Thursday, March 6, 2014

This Just In — Jesus: A Pilgrimage by James Martin

Jesus: A PilgrimageJesus: A Pilgrimage by James J. Martin

I am a fan of Father James Martin's books, especially A Jesuit on Broadway. When Scott chose this book for our next religious book discussion at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast, I was on board, having been interested since I first saw it mentioned at Amazon. This gave me the impetus to seriously hunt down review copies and mine arrived yesterday. On Ash Wednesday.

Ok, I can take a hint. I believe my Lenten reading has been selected through what some would call coincidence ("if chance you call it").

This is a much thicker and more substantive book than I expected. The bibliography alone makes one step back and realize there is more hard-core scholarship than in any of his previous books. Yet when I flip through I see Father Martin's trademark style, interspersing personal experience with the main book text.

Yes, I read that much last night, so you can tell I find it accessible and interesting. It isn't dumbed down and isn't too scholarly. It's juuuuust right.

Father Martin's goal is to help us consider our answer to Christ's question to his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?"

This means we must consider what it means to be "fully human and fully divine." Father Martin does a very good job of presenting a lot of contextual information for understanding Jesus' life and ministry through this lens. As we travel through the gospels, so to speak, he intertwines the various stops (recruiting the disciples, healing demoniacs, etc.) with his own pilgrimage to Israel. He then stops to place everything in the context of our own lives and is extremely generous in sharing his own life changing experiences, whether flattering or not.

I have not yet read anything that knocks my socks off, possibly because I'm only on page 160, possibly because I've read tons of Biblical commentaries. But I do appreciate the way that Father Martin approaches questions from all angles. For example, when considering Christ's healings of "demoniacs," Martin isn't afraid to discuss the idea of psychological or physiological illness as a cause. This will be welcome to those who like to get down to examining facts. However, he always does this in a thoughtful, thorough, Christian way that leaves no doubt we are reading about the Messiah and that miracles can (and do) happen.

I'm beginning to feel that this might be a "must have" for Christians who want a more rounded, personal experience of Christ. Or for those who don't understand the "Christian thing" and would like some general context of their own.

I have a feeling that a lot of readers are going to come away wanting to visit the Holy Land. Not me, but I appreciate Father Martin's descriptions as it helps me "feel" the place a bit better. And, to be fair, I've never especially felt the need to go to Rome or anywhere else on pilgrimage, for that matter.

More as I get further in, I am sure.

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