Monday, June 23, 2014

Book review: "Jesus: A Pilgrimage" by Father James Martin

 If Father Martin's name sounds familiar, I did an author highlight focused on him in the early days of the blog, see here. Father Martin was even so kind as to response to/retweet a tweet I sent him, so he will always be a favorite of mine for that reason alone! He recently released the book we are talking about today, and I might like it more than all the others, but it's pretty close,...

So Father Martin has some time off and is presented with the opportunity to go to the Holy Land. At first he struggles with if he even wants to go or not. (This is kind of funny because I will randomly think about whether this is a place I would want to travel to or not. I'm glad that I could live vicariously through him). He decides to go and is so pleased when a fellow priest and friend, named George offers to come with him. George has also been to the Holy Land before, so he has some experience and will drive the rental car. (No small thing considering how often they get lost!)

The book recounts their journey along with insights from Father Martin about the biblical events that go along with the places that they see. I've got a few thoughts on the book itself, and then I'll share one story with you that I thought was one of the most compelling.


- I like that Father Martin fully admitted when things were not ideal. Some places really move him and make him feel super connected to God...but not everywhere. Sometimes they are somewhere and it's crowded, or it's hot or it's overly commercialized, or there are tourists eating potato chips at the all-night prayer thing you're trying to attend...and sometimes there's just no connection just because there isn't.

-I like that he takes stories that are pretty familiar to (probably) most of his audience and asks deeper questions, helping to gain a new perspective.

- I think it's interesting how the physical location really affect the story. Like did you know that Jesus would preach from a boat because sound carries better over water than land? (I didn't know that,but I suck at science so maybe a lot of you already know that because you're not science idiots like myself). There's a few instances of this pointed out in the book and I always thought it was so interesting.


Here's the story that I wanted to talk about. Jesus and the disciples have just finished crossing a lake. It's been an interesting day to say the least! (Jesus had just calmed a raging storm that had had the disciples incredibly scared) and night had either fallen, or was just starting to fall by the time they made landfall. Jesus is barely off the boar when he is "immediately" confronted by a demon possessed man.

The man must have been well known in the area. In the book of Mark, it's described that the man couldn't be restrained by chains or shackles due to his incredible strength. He lived among the the tombs in the town's cemetery. Day and night the man screamed and wailed. The Fathers see where the town is in proximity to the cemetery. It's not far away, the townsfolk would have definitely heard this poor man's cries. I can't even think about how scary and creepy and sad it must have been.

The man throws himself down at Jesus's feet. Jesus asks the man what his name is, the answer given is : "My name is Legion, for we are many". (SCARY!) Through a conversation with this man Jesus can see that the man is still "in there" and knows that Jesus can save him from this terrible torment. Jesus casts the devils out of the man.

 Father Martin talks about our struggles with our own "demons" (self doubt, anger, alcohol, drugs, abuse of all kinds) and how Jesus can save us from those as well. If you would like to read the whole biblical accounts the story is recounted in Mark, and Luke. There is also a recounting in Matthew but it's a much shorter one. This was not an unfamiliar story to me, but after reading Father Martin's insights and thoughts I gained a whole new perspective on it.

I highly highly recommend this book. Even if you aren't religious and skip all of the "Jesus parts" and only read about their travel adventure it'd be a worthwhile read (though it would only be half the story). I give it 4 out of 5 stars!

Jesus: A Pilgrimage

Also, if you missed out on the Inklings discussion over at Books and Beverages, click here to check it out!

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