Broken Lamps

A Homily for the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Year 

 

Jesus said: “You are the salt of the earth.  But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?  It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  You are the light of the world.  A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.  Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

–Matthew 5:13-16–

 

As some of you know, I am a big fan of The Chosen, a television series on the life of Jesus directed by an Evangelical Christian named Dallas Jenkins and starring Jonathan Roumie, a devout Catholic, who plays the role of Jesus.  I have, to be sure, a few theological misgivings about the show, but on the whole, I believe it is very good.  My major criticism is that the actors boast teeth that are entirely too white for first-century Palestine!

The writers of The Chosen take some creative but very believable liberties with the Apostles.  Peter, for example, has a beautiful wife named Eden.  Andrew is notorious for his inability to dance.  Matthew is afflicted with a bit of autism.  Thomas is the wine merchant who failed to provide enough to drink at the wedding feast of Cana, and Simon the Zealot is the brother of the lame man whom Jesus cured at the Pool of Bethsaida.

Most significantly, James the Less is portrayed as a cripple.  The actor who plays him, viz. Jordan Walker Ross, was actually born two months premature, which led to him having minor cerebral palsy, severe scoliosis, and acute asthma.

Just before the Apostles are sent out on mission to preach the Gospel, “Little James” has this exchange with Jesus:

 

James:                    Master?

Jesus:                     Little James.

James:                    May I have a moment?

Jesus:                     Of course.

James:                    I, uh…  Forgive me.  I am not always confident to speak.

Jesus:                     Slow to speak.  That’s a very good quality.

James:                    [clears throat]  I wanted to ask you a question.

Jesus:                     Please.

James:                    You are sending us out with the ability to heal the sick and lame… Yes, that is what you said?

Jesus:                     Yes.

James:                    So you’re telling me that I have the ability to heal.  Forgive me.  I just find that difficult to imagine with my condition—which you haven’t healed.

Jesus:                     Do you want to be healed?

James:                    Yes.  Of course, if that’s possible.

Jesus:                     I think you’ve seen enough to know its possible.

James:                    Why haven’t you?

Jesus:                     Because I trust you.

James:                    What?

Jesus:                     Little James, precious little James, I need you to listen to Me very carefully, because what I’m going to say defines your whole life to this point and will define the rest of your life.  Do you understand?  In the Father’s will, I could heal you right now, and you’d have a good story to tell, yes?

James:                    Yes, that you do miracles.

Jesus:                     That’s a good story, but there are already dozens who could tell that story.  And there will be hundreds more, even thousands.  But think of the story you have, especially in this journey to come, if I don’t heal you—to know how to proclaim that you still praise God in spite of this, to know how to focus on all that matters so much more than the body, to show people that you can be patient with your suffering here on earth because you know you’ll spend eternity with no suffering!  Not everyone can understand that.  How many people do you think the Father and I trust this with?  Hmm?  Not many.

James:                    But the others…they are so much more…

Jesus:                     So much more what?

James:                    I don’t know.  Stronger?  Better at this?

Jesus:                     James, I love you, but I don’t want to hear that ever again.

James:                    I know how easy it is to say the Psalm of David that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,”[1] but it doesn’t make this any easier.  [crying]  And in this group it doesn’t make me feel like any less of a burden.

Jesus:                     A burden?  First of all, it is far easier to deal with your slow walking than it is to deal with Simon’s temper.  Trust me.  [James laughing]  Are you fast?  Do you look impressive when you walk?  Maybe not.  But these are things the Father does not care about.  You are going to do more for Me than most people ever dream.  So many people need healing in order to believe in Me, or they need healing because their hearts are so sick.  That doesn’t apply to you.  And many are healed or not healed because the Father in Heaven has a plan for them which may be a mystery.  And we remember what Job said: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away…

Both:                      Blessed be the name of the Lord.”[2]

Jesus:                     When you pass from this earth and you meet your Father in Heaven, where Isaiah promises you will leap like a deer,[3] your reward will be great.  [puts his hands on James’ shoulders]  [James crying]  So hold on a little longer.  And when you discover yourself finding true strength because of your weakness, and when you do great things in My Name in spite of this, the impact will last for generations.  Do you understand?

James:                    Yes.  [whispers]  Thank you, Master.

Jesus:                     A man like you healing others!  [James laughing]  Oh, what a sight!  I can’t wait to hear your stories when you return.  Shalom, my son.

James:                    Shalom.

Jesus:                     And James, remember.  You will be healed.  It’s only a matter of time.  Hmm?

James:                    Yeah.

Jesus:                     Shalom, my son.

James:                    Shalom.  [smiles][4]

 

Could I have had access to this dialogue when I was in my early twenties, I might have been spared much anguish!

In our Gospel, Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  Our Lord is not looking for perfect people.  He’s just looking for people, no matter how broken they are, who are perfectly willing to do His will.

 

[1] Psalm 139:14.

[2] Job 1:21.

[3] Isaiah 35:6.

[4] The Chosen, Season 3, Episode 2: “Two by Two,” my own transcription.