Jesus and His Enemies

Jesus and His Enemies by Fr. Robert Beck.

Every now and then humanity stands on the precipice of making a radical choice. Jesus confronted this dynamic and chose love over violence. Humanity got off to a good start in attempting to follow his lead but got sidetracked along the way once we had to take up our own crosses in order to follow him. We fell back on the old method of scapegoating to get a reprieve from the tensions inherent in the call to love unconditionally. Inch by inch we crawled down that old path only to find ourselves once again at a having to make a radical choice. Whether it be our environment, our politics or our religions, we face existential issues. Like the authors of our gospels we need to find a way to be together in love not violence. Each composed their texts to address the needs of their communities. I find myself wondering how we can harvest from Fr Beck’s treasure trove of insights in order to re-enter the gospels in a way that can help us find the courage to step back from the edge of the cliff we find ourselves on now. Maybe, having exhausted all the shortcuts we could devise, we may need to say with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Jn. 6 68.

Beck, Robert R. Jesus and His Enemies: Narrative Conflict in the Four Gospels. Orbis Books, Maryknoll NY. 2017

The Wisdom Jesus

The Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault is another treasure trove worth mining. She helps us explore more deeply the impact of recently discovered documents found by archaeologists and others, who then with the aid of many specialists open up new insights on the early believers. It will take many years to unpack the implications that this new source reveals. As many find the current “package” of belief too small, The Wisdom Jesus will help to enlarge the possibilities Cynthia and others are bring forth.

And Man Created God

Selina O’Grady has written a fascinating book called And Man Created God. It is a review of the world religions at the time of Jesus. Although Selina comes at the subject as a non believer, she is another voice that adds to the many who try to situate Jesus, Paul and the early church in their context. I came away from this book bewildered by the chaotic milieu of religions that the people of Jesus’ day must have found oppressive. When given the chance to hear about God from Jesus, the disciples and Paul I can easily see why their words were indeed “good news”.

Escape from Ephesus

This novel, Escape from Ephesus, written in 1991 by Lance Webb, attempts in story form to give us a readers experience of the trials and tribulations of our faith as shared by Onesimus (means useful). It is indeed useful as it hews closely to what we know from those days and years of the beginnings of our faith. Long before we had our gospels and structures, many gave their lives rather than settle for the futility of life without hope and love. You could read many other scholarly books, such as “And Man Created God” and get the facts/details of this same time period, but this novel catches you as surely as any lure of a great fisher could.

The Cultural World of Jesus: Cycle A

 In cycle A we work in the gospel of Matthew. The Cultural World of Jesus: Sunday by Sunday, Cycle A by John Pilch is the first of three books that can really help you get the sense of the times of Jesus.. This often opens up deeper insights into what the text is saying. It is hard in our 21st Century Western culture, to understand many of the parables and teachings because of lack of knowledge of those times. These books will go a long way toward bridging this gap. 1995, Collegeville, MN. The Liturgical Press.

When Jesus Became God

When Jesus Became God by Richard E. Rubenstein In the three hundred-year period after the Resurrection, it must have been terribly difficult to make sense of all the conflicting claims about Jesus in the very early churches. No agreed upon form of the Bible yet existed. Creeds were being hammered out amidst murder and mayhem even among the bishops, and the struggles for safety from hostile neighbors was ever present. Rubenstein’s very approachable book is a wealth of information about this creative and dangerous time. The sub-title says it succinctly: “The Epic Fight over Christ’s Divinity in the Last Days of Rome”. I think you will find this book very interesting.

The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus

The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus is the most engaging book. What would Jesus Do? remains a problematic question because it implies that it is Jesus’ role to enter into our world and become the solution to our problems, when we are meant to live as bravely and as fully in our world and time as Jesus lived in his. (78) “The love of God is not just a sentimental obligation but the incorporation of a worldview that we respond to God as God acts toward us.” (Pg. 79) This is work worth pondering.