Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus of Nazareth

For my Lenten reading I’m slowly working my way through the Holy Father’s latest book. I’ve been reading a little bit at a time just before bed each night. As I remarked to Dom last night before he drifted off, I feel like I’m only skimming the surface. Not because this is a hard book to read. On the contrary, it is very readable. But because there so much there that could be chewed on and discussed and pondered and I don’t have the mental reserves to do so right now. I’d love to read it with a group; but as that’s not an option right now I’ll take what I can get and plan to re-read later. Maybe when Bella reaches high school age…. In the meantime I am getting something out of it, just nothing I can yet formulate into a worthwhile blog post.

A few things have struck me as I’ve read that are not really about the content of the book as much as about the book as a cultural phenomenon. I’m not sure I’ve untangled exactly what I want to say, so bear with me. First, I am struck by how scholarly the book is and yet at the same time how accessible. One of the tragic flaws of modern academia is the way in which “scholarly” has become synonymous with “impenetrable except by the inner circle”. That was one of the real sticking points in my academic career, the gnostic tendency to obfuscate and confuse rather than clarify and enlighten. It seems to me the goal of the academic should be about seeking truth and knowledge and bringing the light of what that quest uncovers to the world. Instead academics seem to see themselves far too often as a sort of high priesthood, the gatekeepers of knowledge and only those who are initiated may fully enter in.

Anyway, I don’t mean for this to become a rant about academia, though my dissatisfaction with academia is a large factor in my response to the book. The point is that Pope Benedict’s book is well-informed and fully cognizant of current and former academic trends and fashions, it engages in full dialogue with them and yet does so in a way that is accessible to the well-read Catholic housewife, the pewsitter who is not afraid of a little hard work but who would be intimidated by most of what passes for scholarship these days. It that it is a remarkably pastoral book. It’s main concern is clarity, spreading the Gospel message as far and widely as possible.

And thus I ponder how perfect a vehicle it is for helping to reform the dreadful state of basic catechesis. Because this book is so accessible and given the cachet that attaches to the name on the cover, the interest that the common man has in finding out what the pope has to say, it seems to me that there is real potential that this book could be a key component in a renewal of adult Catholic interest in learning more about the faith.

Of course, Diogenes writes much more succinctly and coherently about the subject. Perhaps I should just leave the final word to him:

One of the glories of Pope Benedict’s extraordinary book Jesus of Nazareth is how completely it overturns the facile reductivism we’ve been spoon-fed for so long. Benedict takes modern scripture scholarship seriously—more seriously than many of its practitioners—yet there’s scarcely a page in which he does not give back to us, as fact, some event in the life of Jesus that had been taken away from us by the critics. And he does this not by some appeal to fideism (or even to conciliar teaching) but by reading the Scriptures as a unity, by obliging the critics to account for the whole of revelation and not just for the particular problem that snagged their attention. Pope Benedict examines the same process of composition and redaction that the union-card-holding critics do, yet argues that the only adequate explanation for the emergence of the biblical text in the form we now have it is that Jesus was God. In brief, Benedict is Greeley’s anti-toxin.

I hope I may share more thoughts about Jesus of Nazareth at some point in the future. We’ll see.

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  • Don’t be too hard on yourself grin I am the mother of two little ones (28 and 15 months), and I know things can be challenging. I stay home with my children, too, but I don’t think that means that I have to be with them all the time, or that I always have to answer their requests the very moment they express them, no matter what: there are instances when what I am doing must have precedence. I think it’s good that they learn that mom has other important ‘activities’. To make a few silly examples, what good would it be if you put off your shower/didn’t iron daddy’s shirt/stopped working on dinner/stopped cuddling with your husband who’s finally home, just because your baby is screaming for another book-reading session? Our children must know that we love them unconditionally and totally and always, must they must also learn that they can’t always have us whenever their whim strikes. Of course, our motives must be good: if I’m just online, or watching tv, or doing something silly, and I don’t answer their requests, then I am being lazy and selfish. And of course, I’m not talking about newborns and really young babies. But I really believe toddlers must be taught about the needs of others, mom’s included. I think once you have your second baby, it will come natural to you to think that you’re not being selfish if you have to put Bella off sometimes, and I’m sure Bella will learn the same lesson too: mama can’t take me to the playground right now because she’s nursing my little sister to sleep, not because she’s bad or she doesn’t love me. There will be times when she’ll hate this, and times when you’ll feel terribly guilty, but as I said, if you have a good reason, you’re on the right side of the issue, and your child will have to accept it. I could write more (what you say about schedules and your temptation to put things off sounds so familiar to me grin I’m that way too!) but, as you might imagine, my children need me now wink

  • GB, Thanks, for the encouragement.

    I don’t have a hard time putting Bella off when I’m genuinely busy cooking dinner or doing something that must be done <i>now</> The thing is that on most days there are really not all that many things which fall into those categories. (I do know it will be very different once I’ve got a newborn.)

    The problematic call for me is when I’m online, reading blogs, checking my email, etc. I know I probably spend more time doing that stuff than I should and so already feel a little guilty. On the other hand, I know I do genuinely need some time to do those things, it’s important for me to have that outlet to an adult world. It’s a matter of finding the balance between my need for me time and overindulgence in me time that I struggle with. There isn’t any objective measurement and no official guidelines for how much is enough and how much is overdoing it.

    Also Bella is actually pretty good at playing on her own and entertaining herself. Knowing that also makes me less certain about putting her off when she does request my attention.

  • I think I might try to make sure that Bella did have meals and snacks on time since you’ve noticed this pattern.  A schedule is one way to get ahead of the curve on this.  I must say that I never had too much of a schedule about anything *except* meals.  I did think that was important which I tell you so that you can weigh it in with what I’m saying.  I love seeing pictures of Bella and hearing about her world and your observations of it.  Jane M

  • I understand you perfectly, as probably does any mother with young children grin
    On most days, it’s practically impossible for me to find a moment for myself without paying some sort of price… My husband once proposed that I have a few hours for myself during the weekend, but while I was thrilled by the idea (freedom!!), so far I’ve never done anything – I just feel I’m abandoning them all. It’s silly, isn’t it? I think this would actually be a good idea, so mom can feel refreshed once she’s back, and the sacrifice in terms of time spent doing her own things during the week wouldn’t be so hard.
    When my children were younger I used to complain that all I did was nursing; now I complain that all I do is watch them so they don’t fight, get hurt, generate a catastrophy, etc. All I can do with my beloved books is to put them back on the shelf after they’ve thrown them around and refused to accept my idea that it would be fun if they put them back on the shelves themselves… But lately I’ve been thinking about my “mothering style”… And I have to aknowledge that, while I’m loving and patient, I also tend to be “passive” with them, in the sense that I tend to hope they’ll ask the bare minimum of me and of my time. But this is not the way I was doing my job before getting married, when I was so obsessed about perfection… The secret for me then is to “surrender” to this motherood vocation of mine, and always try to cheerfully give up what I have to give up. It’s not easy at all, but it can work… After all, if I steal time to read a book, ignoring the dust or the children for a while, at the end of the day I’ll feel bad and guilty, while if I can resist the temptation to claim too much time for myself and I take better care of the house and of my loved ones, I can feel proud of having tried my best, even though I might have accomplished little, and had no time for “intellectual stuff”.
    It’s hard to accept the idea that love is sacrifice, but it’s a good lesson to learn, little by little wink Ok, my share of time-for-mommy-alone is over for today!!