When It’s Both (And)

Photo credit: “The Chosen Instagram Account”

Have you seen The Chosen? It’s a popular drama series about Jesus and his disciples, with an emphasis on the apostles and what that experience must have been like for a group of regular, average and sometimes quite imperfect people as they were witnessing the most incredible thing to have ever happened in the history of humanity. To me, The Chosen, which just finished streaming Season 3, is totally binge-worthy. I think it’s great!

Which is why I was surprised to find out that not everybody thinks that. Some people just don’t like how Jesus is depicted.

Bishop Robert Barron commented on this recently, saying that the Christology in this show seems just about right to him, but he recognizes that it may not fit everyone’s expectations. Christology is the study of Jesus and his work and even though we have the written word of Scripture and our Holy Catholic Church to guide us, not everyone has the same exact Christology, it seems. We all see him a little differently. Some of us emphasize the human side of Jesus while others gravitate further toward the divine. Some of us see his miracles as flashy and impressive while others believe they were quieter and more subtle. Reasonable followers may differ, it seems.

The reality of it, as you know, is that Jesus was 100 percent human while also being 100 percent divine. Human and divine seem pretty different, polar opposites even, yet he was both. Trying to understand how these two distinct natures could possibly be fully complete and coexist at the same time is challenging to think about. That mystery lies at the very heart of our faith.

And if this is the way Jesus was, then we shouldn’t be surprised that there is a both-ness to so much of what we believe. Baptism is both a beautiful symbol and something that permanently changes us. The Eucharist is both bread and the body of Christ. Jesus came to both criticize and affirm the law.

During Jesus’ time, the law was very, very important. Much of the sacred scriptures is about the law and the prophets who emphasized the importance of it. On the surface, you could interpret what Jesus was saying as challenging the law, which is precisely what his detractors thought. A bit earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says seven times in a row: “The Law says… but I say…” which sounds to me like he’s challenging the law!

He’s for the law, he’s against the law. He’s abolishing it, he’s fulfilling it. I think this is another both, and situation.

Strict adherence to the law has a downside. It’s easy to become so enamored of the law that we forget the real point and that is to love God and others. Then again, at the other extreme, total and complete disregard for the law causes unfettered selfishness and eventually, reckless chaos. Us humans have a pretty solid history of what goes wrong when you lean all the way to one extreme or the other.

When Jesus spoke of fulfilling the law, he often spoke of accompanying us, forgiveness and mercy, a shepherd who will always seek the lost sheep, and a loving father who will always welcome back a completely lost and adrift son and daughter.

Jesus knew that the law was and is important. But… he also knows us. He knows who we are and what we most need of all. Like those first disciples, we too are regular, average and quite imperfect. So… let’s do what they did. Let’s follow.

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