VATICAN CITY – In his new volume on Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI presents the passion and resurrection of Christ as history-changing events that answer humanity’s unceasing need to be reconciled with God.
Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week – From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection was released March 10. It is the second in his series exploring the main events of Jesus’ public ministry.
In a foreword, the pope said he did not set out to write another chronological Life of Jesus, but instead to present “the real Jesus” – not as a political revolutionary or mere moralist – but the son of God who inaugurated a new path of salvation based on love.
The book analyses the key events of Jesus’ final days, including the cleansing of the temple, the Last Supper, His betrayal, His interrogations before the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate, His crucifixion and His appearances to the disciples after His resurrection.
The pope said it was important to understand that the events recounted in the Scriptures actually occurred and are not simply stories or ideas. For example, he said, if Jesus did not actually give His disciples bread and wine as His body and blood at the Last Supper, then “the Church’s eucharistic celebration is empty – a pious fiction”.
Likewise, he said, Christ’s actual resurrection from the dead is foundational for the Church. Without it, he said, “Christian faith itself would be dead”.
The pope took aim at scholars who have interpreted Christ’s passion in political terms and sought to portray him as a “political agitator”. On the contrary, the pope wrote, Jesus inaugurated a “non-political Messianic kingdom”.
The book generally steered clear of commentary on contemporary issues, but on the issue of non-violence, the pope added that “the cruel consequences of religiously motivated violence are only too evident to us all”.
The pope says the condemnation of Christ had complex political and religious causes and cannot be blamed on the Jewish people as a whole.
He said it was a mistake to interpret the words reported in the Gospel, “His blood be on us and on our children” as a blood curse against the Jews.
Those words, spoken by the mob that demanded Jesus’ death, need to be read in the light of faith, the pope wrote. They do not cry out for vengeance, but for reconciliation, he said.
“It means that we all stand in need of the purifying power of love which is His blood. These words are not a curse, but rather redemption, salvation,” he said. n CNS
The book will be available in mid-April at $16 at the Catholic News Book & Media centre.
Cover of Pope Benedict XVI’s latest volume of Jesus of Nazareth.