Two millennia ago our Lord appeared among us as the son of a carpenter. Suppose the Incarnation occurred today instead. With what profession or trade would the Son of God associate himself?
Would he be a professor? ‘Christ the Teacher’ has a familiar ring to it, and he was addressed as ‘Rabbi.’ Would he be a physician? Wasn’t he known for his healing powers? Would he be an entrepreneur? After all, he founded the most enduring organization the world has known. Would he be a social worker who understands the difference between rendering to Caesar and rendering to God? Or, perhaps a rancher who knows how to care for sheep? Would he, High Priest that he is, be somehow identified with the hierarchy?
What do you think? Purveyor of parables that he was known to be, I contend that in today’s parlance Jesus would come as a screenwriter.
At the risk of being sacrilegious or of embarrassing anyone, I would say that one individual, who for the better part of the past four decades has personified this role of media evangelist, is Father Michael Manning.
In 1978 Father Manning, a member of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD), founded Wordnet Productions, a Catholic television ministry (www.wordnet.tv) whose mission is to embrace the transforming power of the Gospel and to communicate the Word of God to all people with a particular emphasis on the spiritually and materially poor. As its website indicates, “Wordnet implements the church’s mandate of interfaith dialog by building bridges of hospitality and understanding through collaborative media production,.” Having produced over 1,000 programs on such varied topics as biblical spirituality, church teaching and social justice, Father Manning and his associates now minister to over 200 million households around the world through broadcast, cable, satellite, internet, podcasts and direct video purchase.
A visit to Wordnet’s website will reveal a rich and varied treasure of informative and inspiring content for all ages. Many of us over the past half century have acquired a jaundiced view of televangelism concluding, as we have, that what should be a pastoral concern is prompted more for concern for the pastor than concern for the flock. Not so with Wordnet Productions. Its programs resonate with the robust vigor of Truth. Those of you who are digitally developed can experience this by tapping into the phone app “iGodtoday.com” for an uplifting message to guide your daily lives. Be warned: it’s addictive.
The National Catholic Community Foundation can boast here. We have had a relationship with Wordnet Productions for 15 years. More significant, however, is that Sister Pat Phillips, SHCJ, its executive director, has been on our investment committee during that entire period.
Truth be told, Jesus does come today. He, the Word of God, is brought to us through the modern marvels of communication by screenwriters like Father Mike Manning. Because of Wordnet Productions and the many men and women who support it, the Kingdom does indeed continue to advance.
Dana Robinson is chair of the board of trustees of the National Catholic Community Foundation.