Tag Archives: Christ

Discerning The King, Long Before His Coming

Messiah, a new eight-part documentary film series, explores how the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Christ – and his Church

After millennia of preparing his people through the patriarchs, prophets, the law and his covenant, God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to proclaim the good news of salvation and to redeem us through his cross and resurrection.

The story of Jesus has been told in film numerous times, from motion picture epics that keep close to the Gospel narratives to modern reinterpretations that strive to make Jesus more accessible to contemporary believers.

Now comes Messiah, a new eight-part documentary series due for release this fall. Filmed on location in the Holy Land, in Rome, and in the United States, it is produced and marketed for use in churches, schools, and private homes.

So why make another Jesus film? What more is there to say about Christ?

“In one sense Messiah doesn’t say anything new. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” said Rick Rotondi, creator and executive producer of the series, referencing the Letter to the Hebrews. “Two thousand years ago, Jesus revealed Himself fully to His apostles. In a project like Messiah, all any artist or filmmaker can hope to accomplish is to mine the riches of this revelation once given to the saints.”

Although Christ remains the same, Rotondi added, “Every generation must discover Christ afresh. There are truths about Christ we tend to forget. We’ve forgotten the astounding ways in which Christ fulfills the Old Testament.

“I hope Messiah changes that,” he added.

What Messiah brings to the forefront

Due for release in the fall, Messiah guides viewers through the Old Testament covenants and prophecies beginning with the Exodus event and reveals how these prophecies are fulfilled in the person of Christ — and the Church he established.

Filmed on locations in the United States, the Holy Land, and Rome, Messiah uses beautiful images and music, narration, voice actors, and expert interviews to convey how the Church fulfills the messianic prophecy as a “light to the nations.” Designed for presentation in churches, schools, and private homes, the new series is a catalyst for catechesis and discussion.

Leonardo Defilippis, who serves as the series’ host, has evangelized through stage and film presentations on the Gospels and the lives of the saints for nearly four decades. He calls Messiah “a very profound work.”

All Christians are taught that Jesus is the Christ, the “anointed one” of God, Defilippis said, but Messiah shows how He is the priest who builds God’s true Temple, which is the Church.

Unfortunately, “so many Christians do not recognize Him and slip away due to their lack of faith and lukewarm spirit,” he explained. “This is the state of the world and of our very beings most of the time.”

Defilippis said it’s easy to see why people stray from the Church, and it can be summarized in one word: sin. “We leave Jesus because we constantly reject His very person and follow the way of the world,” he said.

But Messiah “reminds us that He is the true liberator, and it is all clearly proclaimed through the history of salvation,” he added. The film thus points viewers toward “the reality of the kingdom of God, heaven itself.”

Catholic novelist and co-producer Bud Macfarlane agreed with the evangelizing potential of Messiah. “No viewer will ever experience Mass the same way again, because the series places Old and New Testament readings into a world-historical and supernatural perspective,” he said.

Challenges and blessings

Filming in Rome and the Holy Land often came with tight restrictions that presented special challenges. Sometimes authorities allowed the crew just an hour to stage and film a scene; other times guards were unexpectedly tolerant of their presence at particular locations. The project, however, seemed to be blessed at every turn.

“We saw one mini-miracle after another while on this set,” said director John Strong. “We went to impossible lengths and got the footage we desired.”

Defilippis found himself deeply inspired while filming in the Holy Land. “I had the privilege to see a window into heaven many times,” he said. At the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, he was moved to drop to his knees in silent prayer. “At that moment it hit me that this is one of the most significant places in all of creation,” he explained.

Anticipating profound impact

Rotondi said he hopes viewers will be affected profoundly by Messiah. “One of the takeaways I hope people obtain from Messiah is that God is faithful to His promises,” he said. “To see how God’s promises to Abraham and Moses and David come to fruition in Christ fills us with awe and should give us confidence that God will fulfill His promises to us.”

Another hoped-for takeaway is that the Church on earth is the Kingdom of God and the Lord’s Temple, tasked with carrying out Christ’s work of salvation.

