It’s taken me a while to read this second part of Pope Benedict XVI’s trilogy on Jesus of Nazareth. My last review of Part One was written last June. Not that I didn’t want to read more, but there are too many good books that need reading and life has also been extraordinarily busy in the meantime. This second part came with a software package that I purchased called Verbum. (Interestingly, that package doesn’t include Part One or Part Three.) I was able to send it to my Kindle and read it.
The first book I called ‘the best book I have read on Jesus in a long time’ and I liked it so much that I purchased it for a friend for Christmas. This second book continues dealing with the life of Jesus with the same blend of scholarship and theological reflection that characterized the first one. Pope Benedict is a very readable author, and the book is a smooth and enjoyable read.
This book feels more distinctively Catholic than the first book. I think this is because we are now dealing with Jesus’ passion. Of course all Christians have Easter, but every Catholic Church has the Stations of the Cross positioned about the nave, every Catholic Church service recreates Jesus’ Last Supper, the crucifix is a distinctively Catholic item, Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays throughout the year to remember good Friday, they celebrate Lent for forty days before Easter… I could go on, but Easter has a lot of particularly Catholic themes associated with it.
If I had to pick out a few themes running through this book, it would be the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, the end of sacrifice, the centrality of the Eucharist or Last Supper, true priesthood and sacrifice in the Christian faith and the significance of the historical resurrection and Jesus’ expected return in the early Church. There’s a lot of depth here despite the one-week time-frame that this book is covering. Pope Benedict spends a lot of time in particular on the Last Supper, covering when it occurs in relation to the Passover, what words Jesus spoke at it, and the significance for the early Church. The theme of the Eucharist, in properly Catholic fashion, is interwoven with all of these themes, including Jesus’ presence with us now, ‘especially close in the Eucharistic presence.’
Pope Benedict ends, appropriately enough, with Jesus’ Ascension. He comments on the joy that the disciples have after parting from Jesus, and what that means – Jesus has not left us but is present with us even now. After quoting from Luke, where Jesus ascends as He blesses His disciples, Pope Benedict observes, ‘In faith we know that Jesus holds his hands stretched out in blessing over us. That is the lasting motive of Christian joy.’
+ The same great style and blend of scholarship and faith
+ Still a great read and easy to get in to
+ The focus on Holy Week is a great accompaniment to Lent or pre-Easter read
Recommendation: Read it!