I just read Pope Benedict XVI’s latest book, Jesus of Nazareth. This is a theological and pastoral work that has the real Jesus jumping off the pages of the Gospels. While this book is not an exercise of his papal Magisterium, Benedict the teacher and evangelist demonstrates the reliability and reasonableness of the Gospels, simultaneously showing that the Jesus of history is, indeed, the Christ of faith.The central question around which the book is based is: What did Jesus actually bring, if not world peace and universal prosperity? The simple answer is, according to Benedict, God – and with God, the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love.
In the foreword, Pope Benedict calls it a “most urgent priority” to present the figure and message of Jesus to help draw the faithful into a living relationship with Him. This sense of urgency is likely a response to some of the toxic consequences of a reductive Christology that has infected Catholic theology, catechesis, and activism during the past century. Rather than the incarnation of God Himself, Jesus is often seen primarily as a wise philosopher, social reformer, or political revolutionary. One need only look to certain strands of liberation theology to see these flawed models of Jesus.
When I first learned that Pope Benedict was writing a book on Jesus in the Gospels, I couldn’t wait to read it. Having now read it, I can’t wait to read it again. This book is a great read, a beautiful expounding of the Gospels, and an excellent tool for prayer and meditation. Read it prayerfully, with your Bible in hand, and you will fall in love with Jesus of Nazareth!
Look for my review of this book in the September/October issue of Lay Witness.