There are few religious books that are not too pious or that don’t use words difficult to understand, and yet are also profound and informative. I have discovered one and want to recommend it to everyone – “Jesus our Brother – the Humanity of the Lord” by Fr Wilfrid Harrington O.P.
Fr Harrington is an Irish Dominican scripture scholar. He must be in his 80’s now and has specialized in the New Testament and especially the Gospels for the past 50 years. When I was studying for the priesthood and Vatican II emphasized the study of scripture, he was the best available in the English language.
This book is only 100 pages long, so is not going to be one of those books difficult to read. Fr Harrington says in the Preface: “This book’s purpose is modest and specific: I simply seek to illustrate the authentic humanity of Jesus of Nazareth by highlighting his characteristically human traits.”
We find it difficult to really appreciate Jesus, “like us in all things but sin” (Hebrews). It is far easier to see him as divine rather than human. However, Fr Harrington has described him as intensely human which helps us understand and appreciate God’s plan as something wonderful and compassionate. It helps me appreciate Jesus so much more to understand that he got tired and frustrated; that he could laugh and enjoy the company of friends – especially women. And even more it helped me to understand the depth of his love in the loneliness of his final suffering and death on the cross.
The various chapter headings tell us what to expect. Jesus of Nazareth …Life…Concerns…Traits…Reaction …Triumph of Failure. Each chapter then has sub-headings making it easier to remember what is said in each one. I didn’t realize how important John the Baptist was to him; he got Jesus started. But it was in seeing how they differed that we can understand the purpose of Jesus’ teaching. John preached justice, Jesus preached mercy and forgiveness, very simple, but profound.
I have been afraid – having to stand beside someone in trouble, having to confront naked authority, reminding someone that they need professional help, seeing someone sick and dying. Jesus had to endure all those things as well.
Jesus could see through the negativity of badly interpreted law. He called it for what it was, he criticized those who imposed it wrongly. He sided with the oppressed, gave women an equal dignity and place with men, taught fearlessly and with God’s authority.
Wilfrid Harrington presents a Jesus very attractive to me – a man worth listening to and following!
Published by Paulist Press, 2010. www.paulistpress.com