Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book Review: Jesus A Pilgrimage

Let me get this out of the way first: I love Father Martin's books.

A few years ago a friend mentioned Martin's book,  My Life with the Saints (HarperOne, 2007). I devoured it in a few days. After reading that I immediately read Between Heaven and Mirth (HarperOne, 2012) and A Jesuit Guide (to Almost) Everything (HarperOne, 2012) and loved them as well. I enjoyed them so much that I suggested that our parish prayer group read them for our book studies. And after Easter we will read Jesus: A Pilgrimage (HarperOne, 2014).

Father Martin brings the spiritual life "to life." So often authors use abstract terms and concepts or academic jargon,  but not Father Martin. No. When reading his books you feel like Father Martin is in the room with you gently guiding you through the text,  pointing out the essentials, but not getting too bogged down in details. I admire Father Martin's clear writing style and prose. I also enjoy his self deprecating humor. I never heard Father Martin preach, but judging from his healthy sense of humor and wit, I'm sure he's a great preacher.

Readers of Father Martin's previous books will not be disappointed with his latest offering. Jesus: A Pilgrimage is part memoir, part travel writing, and part Biblical commentary and reflection. The book is a result of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land that Father Martin took with his friend George a few years ago.

The book is divided into twenty five chapters which basically follow the life of Jesus. Jesus: A Pilgrimage brought back many memories from my own pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2014. I too, like Father Martin, took a journal with me and made many of the same observations and reflections as he did, especially the crazy atmosphere at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with tourists pushing and shoving and selling crosses and candles, it was like a zoo! After returning from the Holy Land I realized that many of the places where I felt the most "spiritual" or "in tune with God" was not in the crowded Church's, monasteries, and tourist sties,  but in the quiet places such as standing atop Mount Tabor overlooking the green valley below or while in a boat taking a short trip across the Sea of Galilee or watching the waterfalls at Caeserea Philippi.

I have read many books on the life and world of Jesus. Yet for the most part they are generally one dimensional. They cover the facts and offer important commentary and insight yet they are missing something: the personal dimension.  Father Martin's stories bring the Holy Land to life showing us how we can follow Jesus' footsteps from Bethlehem to Nazareth to Jerusalem, but that we are all called to follow Jesus each and every day.  While Father Martin and George went on a spiritual pilgrimage to Israel we are all on our own personal pilgrimages in our homes, at work, in Church, and in the world. The personal invitation "come and see" that Philip made to Nathaniel in the beginning of John's gospel is an invitation for all of us whether we are clergy or lay, single or married, male or female. All of us are invited to follow the Lord wherever we are and in whatever situation we find ourselves.

Jesus: A Pilgrimage is a wonderful resource for pastors looking for greater insight for their weekly sermons and homilies. It's also a great resource for Bible studies and for parish book clubs. I certainly will return to Jesus: A Pilgrimage again for my own preaching and teaching in the years to come.

For more information about Jesus: A Pilgrimage click here 

For a list of Father Martin's other books click here