May 20

The last blog I wrote talked about “The Chosen.” It tells the story of Jesus through the eyes, and backstories, of his followers. It is outstanding. One of the really unique things is that the Apostle Matthew, played by Paras Patel, is autistic.

Jesus came to call everyone including the sick and outcasts, particularly those who were considered different or misunderstood, so it is entirely reasonable to think one of the Apostles may have had challenges. Their struggles and faults, pasts and presents, did not define them. Jesus welcomed everyone, but mostly especially those who were overlooked or outright rejected by others.

The Great Commission occurred at the Ascension which we celebrated last weekend.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20).

Jesus gave these instructions as he ascended into Heaven.

But how can we be charged with such responsibility? At Pentecost, which we celebrate this coming weekend, the Apostles were anointed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not leave without providing the tools, in his teachings and an advocate in the Holy Spirit.

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1-4).

It’s on us now. To go out and find people, speaking to them and relating to them where they are, not where we want them to be.

Through the Holy Spirit, the ascended Jesus is here with us on earth, in every person, every moment, every day, everywhere. In “The Chosen,” Jesus calls people of all backgrounds and abilities. “The Chosen” emphasizes the relationships between the Apostles, their reactions to Jesus and His message, which was revolutionary at the time. It was counter to teachings at the time, traditions, and accepted norms.

Much has been written and said about cancel culture lately. Jesus advocated for the complete opposite. He cancelled no one. Jesus did not shame people, exclude them, or seek to push them out of discussions. He sought understanding and made a space for all people. That is why I am impressed by the casting of the Apostle Matthew as autistic in “The Chosen.” During the series, Jesus takes the Apostles aside and tells them to listen to each other, value every perspective, and seek that which is new or different. He rejects hierarchy. He also warns them that a day is coming when the responsibility will shift to them.  (So far “The Chosen” is set early in Jesus’s public ministry.)

But Jesus could certainly relate to our cancel culture. Isaiah 53:3 reminds us that, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” The people at the time called Him a false prophet, marginalized him and, ultimately, crucified him.

I have become profoundly affected by the humanity portrayed in “The Chosen” – in the Apostles, in Jesus himself. It’s on us to hear each other and recognize and respect dignity and humanity. To take the gifts from Pentecost which God entrusts to us and welcome one another, especially those with new, unique, and different opinions, talents, abilities, and challenges which they must face. Maybe we should think about the ability to speak in tongues not as rare, and someone else’s gift and calling, but as our call to find the language, words and actions we need to truly see and connect with each other. It might not be the language, words or actions that come easily, or that we prefer, but business as usual is not his message.

“After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it” (Mark 16:19-20).

We are called to do the same. It’s on us to take our commission from Ascension and gift of the Holy Spirit from Pentecost and do the work. In his message, there is no marginalizing or cancelling. There is only authentic listening, genuine concern, and hearts open to something different. We have a responsibility; we have been delegated; we are empowered by Holy Spirit. It’s on us now.

Sheila Hellermann is a member of St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments. Read more about Sheila on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.


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