Monday, March 10, 2014

Jesus: A Pilgrimage (Harper Collins)

Within the Roman Catholic world, there exist a few "celebrity priests." I generally have mixed feelings on the "celebrity priest," as it is something that can lead to scandal if the priest is not properly grounded in the Lord. You might be asking, "Who exactly qualifies as a celebrity priest?" Fr. Pavone and Fr. Pacwa are the first that come to my mind due to their extensive work on EWTN. Three more recent additions to the ranks include Cardinal Dolan, Fr. Barron, and Fr. Martin have been added to this list though. I first learned about Fr. Martin watching "The Colbert Report," and I wasn't sure how I felt about him at first. I have since warmed up to him after reading several of his Harper Collins' works, A Big Heart Open to God and Jesus: A Pilgrimage, the latter of which I will be reviewing today.

Jesus: A Pilgrimage begins with an introduction that clearly lays out what the book is and more importantly, what the book is not. I point this out because, I generally go in with preconceived notions of what I expect or want from a book. Fr. Martin is quick to point out that this book is not a theological discussion on who Jesus is, nor is it a Bible commentary. This book, however, is a look at Jesus, as we see Him in the Gospels, through the viewpoint of Fr. Martin's education, experience, and a recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land. If we keep this in mind when reading the book, we can give it a proper review.

Each chapter is laid out in the same format. Fr. Martin first mentions the place he is going to visit. He then describes the journey there. Details from this include the actual process of travelling to the location, scenery along the way, and bits of the culture and environment he encountered. Then, comes the heart of each chapter - his reflections. Mixed with theology, history, tradition, and Fr. Martin's wisdom and wit, we put ourselves in the exact moment and location of Jesus and try and picture what it must have been like for both Jesus and those around Him. We then end with the Scripture passage which served as the basis for the site Fr. Martin visited.

The most interesting chapter in this book to me was entitled, "Nazareth." In this chapter Fr. Martin talks about the "Hidden Life" of Jesus. This term refers to the period of Jesus' life, age 12-30, that is absent in the Bible. Fr. Martin, like many, are drawn to this period of Jesus' life because they imagine it is a lot like our lives. "None of us is going to be preaching and performing miracles – at least not as Jesus did – but all of us live everyday lives, as Jesus did in Nazareth, being taught and cared for by our parents, loving and squabbling with our families, playing with our friends, learning what it means to be an adult, and in time earning a living." I never thought of Jesus in this light, but it does make sense. In this chapter, I also learned about just how small and poor Nazareth was. Knowing this, it really puts into perspective the disparaging remarks people make regarding Nazareth. It also shows you the environment Jesus grew up in, and influenced his parables.

Fr. Martin is an excellent storyteller. He does a fine job painting pictures of the places he visited, and he draws out details in the Gospels that one could easily miss. There were, however, parts of this book that I didn't enjoy. The beginning annoyed me a little when he waffled about wanting to go to the Holy Land. (Really what Christian, wouldn't want to see the place of Jesus?!) I also got bored in the beginning reading about the trek to get to each of their destinations, and would think to myself, "Hurry up and get there." However, I eventually accepted that that was the nature of this book as a personal pilgrimage. It would be incomplete to ignore the journey and focus solely on the destination. Those complaints aside, I still enjoyed the book. It was quite interesting to see Jesus, the Gospel passages, and the modern day Holy Land through the eyes of Fr. Martin.

This book was provided to me for free by Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, click the link and hit Yes!