An Invitation to Meet Jesus

I love the writing of James Martin, S.J., and have benefitted from each of the books he has written as well as from many of his articles in America and otherwise. This is no less true of his newest book, which I just finished reading: Jesus: A Pilgrimage.

Martin describes his book as “an invitation for you to meet the Jesus I have studied, the Jesus I follow, and the Jesus I met in the Holy Land,” with the aim of prompting readers to explore more about Jesus. He does this through chapters that explore major stories of the Gospels through the lens of his own life and prayer (and Martin’s honesty about his own weaknesses is both admirable and encouraging), stories from his teachers, and his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Each chapter ends with the Gospel passage, the story of which was the subject of the chapter, inviting prayerful reflection before moving on.

I should have been writing posts about the content of this book as I read it, because there is way to much to share in a single blog post, although I suppose I could simply say (a) put this on your summer reading list if it is not there already, and (b) Martin’s descriptions of his time in the Holy Land increase my desire to visit there.

But I will share here just three of the things that I found particularly helpful and worth reflecting on. First, in Martin’s discussion of Luke’s account of the miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5:1-11), Martin zeroes in on Peter’s reaction to the miraculous catch: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Martin suggests we “can try to imagine Peter’s possible frame of mind when he asked Jesus to leave him, but it is just as important to understand why we say to God, ‘Go away from me.'” He spends the next several pages looking at the some possible reasons, discussing our feelings of unworthiness, fear (of God and God’s power), fear of change, and fear of intimacy. He ends this helpful discussion with the reminder of Jesus’ response to Peter’s “Go away” – Jesus does not depart form Peter, but calls him to join him in his mission. Likewise, he does not depart from us when our fears cause us to move away. Continue reading


What It Means To Accept Our Crosses

What does it mean to accept our crosses?

A recent issue of America Magazine has an excerpt from Jim Martin’s newest book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage. The excerpt shares Martin’s thoughts on what Jesus means when he instructs “take up your cross.”

Martin suggests taking up our crosses is not simply recognizing that suffering is part of everyone’s life and that there are some things we cannot change, as true and important as that is. Rather, he says “Acceptance also means not passing along any bitterness that you feel about your suffering.”

Martin distinguishes between sharing our suffering with others – talking about them, crying about them, perhaps even complaining about them – and letting our suffering rule our behavior. “[I]f you are angry about your boss or school or family, you needn’t pass along that anger to others and magnify their suffering. having a lousy boss is not a reason to be mean to your family. Struggling through a rotten family situation is no excuse for being insensitive to your coworkers. Problems at school do not mean that you can be cruel to your parents. Christ did not lash out at people when he was suffering, even when he was lashed by the whip.”

Sadly, that kind of behavior is all too common and I’ve seen it in myself. You come home from a bad day at work and lash out disproportionately at a spouse or child and say, “You have to excuse me, I had a bad day at work.” I’m sure you can think of equivalent examples.

I think we all have a sense that is not a particularly admirable thing to do – that our “excuses” are not, in fact, sufficient excuses. But there is something in Martin’s tying it to Jesus’ words about taking up our cross that is helpful to me. That, I hope, will keep me mindful of the need to refrain from “passing along” my suffering to others.