the village in a game of stickball, using a goat’s bladder or play the usual games of tag or hide-and-seek. The village people knew there was something special about Jesus, but no one could comprehend his true meaning to the world. His only schooling was from the area’s lone Rabbi, who taught all the kids in the small village of Nazareth. Mary and Joseph knew the day would come when Jesus would make himself known, but believed that to be a long ways down the road.

 

Some Roman soldiers officially notified the town of Nazareth that its citizens were ordered to travel to Jerusalem to partake in the national census and be counted for tax purposes. Nazareth was one of the smallest towns in the area. In fact, it was so small, there weren’t even any roads leading to Nazareth, only a narrow path that branched off the main road. Rarely did any of the traveling merchants consider it worthwhile to travel to Nazareth because everyone from there was too poor to buy anything anyway. The Nazarenes that wanted to barter for goods had to travel all the way back to the main road and wait for caravans of merchants, in route to their next big town and hope they could convince the nomadic merchants it was worthwhile to unpack their wares. Better yet, Nazarene’s liked to travel to Jerusalem, the largest city in the whole Middle East and a well-known international hub for goods, services, spices, fabrics, animals and precious stones or metal coins. It was the center of the Universe for all Jewish people, the Holy City. Mary and Joseph would use the trip to swap some of Joseph’s wood-working handy-craft to barter a few necessities needed around the house. Hopefully they would get the opportunity to stay and visit with friends and make a pilgrimage to the Great Temple to offer up their prayers.

 

Mary and Joseph packed enough food and water and a few of Joseph’s prize possessions on the back of a burrow and headed down the rocky path to the main road. The trip to Jerusalem lasted three days, as they stopped frequently to visit with acquaintances and share meals with other travelers along the way. The city was magnificent and full of energy and diverse culture clashes. Jesus’ family made their way to a modest section of town, crowded by those considered less fortunate. They stopped at an old friend’s house, where they were invited in to stay the night. The next day they would stand in the long line to register and be taxed and accounted for. Joseph wanted to set up shop at the busy marketplace to trade goods and finish by taking Jesus to the Great Temple Israel to pray for a safe journey home.

 

Temple Israel was where all the brightest scholars, teachers and students came to study the thousands of years of Jewish doctrine and prophecies rolled up in giant scrolls. It was common for them to argue new and old biblical theories as the common folk listened in. Many scholars would attempt to unlock century old “mysteries” passed down through generations of the Twelve Tribes of Israel dating back to the days of Abraham. These “mysteries”, taught by credible prophets, were often the topics of heated debates that could last for days, weeks or even generations between the smartest Rabbi’s in the world and were considered by most as unanswerable. Jesus was fascinated by the conversations and moved quickly from group to group until he found the highest ranking Rabbi’s of the whole world, deep in discussion over an unsolvable mystery. They turned to the crowd and asked if anyone could offer a better explanation of certain theory. To everyone’s surprise, Jesus raised his hand. After the laughter subsided, the Rabbi said let’s hear the boy out.

 

Jesus began to explain a very complicated subject. The renowned scholars were silenced, in shock over the words coming from a child’s mouth. They asked Jesus to come up and sit with them. People started to gather around. A Rabbi thought he would try to test Jesus a second time with a previous unanswered question that continuously stumped the scholars every time it got raised. Jesus calmly addressed the issue with an answer that finally made sense to the cantankerous old Rabbi’s, staring at Jesus in disbelief. A scramble for the old scrolls caused the Rabbi’s to find other passages in Jewish law that had confused them in the past and several Rabbi’s sent messengers to fetch other scholars known to be in or near the giant Temple Israel to hear this child speak. Jesus spoke for hours, losing complete track of time.

 

Joseph and his friends were praying and discussing things in a different part of the massive Synagogue when he noticed Jesus was missing. He thought to himself that Jesus must have found some kid’s his own age to play with or maybe he got bored and found his way back to the place they were spending the night. When it was time for Joseph to leave, he made his way around the Temple, looking for Jesus. It was big enough to put five Nazareth’s inside the walls of the great structure. A large crowd had gathered around one of the altars, but Joseph couldn’t see through all the men, nor could he see who was conducting the discussions, so he moved on. Outside of the massive structure, Joseph studied the different groups of children playing in the street, but found no sign of Jesus. He knew Jesus was smart enough to find his way back alone, but felt he would have to have strong words with his son for not telling him he had left.

