Part of the call of the Year of Faith is to renew our knowledge of and commitment to the faith that was gifted to us at baptism. Veritas is therefore happy to offer a Year of Faith: Book of the Month. These books are intended to inform readers on a wide variety of faith topics. As an initiative for the Year of Faith, you might like to start a Year of Faith Book Club in your work, school or parish community, where these publications can be discussed and shared.
Book of the Month for July: Jesus: Social Revolutionary?
The challenge that Jesus posed by eating with sinners lay in the simple, but deeply profound, act of looking at a human being whom society considered of little value, of little use, of little worth and recognising that person’s extraordinary dignity as a child of God.
- Peter McVerry SJ
||Father Peter McVerry SJ is widely known thanks to his long-established work with homeless young people in Dublin and his constant championing of their cause.Jesus: Social Revolutionary? adds even more urgency to his ongoing case for a change in attitudes and actions, particularly from those who describe themselves as Christian. Here, Fr McVerry challenges both the institutional Church and individual believers to take to heart the gospel imperative to be passionate about compassion, and to live in solidarity with those on the margins. For him, there is no faith without justice.
An excerpt from the Introduction to Jesus: Social Revolutionary?:
After at most three years of public ministry , and more likely only nine months , Jesus was put to death by the religious/political leaders of his day. And not just put to death, but crucified. To understand the mission and ministry of Jesus, and therefore the mission and ministry of his followers, we have to explain why Jesus was crucified.
Jesus was not put to death by bad guys who couldn’t stand a good guy. They were sincere and devout people who believed they were doing God’s will.
Jesus was not put to death because his moral demands were at variance with those of the Jewish faith of his time. A person does not get executed for telling people to be kind, be nice, be good.
Nor was he put to death because he demanded to be recognised as the Son of God, the Christian community only understood this after Jesus’ death. To understand the meaning of the Christian faith, and the consequences of believing in Jesus for his followers, we have to explain not just that Jesus died, not just why Jesus died, but also how he died, the manner of his death.
This book is an attempt to find an answer to these questions: Why was Jesus put to death, by crucifixion, by the religious/political authorities of his day? What was Jesus doing or saying that was so threatening to them that they felt they had to take this action? What are the implications of this for the followers of Jesus and for the life and ministry of the Christian community?
I am neither a theologian nor a scripture scholar. Theologians and scripture scholars who read this book will probably agree! The understanding of God and of the life and ministry of Jesus presented in this book is shaped largely by my work with homeless young people. They have revealed to me who God is, much more than all my theology lectures. (My theology lecturers would argue that that is due to my frequent absences from class!) They have opened up the scriptures to me in a wonderfully enriching way.
I offer this book as an attempt, in the context of an Ireland which has become unbelievably rich but where many feel uncomfortable at the levels of homelessness and poverty that continue to exist in our society, to open a debate about the meaning of our faith and the obligations that belonging to the Christian community imposes on us. It suggests that Jesus was put to death by good people, acting for good reasons, because the God that Jesus revealed had radical consequences for the ordering, behaviour and structures of society, consequences that threatened the existing order of society. It suggests that Jesus was crucified because the leaders of his time understood that the economic, social and political consequences of the personal transformation that comes from becoming a disciple of Jesus were revolutionary. The religious authorities believed that the society they lived in was ordered according to the will of God and they were acting in accordance with the will of God in handing Jesus over to be executed. The gospels describe a clash between two very different understandings of God, with two radically different implications for our personal lives and for the structuring of our world. Jesus lost and died; but he, his understanding of God and his vision for our world were vindicated by the resurrection.
Previous Books of the Month:
June 2013: The Gospels Box Set
May 2013: Faith Working Through Love: Prayers, Meditations and Reflections Celebrating the Year of Faith
April 2013: Dear James Anthony: Why I Want You to be Catholic
March 2013: Share the Good News: National Directory for Catechesis in Ireland
February 2013: Take the Plunge by Timothy Radcliffe
January 2013: Will there be Faith? Depends on Every Christian by Thomas H. Groome
December 2012: The Illustrated Bible: Story by Story by Michael Collins
November 2012: Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2013, from www.sacredspace.ie
October 2012: Heaven Sent: My Life Through the Rosary by Fr Gabriel Harty