“We don’t often get to enjoy this glorious image of the Church today, but it’s a true one,” Rotondi said. “Despite the Church’s sins and wounds, despite corruption, sin, and timidity in her human members, the Church is the living and active presence of Christ in the world. The Church is the Mystical Body of the Messiah, extending His dominion through time and space, putting all things under His feet.”

For more information about the film’s September 2019 release, visit SeeMessiah.com.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Return to faith – overcoming scar of clerical abuse

Paul Zsebedics could never bring himself to throw away the T-shirt with a picture of Christ’s face that his mother gave him years ago.

Zsebedics was barely a practicing Catholic when he agreed to chaperone a group of high school students on a weekend retreat at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He wore that old T-shirt.

In a metaphorical and literal sense, Zsebedics put on Christ for the first time.

Encountering Christ anew

“I think I did it because I knew I was going with others to this retreat who had something that I didn’t, and I was sort of hiding behind Jesus,” said Zsebedics, 52, a member of the Tampa Bay Chapter, and CEO of VoloForce, a software company.

On that weekend retreat several years ago, Zsebedics met Jesus in a deeply personal manner. Encountering Christ in a Eucharistic Adoration gathering, Zsebedics said the Lord physically intervened in his interior life.

“This was miraculous, not a metaphor,” Zsebedics said. “Jesus Christ reached into my chest with His hand. I actually felt it. He grabbed my heart. I gasped. That was it. My life was changed forever.”

As he later knelt down and wept, Zsebedics felt a peace envelop his entire body. Nothing in that moment would have been able to take that consolation away from him, not even the pain of being a sex abuse survivor.

Betrayed altar boy

“There is no amount of money that can ever heal the way that Jesus Christ can,” said Zsebedics, who was an altar boy in the third grade when he was sexually abused by one of his parish priests in Queens, New York.

After finishing their altar service training, Zsebedics said the priest escorted each of them separately into a bathroom in the sacristy, where he abused them. Not even 10 years old, Zsebedics and the other boy did not understand what had happened.

“Being in the third grade, you don’t know much about the world,” Zsebedics said. “At the time, it was confusing. The older you get, you see what’s going on and you begin to know what’s happening.”

Growing up with that horrible memory turned Zsebedics off to the Catholic Church, which he saw as having no moral authority, especially since his childhood parish — Our Lady Queen of Martyrs – turned out to be “an epicenter” of clergy sex abuse. Zsebedics’ own sister was abused by one of the parish priests.

“A lot of bad priests were brought there,” Zsebedics said. “A lot of altar boys and others who worked in and around the rectory were abused in one way or another by those priests, and the diocese covered it up for many years.”

Damaged view of Church

The horrible experience also shaded Zsebedics’ view and understanding of sexuality for many years.

“Looking back, you bring this garbage everywhere you are in your life. You look at sexuality differently,” he said. “Back then in the 1970s, nobody talked about what sexuality is and how one is supposed to look at sexuality in general. You become numb. You try to figure it out and understand.”

As an adult, Zsebedics fell in love with Ellen, a young Pan Am flight attendant in New York with whom he would later elope. Ellen’s mother, a devout Catholic, arranged for the couple to meet with a priest and have their civil marriage convalidated.

Though he attended Catholic schools for 12 years, Zsebedics said he was “poorly formed” in the faith, and was not very supportive when Ellen, who was baptized Catholic but never received her other sacraments, enrolled in RCIA. When Ellen received Holy Communion for the first time, Zsebedics watched in bewilderment as she started crying.

Powerful return to faith

“All I can think of is why is this woman crying over this Jesus cookie?” Zsebedics said. “At the time, I was thinking, ‘She should be crying because she’s marrying the greatest man on earth, which is me.’”

Their parish priest subsequently encouraged the couple to complete “St. Louis de Monfort’s Way of Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary.” Our Lady’s promise of drawing the soul closer to her son had its desired effect. Both had powerful conversion experiences.

