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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

The Life of Jesus: With an Introduction and Commentary by Pope Francis

by Andrea Tornielli

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism

As the reviewer of a marvelous work, I take some liberties in expressing the suffering of Christ I experienced in this last year. Walking home from Church, I was hit by a car and ended up on the windshield. Both legs were broken and the pelvis. I had two surgeries and was held together by an instrument that held my created pelvis in place. I am now healed with God staying by my side for all the 127 days. It took me a long time to heal but He was with me. The Holy Spirit guided and directed me along the way. Now after a year I am doing quite well as a result of the parishes I went to and the students who told me they prayed.. The “Jesus” that Tonelli describes is the Jesus that was with me. I will tell you some of the chapters of the book and leave the glory of the revelation of our God to the reader.  The Press release states: “ The Life of Jesus, the new book by Vatican expert and author Andrea Tonelli, is a biographical masterpiece that will challenge readers to approach the story of Jesus with fresh eyes and an open heart. Bible-based retelling of Jesus's life that will resonate with fans of the TV series The Chosen. Since I’ve taught at the University level, I listened to the conversations about The Chosen from my students. Tornielli expertly weaves the four Gospels into a single narrative, a difficult accomplishment, while using imagination to reconstruct the scenes and bring them to life. Being careful to fill in the details gleaned from the writings of Biblical scholars and other historical accounts of the time, Tornielli strives to give the reader an emotionally rich rendering of Jesus of Nazareth. “We need to encounter Jesus alive today. We need to see him in the faces of those who are distant, in those who suffer,” Tornielli writes. The Life of Jesus offers a unique opportunity to rediscover and rekindle the profound mysteries of Christ's life in the modern world. Commentary by Pope Francis is woven throughout, giving additional texture to the narrative.


In the introduction, Pope Francis writes, “[The Life of Jesus] can help us enter into contact with him so that he does not remain only a great figure, a historical protagonist, a religious leader, or a teacher of morals, but that he might become each person’s Lord each day – the Lord of life. I hope that those who read it might see Jesus, encounter Jesus, and receive the grace – which is a gift of the Holy Spirit – of allowing themselves to be attracted by him.”  The richness of the content can only be appeased by the reading of the entire text. For some time, I have been continually advising everyone to be in direct and daily contact with the Gospels. Why? Because if we do not have daily contact with a person we love, it is difficult to love that person.


The author states: “To avoid any misunderstanding, I state at the outset that I am well aware of how much this modest attempt of mine is naïve and incomplete, as far as the final result is concerned, first of all due to my little faith. I have tried to narrate the story of Jesus’s earthly life from beginning to end, composing one ongoing narrative from the texts of the four Gospels, using my imagination to reconstruct it, even trying to identify everything the evangelists did not write. I have made choices regarding the placing and dating of the scenes to frame them within a context, always trying to prefer the hypotheses considered the most plausible and accepted by scholars. Life of Christ by Fr. Giuseppe Ricciotti, first published in 1941 and reprinted many times since then, served as a compass on my journey. his friends who were fascinated by him.

The introduction is so filled with God’s grace. The word encounter helps us to realize that we are present to one another. ‘We need to encounter Jesus alive today. We need to see him in the faces of those who are distant, in those who suffer. We need to find him by looking for the “Gospel facts” (© by Luigi Accattoli, my friend and teacher), those “Gospel facts” present all around us. We need to encounter him alive today in the faces of those who live for him and who witness to us what it means to love, to welcome, to embrace, to be merciful and free like Jesus teaches us, which happens every time that, instead of chasing after power, structures, doctrine and rules, we make room for him and allow him to come to encounter us, to say to us, “Come and see.”


The book directs us throughout toward contemplative prayer. He takes the parables and enlightens them by means of today’s context. An example: “When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Once dinner was over, they left the upper room and headed for the street they had taken so many other times together, leading toward Bethany. When they were on the Mount of Olives, Jesus stopped. He looked into their eyes and hugged each one of them. Then he smiled and raised his eyes toward heaven. He was taken up to heaven as they watched him, and a cloud hid him from their sight. He had accompanied them. He had convinced them of his resurrection. He had allowed them to touch with their hands the fate of every man and woman whom the Lord loves. He had taught them that true power is service, that authentic authority is love, that the greatest power is the weakness of defenseless sacrifice. He had taught them to love God and to serve him in the poor, in the weak, in the humble. He had promised he would never leave them alone, that he would always be there with them at every moment. It was enough that they count on him and not on their own strength, trust in him and not in their own capabilities. For without him, they would do nothing. With him, they would do everything, for everything, in reality, would be done by him. They embraced one another, continuing to look up toward heaven that day that was incredibly clear and flooded by light. With that small group of friends, in a remote region of the enormous Roman Empire, a new journey began. A small seed that would forever change the history of humanity would blossom from one witness to another, until it would eventually reach us too.” This is a book you will want to read and pass on to another so they, too, will deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ.

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