 

The women greeted the men as they entered the home and asked, “Where’s Jesus?” Joseph replied, “Isn’t he with you?” A panic started to fester in all their stomachs. “He’s still just a child! We’ve got to find him as soon as possible!” cried Mary. Fearful of their child being sold into slavery, they all made their way back to the Synagogue and spread out with a plan to search for the child. Hours passed and the worried parents began to worry. The search extended into the surrounding neighborhoods, recruiting help from anyone who would give it. They assured one another that God would never let anything bad happen to the future Savior of all mankind. They felt they had let God down as custodians of the young Savior and prayed for His almighty forgiveness. Late that night, the search was called off until the next day. Some kind soul must have taken Jesus in for the night with intentions of helping him find his family the next day. They would search the marketplace at sun-up.

 

Back in the Temple Israel, all the highest-ranking scholars in the entire Jewish faith were present with Jesus. They moved their session deeper into the private areas of the Synagogue where they could recline on comfortable pillows and be served food by the servants as they continued their deep discussions with the child Jesus. His answers were so profound and enlightening. The energy in the room was so high no one was even thinking about sleep. Question after question bombarded young Jesus as he stood his ground and lit up the wrinkly old faces of the wisest men in the world. The student was teaching the teachers. How could a twelve-year-old child be wiser than Solomon, Moses, Abraham or Elijah? His answers were so simple and yet, enlightening and made so much sense.

 

For two full days, Joseph and Mary’s search party scoured the streets of Jerusalem, worried sick over thoughts of guilt, foul play, sickness or a frightened, lost child feeling abandoned by his parents in the largest city known, at that time in History. They felt the only thing to do was to go back to the Temple and pray for God’s intervention. As they worked their way around the Synagogue, word got back to them that a twelve-year-old child had been teaching the world’s brightest scholars of Jerusalem for the last three days, none stop. A huge crowd had formed around the cluster of Rabbi’s and young Jesus was standing in their midst. Joseph and Mary approached and sternly announced Jesus name. Jesus turned and looked at them. “Where have you been, Jesus?” they asked in unison. Jesus said, “I have been here, doing my Fathers work”. “It’s time to go home, child, now,” they said and took Jesus by the hand and left. Not much was spoken on the trek home. It would be many years before anyone would hear of Jesus again, but Scribes and Pharisees were busy for several weeks trying to write down all the new found theology uncovered that brief three days in 0012. Jesus quietly went about both of his father’s works, back in Nazareth. Mary patiently waited for the time to come where Jesus would make his name known to the world. She was proud and scared at the same time.

 

 

WHAT IS THE LESSON IN THIS STORY?

 

This is a special two-part Joyful Mystery contemplated and meditated on the Rosary by many people over time. Most of the recognized “Mysteries” of the Rosary are related to single events. This one is different. Part one: you have an unknown, uneducated, but gifted child teaching the most notable teachers of his time. Some twenty years later, they would hang a sign on his cross making fun of Jesus the Nazarene, because it was so impossible to imagine a nobody carpenter’s son from no-wheres-ville being, not only  King of the Jews, but the actual Son of God.

Part two: you have a child who is three days separated from his parents in the largest city of his region where selling kids into slavery is commonplace. It’s helpful for middle school aged children to identify with a similarly aged Christ child in this specific 5th Joyful Mystery. They’re in an awkward environment at school where they all know how far down the “food chain” they are in the scope of high school and society.

 

By today’s standards, it would be compared to a seventh grader from a tiny insignificant speck on the map (think of the smallest town you know of) with no formal education or worldliness, home-schooled and now visualize him traveling to Harvard or Oxford University so he could teach the world’s leading professors advanced theology that had not yet been taught. While all of that is taking place, also by today’s standards, you can further identify with the panic Jesus parents would experience if he were ever to be lost in a large, strange new metropolitan city for a period of three days. The “Amber Alert” would go out and every available friend, neighbor, relative and law enforcement agency would be recruited for help.

 

Meanwhile, back at the University, all the major news and social media  networks would be covering this “phenom”, child prodigy who knew all the worlds organized religions histories and various doctrines frontward and backwards. The reporters would clamor for position as he addressed the Pope, Bishops, Guru’s, Rabbi’s and all those thought to be authoritative religious leaders, unlocking complicated religious theories for all the worlds Jewish, Muslim and Christian Faith’s combined. “Blogger’s” would be all over the Internet with reactions. Politicians would posture themselves with both sides of the issues to acquire votes. Close minded individuals would be forced to grip their chins, squint an eye and say, “hmmm”. As sarcastic as this all sounds, that’s exactly what was happening nearly 2000 years ago with whatever available means of disseminating information.

 

What comes to your mind as you contemplate it? If the Rosary is part of your Lenten or daily prayer activity, try putting your imagination to work on the Mysteries with a “short film adaptation” and you just might win an Oscar for your spirituality.

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