Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Jesus Of Nazareth: Holy Week by Pope Benedict XVI

I have been reading an advanced copy of Pope Benedict's new book Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week. It covers the time from his entrance into Jerusalem until the time of his Resurrection. This work covers much less of the Gospels than the first volume, but I prefer it because he has more time to get into details and the pace doesn't seem quite as rushed.

While I cannot give a full review yet, that will have to wait until next week, what I can say is that this has quickly become one of my favorite books by Benedict XVI. His insights are illuminating and his pedagogy is brilliant.

The reason I can't say much is because there is an embargo on the book until next week. But, today the publisher wrote and told me that those of us with an advance copy can use content from three sections.
Chapter 3, Section 4: “The Mystery of the Betrayer”
Chapter 5, Section 1: “The Dating of the Last Supper”
Chapter 7, Section 3: “Jesus Before Pilate”
I would like to highlight one of them - "The Mystery of the Betrayer" - but first a few other comments.

First of all, Pope Benedict is clear that the purpose of this book is to help the readers have a closer relationship with Christ through the Sacred Scriptures. He wants us to be able to see the face of our Messiah and love Him more. I believe the Pope does an even better job in this volume, than the first one, of achieving this goal.

Second, he continues to bring forward a proper way of interpreting the Bible that does not solely rely on the historical critical method. This method can be valuable, but does not go to the depths of where the Pope wants us to go.

With that being said, the section "The Mystery of the Betrayer" is full of ripe fruit. The one I like best is below (for the full excerpts released today, click here):
For John, what happened to Judas is beyond psychological explanation. He has come under the dominion of another. Anyone who breaks off friendship with Jesus, casting off his "easy yoke", does not attain liberty, does not become free, but succumbs to other powers. To put it another way, he betrays this friendship because he is in the grip of another power to which he has opened himself.

True, the light shed by Jesus into Judas' soul was not completely extinguished. He does take a step toward conversion: "I have sinned", he says to those who commissioned him. He tries to save Jesus, and he gives the money back (Mt 27:3–5). Everything pure and great that he had received from Jesus remained inscribed on his soul — he could not forget it.

His second tragedy — after the betrayal — is that he can no longer believe in forgiveness. His remorse turns into despair. Now he sees only himself and his darkness; he no longer sees the light of Jesus, which can illumine and overcome the darkness. He shows us the wrong type of remorse: the type that is unable to hope, that sees only its own darkness, the type that is destructive and in no way authentic. Genuine remorse is marked by the certainty of hope born of faith in the superior power of the light that was made flesh in Jesus.

John concludes the passage about Judas with these dramatic words: "After receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night" (13:30). Judas goes out — in a deeper sense. He goes into the night; he moves out of light into darkness: the "power of darkness" has taken hold of him (cf. Jn 3:19; Lk 22:53).
We all sin, but Christ calls us all to repent. Yet we also have the choice of despair. Do we choose to act as Judas and despair or as Peter - who repented and moved onto holiness. Pope Benedict isn't letting us off the hook though. I found myself thinking of how similar I am to Judas and just how powerful the demonic influences can be over so many lives.

Pope Benedict's new book reminds us that the Sacred Scriptures are a chance to encounter the living God in the person of Jesus Christ. It is a true encounter. But, the encounter can be made more personal and applicable if we know the depth of the Bible and if we allow it to change us.

I will have more on the book and a full review next week.

No comments: