Come Meet Jesus: An Invitation from Pope Benedict XVI
(Originally published here in January 2010)
Word Among Us asked me to write another book for them after Mary and the Christian Life was published. (It’s now out of print – I have a few copies here and will be doing some sort of self-published print and digital version in a couple of months) They had a topic in mind – I don’t remember what it was, but it was something that didn’t interest me very much. So I suggested a book focused on Pope Benedict instead. They were open, asked me for something more specific, and this is what emerged.
It’s not a theological introduction to or analysis of the Holy Father’s thought. You’d want to look at Tracey Rowland’s Ratzinger’s Faith, Aidan Nichols’ Thought of Pope Benedict XVI, perhaps in concert with The Essential Pope Benedict XVI anthology volume for that.
It’s not even a popular complete introduction – my standard response to someone asking me how they should begin to approach the Holy Father’s work and thought is to direct them, not only to the Vatican website, but to the autobiography, Milestones, and the two interview books, Salt of the Earth and God and the World. And then keep going, in whatever direction interests you – whatever the topic, he’s written on it. (as I mentioned before, his book Eschatology was of great help to me this year – such a technical, murky theological subject – but what emerges from Ratzinger is really, spiritual writing of the highest order. Very challenging and reassuring all at the same time.)
Nor am I suggesting that you read this little book in place of reading Pope Benedict himself. Long-time readers know better than that. What is astonishing and really unique about the Holy Father’s theological work is how accessible it is, without sacrificing depth or complexity. You don’t even have to spend a dime to immerse yourself in what he is saying, right? It’s all there – with the usual translation delays – at the Vatican website.
No, this book is centered on Christ as the center of Pope Benedict’s thought and work as theologian and vocation as Pope. It seems to me that he is “proposing Jesus Christ” both to the world and to the Church. He is about reweaving a tapestry that has been sorely frayed and tattered:
Offering the Good News to a broken humanity and a suffering world that in Jesus Christ, all of our yearnings and hopes are fulfilled and all of our sins forgiven. We don’t know who we are or why we are here. In Christ, we discover why. But it is more than an intellectual discovery. In Christ – in Christ - we are joined to him, and his love dwells within us, his presence lives and binds us.
Re-presenting Jesus Christ even to those of us who are members of the Body already. This wise, experienced man has seen how Christians fall. How we forget what the point is. How we unconsciously adopt the call of the world to see our faith has nothing more than a worthy choice of an appealing story that gives us a vague hope because it is meaningful. He is calling us to re-examine our own faith and see how we have been seduced by a view of faith that puts it in the category of “lifestyle choice.”
Challenging the modern ethos that separates “faith” and “spirituality” from “religion” – an appeal that is made not only to non-believers, but to believers as well, believers who stay away from Church, who neglect or scorn religious devotions and practices, who reject the wisdom of the Church - one cannot have Christ without Church.
…and of course there is more, but that’s some of what I am trying to bring out. The book is quote-heavy, of course, because what I’m doing is not re-interpreting, just presenting. It’s pretty simple – Pope Benedict’s witness and thought have deepened my faith more than I can say. There are just too many people out there – still – who are walking around with terrible misconceptions about Pope Benedict, and even spreading those misconceptions. I wrote this book in the hopes that a few of those people might be reached and their hearts and minds opened. It’s a work of gratitude, more than anything else.