Sometimes the best thing to do, especially when we’re not feeling at our best, is to get back to basics. To reconnect with the original fire of our faith and remember the hope that is supposed to be in us.
This is no easy thing, especially when life becomes indefinitely suspended through lockdowns. Here’s a list of five books you might want to try in order to rediscover who Jesus is and the joy of faith.
Greg Sheridan has been foreign editor for The Australian for over twenty years and is one of Australia’s most highly respected journalists. His previous book, God is Good for You was a kind of “coming out” for him, given the nature of his public presence. This latest book is a follow-up, one that seeks to do two things. Firstly, to explore the historicity of the New Testament and whether or not we can trust it as historically reliable. Secondly, to investigate new movements springing up all over the world where the Gospel is being creatively communicated in a hostile culture. More than anything else, this is a book of hope. It leaves you feeling excited by the Scriptures – with all of its humanness and energy and weirdness – and wanting to find proactive, creative ways to plant the Gospel in today’s world. This book comes highly recommended.
N.T. Wright is a world renowned Anglican scholar and pastor. He has published numerous books, both popular and academic, that explore the world of the Bible in a compelling way. This book really tries to get to the heart of what we mean when we say “good news”. Wright is someone deeply interested in the characters of the Bible and the worldview and culture that shaped them, and one of the things he does best is to connect us with that worldview and culture in surprisingly readable ways. Wright’s thesis is that you cannot understand what makes the Gospel truly “good news” until you understand the story of Israel, their expectations and hopes, and the surprising ways in which Jesus fulfilled them. If you want to get excited once again about the Gospel, this is the book for you.
Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth trilogy is rightly famous. Even though he was pope at the time, he did not write it as the pope but as a theologian; as someone who had always wanted to write a book on the person of Jesus Christ. Benedict is a theologian of the highest calibre, yet remarkably this book is one that doesn’t leave you feeling lost in the ivory tower of academia. It is in many ways a personal meditation on who Jesus is from one of the most influential Catholic minds of the last century. At the heart of these books is the simple truth (although not really so simple) that in Jesus we can begin to see the face of God.
Fulton J. Sheen is a household name and for good reason. He was one the first (if not the first) bishop to ever appear on television with his own show, called Life is Worth Living, running from 1952-55. This book, The Life of Christ, is considered a modern spiritual masterpiece. It has a deeply meditative quality to it, but it journeys through the entirety of Christ’s life, from birth to death to resurrection, offering some beautiful reflections along the way. If you want to enter more deeply into the Gospel stories and come to know the person of Christ in a more intimate way, you couldn’t do much better than this book. It opens up the wonder and mystery and characters of the New Testament in profound and vivid ways, making you feel as if you’re living alongside them.
If you haven’t heard of Raniero Cantalamessa before, you’re in for a treat. Since 1980, this Capuchin Friar has been preacher to the papal household. This means, basically, that on a daily basis he preaches to the pope himself. Not an enviable job! This book was born out of a series of sermons he preached to Pope Benedict XVI during Advent 2007. What Cantalamessa does in this book is offer eight meditations on each of the beatitudes, trying to unpack their meaning from within the specific vision put forward by each of the Gospel writers who relayed them, Matthew and Luke. The result of this is a beautiful little book that draws you into the beatitudes in a profound and moving way. It’s a helpful little book because each of the beatitudes is so short, and it’s easy to gloss over them in the Bible without taking time to meditate on what they actually mean. This book helps you take that time.
Fr Jerome Santamaria10 November 2023
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB26 October 2023