Jesus as Revelation of God’s Love

Always interested in taking a look at new books offering New Testament commentary, I just finished reading Jesus, The Revelation of the Father’s Love, by Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., which was sent to me courtesy of the Catholic Company reviewer program.

The starting premise of the book is that the Christian Bible defines three dimensions of love: God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love for others and that Jesus is both “the definitive revelation of God’s love for us and the ground of our love for God and for others.” As the title of the book suggests, Harrington’s focus here is on exploring now the New Testament presents Jesus as the revelation of God’s love.

The book is divided into four chapters that address different parts of the the New Testament: the Synoptic Gospels, John’s Gospel, the Pauline Writings and a final chapter that considers together Hebrews, 1 Peter, 1 John and Revelation. One of the things I liked most about the book is that each chapter ends with a “Think, Pray and Act” section designed to encourage treating the book as not merely an academic exercise, but something that will influence our lives as Christians. I found the questions for reflection to be thought-provoking and the invitations to prayer very helpful and thought the inclusion of this section make the book a good one for parish groups as well as for individuals.

There are some wonderful little gems throughout the book, including a particularly beautiful discussion of the way our loving service of others keeps alive the spirit of Jesus and a helpful explication about the structure of Jesus’ parables and of the psalms. Having said that, there are also some thing Harrington says that I either disagreed with strongly or think are a little less clear than the author presents them. One example of the latter is his discussion of Jesus’ last words; for Harrington to read them as words of despair rather than trust would “reduce [Mark’s] whole Gospel to nonsense.” I think many would make a very different argument. Such disagreements do not bother me; indeed, they invite me to further reflection and so I am always appreciative when an author forces me to read a passage in a way different from the way I have read it before.

The thing that most bothered me about the book was its tone and cadence. It reads very much like a lawyer’s brief, heavily focused on trying to prove a point, something that made it not a very enjoyable, smooth read. The brief-like nature was aggravated for me by the constant repetition of the conclusion, over and over again (especially in the early part of the book) reminding the reader that one point or another shows the Jesus is the “revelation of God’s love for us.” Once one gets the point that this is what the author is trying to prove (which is pretty early on) the constant repetition of the phrase was, for me, a little distracting.

Despite the tone, I found the book a worthwhile one. As I mentioned already, in addition to individual reading, it would make a good book for parish group study.