“It changed the direction of our family,” Zsebedics said, adding that he and Ellen, who have been married 23 years in the Church, developed a prayer group with other families. Their family also grew.

Today, they have six children whose ages range from 9 to 27. Their 18-year-old son, Andrew, recently told them he plans to enroll in seminary to discern the priesthood.

Priceless gift of healing

“My wife and I were joyful that we had a son who was open to discernment,” said Zsebedics, who, though he was abused by a priest, encouraged his children to be open to the Lord’s call, even if that meant the priesthood.

Zsebedics also said he regularly prays for his abuser, who died in 2016. Zsebedics added that he has spoken with diocesan officials in New York to erect a shrine to St. Maria Goretti at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church to aid in the healing of sex abuse survivors.

“Bishops will often ask, ‘What can I do to help you heal?’ It’s very difficult when you tell them, ‘Absolutely nothing,’” Zsebedics said. “There’s not a dollar in the world that can actually make up for this priceless gift of faith and healing that we received through the Blessed Mother and her son, Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.” L B

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Another doctor at Calvary: myths of the Crucifixion

Many beliefs about Jesus’ physical suffering have become firmly transfixed in our minds because of the numerous crucifixes we have seen, homilies we have heard, articles we have read, and movies we have watched. Unfortunately, most of these accounts are not based on the best ancient history and current medical research.

Myth #1. Jesus carried a two-part cross. Many movies show Jesus carrying a two-part cross, but in all the available crucifixion references starting with the earliest recorded Greek and Persian crucifixions around 490 B.C., there is no instance of a condemned person carrying a two-part cross. All carried a single beam of wood to the place of crucifixion where they were affixed to an upright post. And based on the size of the beam of the ‘good thief’ displayed in a Rome church, the beam that Jesus carried weighed about 15 pounds — the weight of a bowling ball.

Myth #2. Jesus’ feet were nailed one on top of another. Very commonly, crucifixes and paintings of the Crucifixion depict three nails used – one for each hand, and one through both feet. However, the earliest crucifix depicting one foot on top of the other dates to the 11th century, 1000 years after Christ died. All of the earliest images show the feet either on the outside of the upright post – or even with the knees bent to the outside with the bottom of the heels touching at the upright post. And indeed, two archaeologic findings have found nails through the heel bones that support both positions.

Myth #3. Jesus and other crucifixion victims died of suffocation. My Mayo Medical School mentor, Dr. William Edwards, popularized this theory based on the book A Doctor at Calvary, written by French surgeon Pierre Barbet in 1950. Dr. Barbet’s friends told him that World War I torture victims had their wrists bound together, raised above their heads, and then tied to a beam above them so that their feet did not touch the ground. They would soon yell “aufbinden” (German for “un-tie”) because of the great muscular and respiratory discomfort. Within 30 minutes, victims would suffocate with their muscles fixed in cramps.

Dr. Barbet thought that the cause of death from aufbinden and crucifixion were the same, and Dr. Edwards popularized this in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1986.

However, in crucifixion reconstructions, volunteers experience minimal to no breathing difficulty, and no ancient manuscripts refer to difficulty breathing on the cross, although many mention victims yelling and spitting from the cross. Third, the suffocation theory requires that victims pushed themselves up on the nail(s) through the feet to exhale, but when volunteers in crucifixion reconstructions are asked to push themselves up by straightening their legs, they can’t do it even once — let alone the thousands of times required for survival for longer than a day — as many victims did. Finally, and most damaging, the Gospels tell us that Jesus cried out in a loud voice at the moment of death. No one can yell if they are suffocating to death.

Jesus most likely died of traumatic shock – significant blood loss due to the trauma of the beating in the house of Caiaphas the night before and the scourging on Good Friday. In the end, a shock-induced fatal heart rhythm probably caused a rapid-onset weakness and light-headedness that warned Jesus of his impending death so that he could cry out in a loud voice at the end. 

