ANSWERING THE QUESTIONS OF JESUS

By Father Andrew Apostoli

EWTN Publishing/Sophia Institute Press, 2016

128 pages, $11.95 (available with DVD for $18.50)

To order: ewtnrc.com or (800) 854-6316

 

 

It is commonly accepted that rabbinical teaching is based largely on asking questions. There is an old joke that goes like this: Q: Why does a rabbi always answer a question with another question? A: Why shouldn’t a rabbi always answer a question with another question? Certainly, this is tongue-in-cheek, but it does get at an important point:

When a learned rabbi (teacher) poses a question, you can bet that a lot of wisdom can be gleaned from honestly examining and answering that question. And there is no more learned rabbi than Our Lord.

In Answering the Questions of Jesus, Father Andrew Apostoli of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal uses the questions of Our Lord recorded in the Gospels to glean wisdom and insight into the life of Christ. Even more fundamentally, Father Apostoli guides the reader through answering the questions of Jesus, beyond a simple “Bible study” looking at how they were answered in Scripture.

Here is a passage typical of Father Apostoli’s method, digging into the biblical text.

The passage is in regards to Jesus’ question in Matthew 16: “To the first question about who the masses say that Jesus is, He gets several interesting answers — John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, and a new prophet. But we know, of course, that He was far more than that. He was the Son of God. This question raises a contemporary concern: the fact that so many people today think of Jesus according to popular perceptions or fads. It’s what we might call ‘survey theology.’ The danger with survey theology is that we can create our own images of Jesus.”

Some of the questions posed by Jesus are particularly difficult to face, as they make us confront our own shortcomings and failures. Among these, the chapters on the questions “Could you not watch with me one hour?” and “Do you love me?” are especially challenging. And Father Apostoli ably guides the reader through an honest assessment of the answers to these questions.

Each chapter ends with Father Apostoli’s own efforts in rabbinical question-teaching. A series of questions for reflection and discussion is provided.

One thing this book accomplishes masterfully is bringing the reader to a deeper engagement with the content of the Gospels. Many of us have become so familiar with many Gospel periscopes that we pass over them without a second thought. Father Apostoli succeeds in bringing the reader into deeper engagement with the words of Jesus as they have come down to us. In light of this success, it is unfortunate that the book only focuses on the questions of Jesus.

Father Apostoli’s gift for bringing the reader into the central mysteries of the Gospel would help make a wonderful exposition on the entire life of Christ. (Although, being such a student of the work of Venerable Fulton Sheen — and ordained at his hands! — Father Apostoli probably would simply prefer to defer to Archbishop Sheen’s own Life of Christ.)

Paul Senz writes from

Portland, Oregon.