In the modern day United States, we're about as far away from kings and kingdoms and what they mean as you can get. Sure, we can get interested in the latest news from the UK and what Queen Elizabeth is doing, seeing adorable photos of Prince George and his siblings, or what's going on with Megan and Harry. Still, we understand very little of what it means to live under the rule of a king in practical terms.
At the time of Jesus, the Jewish people had gone from recognizing God as their sole king to having a human king, to having the kingdom divided and overthrown, to being oppressed by the ruling power of Rome. Then, at the trial of Jesus, Pilate asks him, "Are you the King?" It is a question that echoes throughout salvation history to our present time.
In the docuseries "Messiah," writer Rick Rotondi, director John Strong, and host, actor Leonardo Defilippis, take the viewer on a pilgrimage of sorts through history and Sacred Scripture, from the call of Abraham to the legalizing of Christianity under Roman Emperor Constantine. The series explores the central question: Is Jesus the Messiah? and then proceeds to show how Jesus fulfills the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament and how his saving action as Messiah continues in the early Church and throughout history.
Fr. John O'Brien, SJ with writer Rick Rotondi on location for "Messiah." © 2019 Cenacle. All Rights Reserved.
The 8-part series (30 minutes each) features five Catholic biblical scholars, both men and women, who lead viewers through the pivotal Jewish prophecies that come to fruition in Jesus. One of the featured scholars, Roy Schoeman, is a Jewish convert to Catholicism, and brings a unique perspective to the conversation. Host and narrator, acclaimed actor and producer of Catholic films, Leonardo Defilippis, will be familiar to those who have seen his work, especially in, "Therese," the 2004 film about the life of St. Therese of Lisieux. The visual aspects of the film include inspiring sacred art as well as scenery from over 30 locations in the Holy Land, Rome, and the United States. One small mark against the series is a lack of ethnic diversity in the art and the featured experts.
Although the content of the series is from a Catholic perspective on Scripture, "Messiah" will appeal to anyone wanting to know more about Jesus and Scripture. The series aims to bring history and Scripture together, especially for those with little knowledge of the Bible but who desire to know and understand better what Jesus is all about.
After exploring the Old Testament understanding of the Messiah by focusing on the Exodus, King David, and the Exile in the first three episodes, the remaining episodes present how God's promises to Abraham and David are realized in Jesus, especially in his passion, death, and resurrection. God's action in the world continues as Jesus mounts his throne in the Ascension and sends the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The final two episodes focus on Saint Paul and the first 300 years of the Church, culminating with a 'king' in the person of Constantine who wants to establish God's kingdom on earth.
Biblica expert Dr. Mary Healy as seen in "Messiah." © 2019 Cenacle. All Rights Reserved.
Whenever I see a movie or series like this one, a question I ask myself is "why now?" Why is this particular story being told at this particular time? Although "Messiah" was originally aired pre-pandemic in 2019, what does it want to say to us who experience it in 2021? As we slowly come out of the restrictions necessitated by COVID-19, having lived through a time of intense uncertainty, this series reminds us that God is in charge and always has been and always will be. God's plan is, indeed, a plan. Yes, humanity has tried to derail it and God has had to tweak it along the way, but the plan for humanity is still in God's loving and capable hands. We only need to look to Jesus, our King of Love, to find the hope we need to continue letting God be in charge. God has cared for the earth for a long time, and because of the promises made to David and fulfilled in Jesus, we know for a fact and can trust that God will continue to implement God's plan for us, individually, as a Church, and as all of creation.
The website for the series, seemessiah.com, provides resources that will enhance the viewing of the series, including study guides for each episode that could be used individually or in a group setting. It's also available in book, audio book and DVD formats.
"Messiah" is set to air on EWTN on Sundays at 6 pm ET beginning on July 4th and CatholicTV will show the series on Mondays at 9 pm ET beginning on July 5th.