If you want to learn about more Crucifixion myths and further detail about what our Lord endured in his Passion, please use the link below, and remember during this Lent that what Jesus did, He did for you.

bit.ly/DoctorDoctorShow – episodes #11 and #12

DR. THOMAS MCGOVERN is a Legate and Mohs Surgeon in Fort Wayne, IN who has been researching and speaking on the Passion of Christ for over 30 years. He hosts the Doctor, Doctor radio show and podcast and serves on the national board of the Catholic Medical Association.

Thinking Like Jesus: The Psychology of a Faithful Disciple

Dr. Ray Guarendi
EWTN Publishing, 160 pages

 

Dr. Guarendi is a clinical psychologist who sees the bigger picture: we are called to become more like Christ, and so following Christ’s example provides our pathway to resolving our everyday problems. That means, among other things, we must subjugate our will to what is good and how we must change, hold ourselves and others to high moral standards, communicate clearly and civilly without allowing emotions to take over, and make mid-course corrections rather than excuses. His helpful, easy-to-read book covers much territory, and we’re all likely to recognize ourselves within its pages. This is self-help at its best.

 

Order: Amazon

Christ reveals man to man himself

The Gospel of Life is at the heart of Jesus’ message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as “good news” to the people of every age and culture.
— Evangelium Vitae, ¶1

In order to authentically redirect society from its perilous direction and transform it into a Culture of Life and Civilization of Love, hearts must be re-oriented toward Christ, the Light of the World. After all, the closer the human person comes to God, the closer he comes to his own humanity and the truths of the world in which he lives. As Gaudium et Spes says, “Christ…fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.” [¶22]

The human person, in every age, seeks answers to the meaning of human existence: “Who am I? What is the purpose of my life? What follows this earthly life? What is truth, the meaning of happiness, and why is there suffering and evil?”

Sadly, as Judeo-Christian values have decayed, the common language used to express and defend those values has become foreign to many. The foundational principles that have guided centuries of civilization are no longer points of demarcation for understanding the human person and his inherent dignity, his relationship with his neighbor or his Creator. This is why we must once again turn our gaze to the One who reveals man to man himself.

The joyous herald of the angels that first Christmas night sheds light upon the answers we desperately seek: I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. (Luke 2:10 11) Christmas reveals the full meaning of every human life and in Jesus’ birth all life in all of its stages is given its purpose and full significance. It is the good news offered to people in every age and culture.

The unwavering reverence for the dignity of every human person is at the heart of the transformation of cultures, and the resolution to the challenges confronting contemporary humanity cannot be found apart from this single truth. It is this truth that provides the safeguard against the individualistic and totalitarian tendencies that have tragically scarred our cultures, societies and families.

Man is called to a fullness of life, which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God. The loftiness of this supernatural vocation reveals the greatness and the inestimable value of human life even in its temporal phase. — Evangelium Vitae, ¶2

Catholic tradition affirms, “The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual… [The] body and soul are inseparable” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 362-368); therefore, they stand or fall together (Veritatis Splendor, ¶49). As citizens of two cities, knowing that we have here no abiding city but seek one that is to come, we are mistaken to think we can evade our earthly responsibilities instead of discharging them conscientiously.

Christianity is not just about social action, or feeling good about one’s life, or working out one’s own salvation, or practicing one’s faith when convenient or opportunistic. Faith in Christ is about an unwavering commitment to Jesus, His mission, commands and Church.

Being transformed by Christ, the One who reveals man to man himself is the fulcrum for a radical transformation of our societies and cultures.

This Gospel exceeds every human expectation and reveals the sublime heights to which the dignity of the human person is raised through grace. — Evangelium Vitae, ¶80

To the extent to which we answer the call to personal holiness, to the extent to which it is the Holy Spirit living the Life of Christ in us, we will transform the world around us and build a Culture of Life and Civilization of Love.

 

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA.

