Friday, July 03, 2009

Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth: Reflections Part 1

I just ended Chapter Three of the book "Jesus of Nazareth" by Pope Benedict XVI (Doubleday, 2007). There are a lot of quotations in those three chapters that I love, that impressed me and that made me stop to think and reflect, I'd like to share some of them.

Chapter 1: Baptism
Page 18 "He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners". You have to realize how fast Jesus works -- at the beginning of his public life Jesus has already covered his agenda that is identifying himself with The Father and with the Father's Will, and in so doing, Jesus already started to act on our behalf by having himself baptized by John the Baptist. Jesus doesn't have to (even John the Baptist was surprised by his action) as he is God, but he's doing it only because he is already anticipating the Cross and he'd like to show us that to we have to repent our sins and be renewed in him. "To accept the invitation to be baptized now means we have to go to the place of Jesus' Baptism. It is to go where he identifies himself with us and to receive there our identification with him"(page 18)...Beautiful!

Chapter 2: The Temptations of Jesus
This chapter could be one of my favorites in this book. Pope Benedict XVI one by one digested and analyzed the temptations Jesus faced in the desert. When Jesus was tempted by the devil to turn the stone into bread, Jesus rejected it. Then fast-forwarding to the multiplication of the loaves, the Lord fed the multitudes. What's the difference? Why did he not turn the stone to bread but did a miracle by feeding the multitude? In the multiplication of the loaves, the people sought God first and because of God's concern that they might get hungry, the Lord ensured that they would have something to eat. Whereas, in the temptation scene, it was really more of a challenge to Jesus to prove himself as the Son of God, as God himself. Sometimes we fall into that trap -- asking miracles from God so that he can prove himself to us. Oh, we men of little faith! "Jesus is not indifferent toward men's hunger, their bodily needs, but he places these things in the proper context and the proper order." (page 32).
There is another quotation in this chapter that could be a good reflection piece especially for people who are in authority, page 39, "Without heaven, earthly power is always ambiguous and fragile. Only when power submits to the measure and the judgement of heaven - of God, in other words - can it become power for good. And only when power stands under God's blessing can it be trusted."...Wow! Calling all politicians ;-)

Chapter 3: The Gospel of the Kingdom of God
Pope Benedict XVI talked about the tension between ethics and grace by discussing the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (page 61-62). You can really see here the difference in their mindset. The Pharisee was focusing on himself and in actuality does not need God, while the tax collector sees himself "in the light of God. He has looked toward God, and in the process his eyes have been opened to see himself." He saw how inadequate he was in front of God. "He needs God, and because he recognizes that, he begins through God's goodness to become good himself"...Lesson of the story? Seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else follows...

As I have said in my previous post, this book really is so beautiful to read, to reflect on...I know I am not doing much justice to the book with my reflections here so do get your copy and read the book yourself...I am going to continue though with my personal reflections/favorite quotations on each of the book's chapters so until next time...the book is upto Chapter 10.

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