by James Martin, S.J.
Reviewed by Dennis Waldeck
Once in a great while you come across a book which affects you profoundly. Jesus: A Pilgrimage by James Martin, S.J. is such a book. The author visited the Holy Land for the first time with a fellow Jesuit. His book connects the life of Christ as revealed in the gospels with the places where Jesus walked, preached, performed miracles, suffered and died. Martin’s descriptions are so concrete as to make the reader feel physically present at those places. An example is Martin’s visit to the little known “bay of parables” where a hillside forms a small natural amphitheater fronting on a bay on the Sea of Galilee. It is believed that Jesus preached here from a boat close to the shore. There Martin is surprised to find patches of stony ground, thorns, and good soil. He envisions Christ saying that the word of God was like a sower who sowed seed on rocky ground where those who heard the word did not allow it to take root and on thorny ground where the hearers of the word allowed “the cares of the world” and the “lure of wealth” to choke off the word, and on good soil where the word yielded “a hundredfold.” Martin states that he suddenly realized that Christ when he referred to objects from nature he may not have been talking in generalities but speaking in particular about that rocky ground or those thorns.
The Jesus that Martin brings into the presence of the reader is not the tall handsome man in fine multicolored robes that we see in the works of renaissance artists. Rather he is a real physical person who sweats as he walks the dusty roads of Galilee and who weeps in sadness when asked to come and see the tomb of his friend Lazarus whom he loved. We often focus on the divinity of Jesus; this book brings the reader face to face with the full humanity of Our Lord.
Each chapter contains Martin’s meditation on the episode in Jesus life which took place at the location described and ends with an appropriate gospel passage. The book takes the reader on his or her own pilgrimage – a journey which will enrich the faith of any Catholic or non Catholic Christian. I highly recommend it.