The Son of God…born as gift to mankind

Isaiah prophesied, “A child is born to us, a son is given to us… They name him… God-Hero” (Is 9:5). Christians have long seen in these words a prophecy of Jesus’ birth and an affirmation of his divine identity. Though it took several centuries for the Church to develop her understanding of the relation between Jesus’ human and divine natures, nevertheless, from the beginning she has declared of Christ, as the apostle Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).

The reality that God himself became a man for our salvation — what is called the Incarnation (literally, “becoming flesh”) — is at the heart of the Christian faith. Denial of this truth has been the hallmark of many heretical sects.

Jesus himself declared, “The Father [that is, God] and I are one” (Jn 10:30). When He did, some of those who heard Him picked up stones to kill Him for blasphemy, because they understood (correctly) the implication of what He was saying: He was claiming to be God (see Jn 10:30-33; also Jn 5:17-18).

In fact, virtually every attribute of the Father in heaven — the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who revealed Himself in the Old Testament — was claimed by Jesus for Himself. He spoke authoritatively as God (rather than merely for God). He accepted worship. He forgave sins. He said He was equal to the father. And He claimed that He had existed eternally.

New Testament authors verified His claim: “For in Him,” St. Paul wrote, “dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily (Col 2:9); “In the beginning,” the Gospel according to John announced, “was the Word,/… the Word was God. /… All things came to be through Him,/ and without Him nothing came to be. / And the Word became flesh (Jn 1:1, 3, 14).

EXCERPT FROM Insert M-1 “Why Does the Church Teach that Jesus Is God?”, from The New Catholic Answer Bible – New American Bible, Revised Edition (Our Sunday Visitor, 2011).

SCRIPTURE 101

“The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew Him not. He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not. But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”
Gospel of John 1: 9-14

CATECHISM 101

The Church calls “Incarnation” the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God (1 John 4:2).”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, #461, 463

In Christ’s footsteps

Patrick Novecosky traveled to the Holy Land for Pope Benedict’s visit in May. . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

As the pea gravel crunched beneath my feet, I couldn’t help but think of the Last Supper where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The chalky dust not only coated my shoes, but permeated the air as we walked the path to the spot where tradition says Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River.

Just an hour outside of Amman, Jordan, my group was about two hours ahead of Pope Benedict’s arrival at the site, part of his four-day visit to the country in May. It was mid-afternoon as the crush of media covering the Pope’s visit to the Holy Land arrived.

I scoped out the best vantage point to see the Holy Father, who was to stop at a platform overlooking the spot designated as the place where John the Baptist christened Our Lord. It wasn’t impressive. Scraggly bushes surrounded the area, a small pond fed by a tributary from the river because the Jordan has narrowed over the centuries. Archeological experts have determined that early Christians built a church to commemorate the spot as the place of Christ’s baptism. When the area flooded, they came back and built again. That resolve has convinced many that this was the biblical site of Bethany Beyond the Jordan described in Jn 1:28 and Jn 10:40.

It was the only time during my nineday press tour of Jordan — which coincided with the Holy Father’s visit — that I stood in the footsteps of Christ. Despite the fact that the site had changed over the centuries, it didn’t take much imagination to see St. John the Baptist with Our Lord as he emerged from the muddy waters only to hear the voice of the Father saying, “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased.”

Life often throws us curve balls, and sometimes it feels like life is nothing but a tangled ball of string. But thankfully the Gospel message — walking in Christ’s footsteps — is radically simple. In scripture, the last recorded words of Our Lady were: “Do whatever he tells you.” And at the Jordan, God the Father said much the same thing.

Listening to Christ means more than just memorizing the words he spoke during his short 33 years. It means cultivating a real relationship with him. It means surrendering to him so completely that we live as St. Paul who said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” With the help of the Holy Spirit, that kind of intimacy is not only possible, but necessary because at the end of our earthly life He wants it to be our permanent reality. Heaven begins here in this life when we walk in Christ’s footsteps, and it continues when we pass through the veil to our eternal destiny.

Patrick Novecosky is the editor of Legatus Magazine. You can read more about his visit to Jordan at his blog: http://patricknovecosky.wordpress.com