Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is an eloquent and very knowledgeable scholar. Even so, he knows how to reach out to readers in a very sincere manner.
Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, like the previous books in this series, is a work of love. It is a work that is designed to make Christ known to the world in a manner that is relevant to our present times. Without adding to the narrative, Pope Emeritus draws out many meaningful observations from the Bible and other historical texts and traditions. In doing so, he reveals and explains very significant details about Christ’s life and mission that are often overlooked or hidden from those who read the biblical narratives of Christ’s birth and youth. While we are familiar with many of the moments of Christ’s life that are discussed in this book, we often take them for granted, not knowing just how important they are. This book seeks to enlighten us about Christ’s life and help us appreciate even the smallest details.
Using rich descriptions of the world during Christ’s time as well as tradition and Biblical text, Pope Emeritus Benedict expands upon familiar moments in Christ’s life, such as the passage about the twelve- year-old Christ in the Temple. We are all familiar with this portion of the New Testament, where Christ is left behind in Jerusalem as his parents returned to Nazareth. However, as this book illustrates, there is much more that we can derive from the dialogue as well as the circumstances of this passage. For example, though Jesus was not required by custom to return to Jerusalem during the three great feasts (Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles) until the age of 13, he was still brought along by his parents. This may not seem to be a big deal to us, but as Pope Emeritus explains, the fact that Christ came along is quite significant. It demonstrates the piety of the holy family. Neither Jesus nor Mary was required by custom or law to go to Jerusalem with Joseph, but they went anyway. They went because it was God’s temple and their journey was a journey towards God.
Small and often under-appreciated tidbits of information such as this shed light into a passage that almost seems too short and too early in Christ’s life to be of much significance. They also shed light into how Christ can be encountered today. As the holy family sought God by making a pilgrimage to the Temple, we too must also go to mass to seek Christ. In illuminating the pious and faithful lives of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, Pope Emeritus Benedict beautifully explains how we can implement this faith into our daily lives even if we are not called to be preachers, healers, or prophets. This passage, and many others in this book, will help any reader see how Christ’s mission began far earlier than the years of his public ministry and how we can glean many lessons from his earliest years that we can then apply to our daily lives.
Altogether, this book is a good read if you intend to take your time reading it. Though Pope Emeritus is able to break down a lot of material in a way that can be easily understood by the average reader, this is one of the books you will need to take your time on. It is not a quick read and it is full of information. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever wanted to know the back story to Christ’s earlier years and to anyone who has ever been interested in exploring what life was like in Christ’s time. As the bibliography will tell you, Pope Emeritus Benedict did his homework and somehow managed to incorporate the works and ideas of many great authors from around the world when writing this work. I highly recommend this work if you are willing to invest quite a bit of time in reading it. It will certainly help you look at Christ’s earlier years in a new and very enriching light.
Disclosure:All opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was offered a free eBook copy of this book for review.