Jesus of Nazareth II by Pope Benedict XVI

Well, I've just finished reading Jesus of Nazareth Part II by Pope Benedict XVI. The Holy Father's exploration of the Person of Jesus Christ is really quite fascinating, engrossing - I found it hard to put down.

The book is scholarly, displays the Holy Father's great erudition but is tenderly human as well, revealing a true Pastor's heart. Much of it is highly quotable - too much of it to quote really here.

As well as using this book as an opportunity to make a comprehensive account of the Faith of Christ, His Holiness also cuts like a surgeon's knife through so much modern theology produced by men and women (mostly Germans it seems!) that create confusion over the Person of Jesus. This the Holy Father does largely by rooting the portrait of Jesus in the Scriptures - not just the New Testament - but constantly referencing the Old Testament, pointing to Jesus as the one who was to come - the Messiah.

Several things leap out of the book. Again and again Pope Benedict XVI focuses on Jesus as the Suffering Servant spoken of in Isaiah. He manages to capture the whole, vivid drama of Our Lord's Agony in the Garden, as He confronts death and sin, and the whole of His Passion. His Holiness spends a concerted period delving into the mystery of the Temple's destruction and Christ's prophecy of its fate, with Our Lord becoming the new Temple, the new High Priest and the only Sacrifice which could atone for the sins of the World.

In all of this, the Holy Father is generous with those who look upon the historical Jesus with a quizzical eye of reason without the integrity of faith, but wastes no time in dispatching their arguments back to where they belong. It really is very interesting that he has written this book at this time - as if he realises all too well that it is when we do not understand the Person of Jesus Christ, that we do not understand either, the Church's Holy Teachings, Her Authority.

When we cannot believe in the Humanity and the Divinity of Christ, it is then that we really come a-cropper. As you read the book, it becomes clearer that this is what the Holy Father is at great pains to communicate - the God-Man, Jesus, who loved us so much that no amount of agony, no amount of suffering, pain, cruelty, rejection and torture was too much to bear for us - the God-Man who loves us still with that burning intensity. His beautiful exegesis of the one Person with two natures is exemplified here, when Pope Benedict XVI discusses Gethesemene...

'The two parts of Jesus's prayer are presented as the confrontation between two wills: there is the "natural will" of the man Jesus, which resists the appalling destructiveness of what is happening and wants to plead that the chalice pass from him; and there is the "filial will" that abandons itself totally to the Father's will. In order to understand this mystery of the "two wills" as much as it is possible, it is helpful to take a look at John's version of the prayer. Here, too, we find the same two prayers on Jesus's lips: "Father save me from this hour...Father, glorify your name" (Jn 12:27-28).

The relationship between these two prayers in John's account is essentially no different from what we find in the Synoptics. The anguish of Jesus' human soul [...] impels him to pray for deliverance from this hour. Yet his awareness of the mission, his knowledge that it was for this hour that he came, enables him to utter the second prayer - the prayer that God glorify his name; it is Jesus' acceptance of the horror of the Cross, his ignominious experience of being stripped of all dignity and suffering a shameful death, that becomes the glorification of God's name. For in this way, God is manifested as he really is: the God who, in the unfathomable depth of his self-giving love, sets the true power of good against all the powers of evil.. Jesus uttered both prayers, but the first one, asking for deliverance, merges into the second one, asking for God to be glorified by the fulfillment of his will - and so the conflicting elements blend into unity deep within the heart of Jesus' human existence.'

If you haven't bought it, buy it. It is a masterful work of spiritual literature and perfect reading for Lent. Pope Benedict is intellectual but not showy. He is humble, but not timid or afraid to ask difficult questions and to challenge perceptions. He reveals himself as a Pope who is ever, always seeking the Face of God.


Anonymous said…
Thanks for that Laurence. I am re-reading the first book and am going to order the second now. I hope it will come in time for me to at least start reading it in Holy Week.
Anonymous said…
It is a stunning book. I cannot put it down. What a gifted man, this Pope.