Welcome to our virtual book club! We’re reading Fr. James Martin’s bestseller, Jesus: A Pilgrimage. Each week we will tackle a chapter and look forward to a lively discussion together.
Chapter 22: Risen
We learn to recognize the voice of God in our lives, but often only gradually. St. Ignatius Loyola said that the voice of God can be recognized because it is uplifting, consoling, encouraging. In time we learn to listen for that voice in our hearts; it becomes easier to identify, and when we hear it clearly, it is easier to answer. It is the voice that calls us to be who we are meant to be. It is the voice that called Peter from the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Matthew from his tax collector’s booth, Bartimaeus from the side of the road, Zacchaeus from the sycamore tree, and Mary Magdalene from whatever had kept her unfree. As Jesus says in the Gospel of John, he calls his sheep by name and they know his voice.
In this chapter, which was one of my favorites, Fr. Martin does what he does so well throughout this book: he makes something that’s so familiar to me–the Resurrection–into something I have to reconsider. He takes an event that I’ve gotten so used to as to be almost bored by the miracle of it and smacks me upside the head with it, forcing me to open my eyes! Pay attention! Realize just what’s in front of me!
Jesus rose from the dead!
He wasn’t raised. There wasn’t a potion or a spell or some action that happened. He was dead–all the way dead. And then…he was alive again. Made new. And yet he was still Jesus. His disciples still knew his voice.
I particularly love Fr. Martin’s treatment of the story of Thomas, because…I relate. Doubt is something that is just part of my life. I can’t help but be skeptical. So when I read about Thomas, my first thought is: “Well YEAH he doubted. You’d be a fool NOT TO.”
And then, reading about Thomas’s exclamation, “My Lord and my God!”, I know that I have a heavenly friend who understands what it is to feel like a donkey, what it is to be embarrassed and yet overwhelmed with gratitude, what it is to be human in all the failed ways I am human.
The Risen Christ is gentle with doubters, with those who need reconciliation, and with those who are so confused that they cannot see him. This is especially important today when many Christians handle doubt and confusion with threats and expulsion. See how the Risen Christ responds to doubt. He calls someone’s name. He shows. He explains. He welcomes. He forgives. In such quiet ways are people invited to know the Risen One.
The Risen One shows us that God meets us where we are. God understands the variety of ways in which disciples live out their faith. So the Gospels tell us not simply about God, but also about ourselves. Are you confused, or do you sometimes even deny God, as Peter does? Do you need God to speak to you in a personal way, as Mary does? Are you like Thomas, who needs concrete evidence of God’s activity in your life? Or are you like the Beloved Disciple, who is so united with Jesus that, without evidence, he simply believes? However you come to your belief, God understands, just as the Risen One understands the disciples.
I find such comfort in this chapter, and in so many more passages within it. In fact, I think that, of all the places Fr. Martin wrote about in the Holy Land that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre might be where I most want to go and be.
To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:
- What do you doubt? What nags at your skeptical side? (If nothing, then pray for those who do struggle with this!) Take that to God in an hour of Adoration this week.
- When have you experienced the Risen One understanding you, knowing you, holding you gently?
- How can you share the voice of God with someone else this week? What can you do to bring God to someone else?
Chapter 23: Emmaus
There are many reasons for our own inability to recognize God. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we might be too focused on the past. Perhaps the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus (apart from the strangeness of his glorified body), because they were stuck on the events of a few days before. Rather than paying attention to what the stranger was telling them, or looking at what was in front of them, or listening to the Living Word, they were focused on death. They may have been stuck in the past.
When I hear stories about people who are unable to forgive, I often think of the Road to Emmaus. A friend of mine once described another person who was unwilling to forgive someone as “unable to climb out of the hole he is in.” It’s easy to feel consumed with past hurts; but when we’re mired in it, we may not recognize the new things that God has in store for us. Ironically, it is at such times when we are in most need of God’s help.
Guilty. Forgiveness is a journey I’ve been exploring since the Lent that led to my entrance into the Catholic Church. That Lent, I spent time really letting go (I thought) of one specific person’s hurtful impact on my life. I wrote them a letter and told them that I forgave them.
And wow. I did NOT see where THAT would lead. It didn’t have the positive, life-changing impact I expected. There weren’t suddenly bouquets and congratulations waiting for me: some others, who I had hurt while nursing my grudge, were bewildered and hurt that I had seemingly changed my story. The person I forgave, of course, was happy, but didn’t necessarily understand what I forgave (or why it was necessary).
In some ways, I made a big mess of things (bigger than it already was, which is saying something). In other ways, I learned something very critical: forgiveness is not a switch you flip. It’s not a step you take. It’s not one thing.
It’s a journey.
And you can’t make that journey without Jesus. (Or maybe you can…I’ve just never been successful without him.)
Though Fr. Martin and George, his traveling companion, never actually found Emmaus–or, as he said, maybe they did and they didn’t know it–but he brought me an insight in this chapter that will stay close to my heart.
As I struggle with forgiveness, I’ll keep looking. Jesus is there beside me, whether I recognize him or not.
To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:
- Is there someone or something you need to forgive? Who do you need to ask for forgiveness? What can you do to begin the journey?
- When has Jesus been walking beside you and you’ve failed to recognize him? How can you recognize him in the future?
- How can you listen to the Living Word of God? When can you make time for that this week?
Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.
Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 24: Tiberias and Chapter 25: Amen. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Jesus Book Club page.
Copyright 2014 Sarah Reinhard