The Chosen

The young maiden of Nazareth was chosen from among all women to be the bearer of Christ for our world.  Mary’s fiat, her ‘yes’ in response to the Angel of the Lord, her surrender to the will of God, sets a tone for each of us in this season of Advent and throughout life.

The popular film series, The Chosen, is attracting millions of viewers who want to take a closer walk with the Lord.  The writers, producers, and actors of the show give imaginative background to stories we have heard from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, creating characters and scenes to which many people are attracted and can readily relate.  Prior to this production, most portrayals of Gospel characters were one-dimensional with little, if any, variance from the scriptural script.  Long before the days of television, however, Saint Ignatius of Loyola promoted prayers of fantasy, i.e., the engagement of sacred imagination in which seekers and believers are urged to put themselves in biblical scenes and gain a more intimate connection with chosen ones by interacting with them, getting to know them better, and even being comforted by their foibles, faults, and faith.  Through prayers of fantasy, we catch glimpses of how we, too, have been chosen.

Each of us is chosen by God for a particular role in the story of salvation.  As Psalm 139 reminds, we were chosen even before we were born, even with all our limitations and liabilities. We are chosen for the same reason as were the disciples and saints.  We are chosen to give hope, as were many good souls like George Bailey, many bad characters like The Grinch, many misdirected people like Ebenezer Scrooge, many outcasts like Rudolph, and many insignificant beings like Charlie Brown.  We have each been chosen to inspire those around us.  And though we sometimes view Jesus’ band of brothers and sisters as an unworthy gang of companions or, conversely, as a collection of stainless saints beyond our reach, the fact that each of them has a multi-layered background helps us realize they were a lot like us.

It might be a good exercise for you, this Advent Season, to contemplate the Infancy Narratives while offering prayers of fantasy.  Imagine yourself as a resident of Nazareth in the time of the Annunciation.  Give backstory to the other residents and think about what they are thinking, feeling, and saying about the young girl’s pregnancy, her departure, her fiancé, and her fate.  Or imagine living in Ein Karem, home of Zechariah, the Levite priest who was struck dumb when praying in the holy sanctuary.  Reflect upon what it is like to be a villager when you hear that his elderly wife is pregnant, when her young relative shows up from far away, when the baby is born and given an unexpected name and, suddenly, Zechariah’s speech returns.  Or fantasize about being in the company of Joseph and Mary along a ten-day trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem as her time to give birth arrives.  Observe them as they get turned away from various shelters and are destined to deliver in a cave or barn where you could assist the new parents in that earthshattering scene.  As you take in the sights, sounds, and smells, endure the weariness, emotions, and great challenges, your prayer may help you understand these stories in new ways; it may allow the people in them to become more personal to you; and they may become more meaningful, too.

From the chosen people, our Jewish ancestors, came The Chosen One, Jesus.  We are part of the story.  We, also, are chosen.