Chapter 14: Geresa and Chapter 15: Tabgha {Jesus: A Pilgrimage}

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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.

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Chapter 14: Geresa

As I listened to the audiobook version of Chapter 14 this week, my mind was transported when Fr. Jim painted his vivid portrait of the “Gerasene demoniac”.

I have always — in my mind’s eye — seen the face of a person I know when I read this passage. I won’t say too much about this person, but I want to clarify up front that I do not believe my acquaintance to be “demon possessed”. The person actually suffers from a medical condition which makes them prone to sudden outbursts and uncontrollable bouts of yelling and even cursing. In reality, this person is an incredibly holy person. Their health condition creates this behavior. But I’ve often wondered for myself — before reading this chapter — if the Gerasene demoniac was actually severely autistic.

Interestingly, after reading this special chapter, I believe I will now imagine myself in the place of the demoniac. For in Chapter 14, Fr. Jim does a terrific job of helping me see my own “inner demons”. He even very sensitively shares a few of his own, as does Fr. George. I was moved to tears with a few simple words:

“Still, it’s hard to seek out healing. The turmoil that we see in the man, the divided heart that we witness, parallels our being torn between not wanting to spend another moment with our demons and fearing the means by which we might be healed. What would I have to do to be healed? Will it be painful? Yet if we take a chance, emerge from our tombs, prostrate ourselves before God–no in a subservient way, but in a what that acknowledges God to be our “higher power”–and ask for healing, God can free us.”

God can, and does, free us. For some, the healing of our inner demons is swift and lasting. Others of us must continually recommit to healing and to reaching to God for his strength when our own is simply too weak.

But like the demoniac, we must ask.

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. What inner demons are entangling you? Have you sought healing and relief?
  2. How are you ensnared by the demons of loved ones? How can you be of support to them in their healing process?

Chapter 15: Tabgha

“God takes small things and makes them great.”

For me, these few lines in the middle of Chapter 15’s description of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is both simple and profound. It gives words for the sensations I felt the day that I had the opportunity to visit Tabgha myself:

Bad photo, beautiful place...

Bad photo, beautiful place…

In this chapter, Fr. Jim shares the theology behind miracles which are indeed so miraculous that they are shared in not only a few of the gospels, but in all four.

As I look at the photo above of myself at Tabgha, I remember now a sense of unnamed irritation the day that we visited that holy place. We were rushed through, permitted a few moments to look at the ancient mosaic of fishes and loaves, take a photo or two, and move along.

I recall being upset that our visit was so quick. If I had the chance to go back now, I would drop to my knees in that place and offer my own humble fishes and loaves to be given over to the God of miracles to see what he would make of them.

But the truth is, I can do that today, right where I am.

Since I am short on time as I write this, I simply want to stress the very last point made in this chapter, and my deep abiding connection to its sentiment. Fr. Jim teaches us that we all have gifts–albeit often simple ones–that we bring to the “table” of life. We are invited to share those gifts freely and with humility. As we read:

“But Jesus knew that whatever there is, God can make more of it. But first we are asked to offer our loaves and fishes, no matter how inadequate they may seem. Only then can God accomplish the kind of true miracle that occurred at Tabgha.”

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. What recent miracles, great and small, have you witnessed in your own life?
  2. What “loaves and fishes” can you share to be multiplied miraculously into an abundant feast by our loving God?

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 Chapters 16: Bethesda and 17: Jericho. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Jesus Book Club page.

Copyright 2014 Lisa M. Hendey

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About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at www.LisaHendey.com for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.

3 Comments

  1. Sandi Belleque on

    Two thoughts this week:
    Recently a priest in our area told a family of an autistic son that he needed to go to confession and that many of “these issues” are caused by demons inside us. Umm I don’t think so. How hurtful this was to the family. I think those explanations of suffering because we must have sinned (from the bible) are so unhealthly for today. This chapter brought back that for me.

    Secondly we just heard a deacon speak last night and he was saying “I want to go to heaven and be able to get out not one talent from my pocket to give to God, but many”. We should multiply our gifts that God has given us. To use them as He sees fit.

    • Sandi, thank you for sharing your comment. I hope you didn’t think that I was inferring the same thing that the priest said… that wasn’t my intent. I agree with you that a statement that a diagnosed medical condition is in some ways sinful is a terrible thing. Honestly, having a few close family members and friends who bear this cross, I can say that they are very holy, faith-filled and prayerful people. And I love that deacon’s statement!

  2. I am behind in my readings so just caught up to these two chapters today. I loved that you wondered if the person in this story was autistic, at least it may have been something similar. it made me stop to think about that with the many children I know who are and how they act and react to their surroundings. I didn’t see your comment as being one where you were saying it was “caused by their sins” but rather to see how this does affect those around us. gives me something to think about.
    the chapter that moved me to tears was the second one. I think I am feeling overwhelmed after a year of wonderful but busy events and some sad ones as well. in reading Fr. Jim’s wonderful way of telling us that often things we don’t even know that we have done or said affects someone profoundly and I have myself had this happen when a parent of one of my students comes to me to tell me that I did something that moved them…. usually something I had no idea I did, which is why at the start of each class I ask the Holy Spirit to put into my mouth the words that need to be heard today. Fr. Jim’s words in that chapter truly made me tear up in realizing that no matter how tired I am and no matter how overwhelmed I feel and how little I feel I can do for others, God makes little things work to his good.

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