ON THE WAY TO JESUS CHRIST
by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
(Ignatius, 2004, 165pp, hardback, $38.95. Available from AD Books)
Following the election and installation of a quiet German, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as the successor to John Paul II, the former Cardinal's books have soared in popularity both in his homeland and around the world, briefly dethroning the Harry Potter books from number one on the best sellers' list.
Much can be learned, not only about the Catholic Church and faith and God from these publications, but also about the current Vicar of Christ on earth. The present book is both challenging and at times confronting, with the emphasis on confronting for many of today's Catholics!
We live in a world which does not view Jesus as both man and God, but instead concentrates on His humanitarian virtues. Consider: it is far easier and much more comfortable for one to take the Golden Rule and treat others the way one would wish to be treated than to fully embrace Jesus' command to turn the other cheek when struck and love all men, irrespective of how they treat us.
Armed with the gentle, yet forthright honesty we have come to expect from him, the author asserts that today's society has diminished Jesus' presence from that of Lord and Redeemer to a mere advocate for justice and peace. He challenges this concept: "The Jesus of the Gospels is quite different, demanding, bold. The Jesus who makes everything okay for everyone is a phantom, a dream, not a real figure. The Jesus of the Gospels is certainly not convenient for us."
Benedict exhorts the faithful to return to a more appropriate understanding of and awe for God, especially in the second person of the Blessed Trinity. He reminds readers, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9) and urges us to return to Scripture to once again read of Jesus' life, passion, death and resurrection as a preparation for His second coming in glory. The real Jesus of the Gospels, he says, "answers the deepest question of our existence, which - whether we want to or not - keeps us on the lookout for God, for a gratification that is limitless, for the infinite. We must again set out on the way to this real Jesus."
The Pope reaffirms the Real Presence and transubstantiation and like so many of his religious contemporaries calls for a resurgence in devotion to adoration before the Blessed Sacrament: "With these words [the words of the consecration] He had transformed His death into the gift of Himself, so that we can now give thanks for his death. Yes, only now is it possible to render thanks to God unconditionally, because the most horrible thing - the death of the Redeemer and the death of us all - has been transformed by an act of love into the gift of life."
Not one to avoid the hard questions, in the epilogue the author considers the relevance of the Catechism of the Catholic Church following its publication ten years ago. When writing of the opposition with which some of the Catholic intelligentsia greeted the text, Benedict believes that while "certainty in faith seemed to be antithetical to the freedom and forthrightness of ongoing reflection ... faith is not primarily fuel for intellectual experiments; rather it is the firm ground - the hypostasis, as the letter to the Hebrews says (II:1) - upon which we can live and die."
He praises his predecessor's wisdom in compiling and publishing such a definitive text and believes it should be used to consolidate the universal truth upon which the Catholic Church is built, rather than derided for stagnating our rich faith.
This book provides pure and undiluted, orthodox truth, a Catholicism that restores Jesus to His rightful place in the Church He founded. For this, the author makes no apologies.
On the Way to Jesus Christ is ideal for those feeling out of sorts spiritually or seeking to renew their love for Catholicism and the faith, especially regarding the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.