Dan Burke is an award-winning author, writer, and speaker on Catholic spirituality. He has written and/or edited nine books on faithful Catholic spirituality and is the Executive Director and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register. Dan is the president of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and the creator of Divine Intimacy Radio and SpiritualDirection.com.
You may have avoided the Jesus of Nazareth books by Pope Benedict because you don't feel particularly scholarly. Maybe you're busy. Maybe they just seem like they don't really apply to you.
As we come out of the holiday season, with all of its hustle and hurry, the Pope's third and final Jesus of Nazareth book offers a chance to reflect on what just happened. In just over 100 pages, the pope examines the Gospel accounts of Jesus' childhood. Reading this book is a chance to be part of a discussion, one that doesn't require a degree in theology. It's a relatively short book and within it is a story that touches the very heart of what it is to be human.
Pope Benedict approaches the topic with the passion of a scholar but the words of a conversationalist. Even as you scratch your head at the miracle, Papa invites you to open your heart for the Incarnation.
In the foreword, Pope Benedict asserts that this book "is not a third volume, but a kind of small 'antechamber' to the two earlier volumes on the figure and message of Jesus of Nazareth." What that means in practice is that it's a book that tucks nicely into your briefcase and accompanies you easily before lunch.
The theology is flawless, in part for its approachability. The beauty of the ideas presented and discussed--those of Jesus' childhood and specifically his birth--is in part within the simplicity of the pope's language.
Picture yourself as a child sitting with a favorite uncle or a brilliant grandfather. How would they tell you the story of Jesus' birth, explaining the Gospels? What kind of inflections would his voice have? That's the feel of this book, and it's no less brilliant for that aspect.
The book begins with the question of where Jesus is from and continues to the annunciation of John the Baptist, which is then contrasted with the annunciation of Jesus. We read about the wise men and the significance of the star, followed by the flight into Egypt. The prologue considers the 12-year-old Jesus in the Temple.
It doesn't seem like much--but yet it seems like so much. Pope Benedict guides the reader on a journey to help us understand some of the depth and breadth of Scripture
You can find this fantastic resource here or go to www.EWNReligiousCatalogue.com and search for "Jesus of Nazareth."