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Archived Online Discussion
Topic: Pope Benedict XVI's momentous new book, Jesus of Nazareth
Date: 4:30-5:30 pm (ET)
on Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Featuring:
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Carl A. Anderson
Supreme Knight
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Bishop Lori
Supreme Chaplain
Carl A. Anderson:
Thank you all for joining me and the Supreme Chaplain today as we discuss Pope Benedict XVI's new book, "Jesus of Nazareth."

Alan Johnson
Chicago, IL USA
With this book and with his first and only encyclical on charity, have either of you detected any "long-term" themes or goals for Pope Benedict's pontificate? Is there a pattern being established in the subject matter of his written works?
Carl A. Anderson:
In both Deus Caritas Est and Jesus of Nazareth, a common theme emerges. In both, Pope Benedict is leading us to a greater understanding of who God is. In his encyclical, the focus is on God generally – and the fact that God IS love. In his book, the pope has focused on the person on Jesus Christ, with the intention of showing us that the Jesus of faith IS the Jesus of history. Consistent with this are the pope’s remarks at his election where he focused on the need for a love of Jesus in the Eucharist, and in his apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis where he spoke of the Eucharist both as the manifestation of God’s infinite love for us, and as the “real presence” of the person of Jesus Christ.

Bishop Lori:
Certainly, Pope Benedict wishes to call our attention to the person of Christ as he is presented in the Gospels. He wants, I believe, above all, to see that the portrait of Christ in the Gospel is a trustworthy portrait and that portrait shows Christ to be the revelation of the Father's love really upon which all depends. I believe what he is doing is not backing away from anything the Church believes or teaches. He is showing us that what the Church believes or teaches, including its moral teaching, is a response of love enabled by love. This is the one of the principle messages the Holy Father wishes to present to the Church and the world.

Jerry
Colorado
Has a pope every written a theology book like this for a popular audience? It seems amazing that he would have the time.
Bishop Lori:
The answer is yes. Pope John Paul II wrote a very personal reflection on the priesthood on the occasion of his 50th anniversary of priestly ordination called Gift and Mystery. It was a shorter book, but it was a highly readable book and a very personal one. The book, Jesus of Nazareth, is in many ways gives us an intimate look at Pope Benedict's spiritual and intellectual concerns. It is in many ways a personal book, as he makes clear when it's not an exercise of the magisterium. I too find it amazing that he would find the time to do this, but I understand that he is a very disciplined man and an individual who has all the scholarly tools readily at hand. So, I'm thankful that he has produced this marvelous work on our Savior.

Charles Edmond
Fair Haven, Connecticut, USA
When Pope Benedict writes, while writing about the temptation of Christ to political power, about "…distortions of the task that claim to be its true fulfillment" (Page 26) what is he referring to? When he says (Page 40) "For the fusion of faith and political power always comes at a price: faith becomes the servant of power and must bend to its criteria.” does this apply to either conservatives or liberals in American political life at the moment?
Carl A. Anderson:
Of course as Pope Benedict makes clear in this passage, the danger of too close a relationship between political power and religion is, as he put it, a battle that must be fought “century after century.” The danger is, as the quotation you cite noted, when faith bends to the criteria of political power. It is such incidents that have prompted both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to call for a “purification of memory,” an introspection. There is always a human inclination to try to make ends justify means or to bend doctrine to popular trends. The danger is not only for any religious people of one or another political stripe, it the internal struggle for each of us that an authentic understanding of Christ is – in the words of Pope Benedict – “losing oneself is the way to life.”

Bishop Lori:
I believe it applies to everyone. What the Holy Father wants to show us, in one point, by using the quote "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s." There are two spheres that are compatible and that they do engage, but in that engagement God retains his sovereign nature. When the faith is pressed lock, stock and barrel to any political agenda, the faith is going to suffer. We have seen this time and again when the faith is allied with a regime or program. In today's society, Catholics don't find it easy to find their political home because the full grasp of the dignity of the human person does not sit with any political platform. We must, however, continue to look for candidates who adhere to the Church's teaching of the sanctity of human life from the moment of fertilization to natural death.

Jason
Chicago
Have you ever met the Pope in person? He has been described as stern and a strict ruler. How do you see him?
Carl A. Anderson:
I have had the opportunity to speak at length with the pope, and he is absolutely the opposite of that image. He is gentle, serene, and very interested in what other people's views are.

Ed Niedecken
Toledo,Ohio 43613
Is this book available to the general public through the common bookstores (for example, B. Dalton's)? Also I'm concerned about the more recent worry some of our protestant brethren have expressed in media concerning the papacy.
Carl A. Anderson:
Yes, the book is widely available. Let us hope that this book helps bring greater understanding among Protestants that Catholicism is focused on the primacy and reality of Jesus Christ.

Paul
Killingworth
How can one account for the fact that Christianity is so divided among different factions when Jesus came to save all humankind, to unite them and eliminate divisions?
Carl A. Anderson:
Often the reasons for splits are more historical than theological. Pope Benedict himself wrote on this when he wrote: "Theological dialogue is necessary; the investigation of the historical reasons for the decisions made in the past is also indispensable. But what is most urgently needed is that "purification of memory", so often recalled by John Paul II, which alone can dispose souls to accept the full truth of Christ. Each one of us must come before him, the supreme Judge of every living person, and render an account to him of all we have done or have failed to do to further the great good of the full and visible unity of all his disciples."

Bishop Lori:
The Lord prayed that his followers would be one so that the world would believe. It seems to me that there are two factors that account for our divisions: one is human sinfulness. It produces divisions among us. Secondly, our limited understanding of Christ's message. Very often divisions occur when one aspect of the Gospel is singled out and exaggerated. That is what has historically accounted for theological division that has sometimes hardened into denominational division.

Tom
White Plains, NY
Can you please explain what it means to "seek the face of Jesus"? This phrase, or variations of it, has been used by Pope Benedict, and I'd appreciate some clarification of it.
Carl A. Anderson:
We are not dealing with an abstraction, but with a real person. But even though we are dealing with a spiritual reality, it is nonetheless still a human and divine reality. So seeking the face of Jesus, means seeking a personal encounter with him.

Bishop Lori:
The same phrase was used by Pope John Paul II, namely to contemplate the face of Jesus. Clearly, our face, our countenance, is a window into the interior. As we gaze upon the face of Christ, as we contemplate that face, it is a way of saying that we are contemplating the mystery of Christ and trying to enter that mystery as deeply as we can. And certainly doing so because we have been given the grace to do so. There's a long history of devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus in Christian piety.

Robert J. Fallon
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Most people fear the connotation attached to the ministry and/or very word evangelization. How can we as knights and disciples of Jesus help others overcome that anxiety and become more effective evangelizers ourselves?
Carl A. Anderson:
Pope Benedict said before his election as pope: "The deepest poverty is the inability of joy, the tediousness of a life considered absurd and contradictory. This poverty is widespread today, in very different forms in the materially rich as well as the poor countries. The inability of joy presupposes and produces the inability to love, produces jealousy, avarice—all defects that devastate the life of individuals and of the world. This is why we are in need of a new evangelization—if the art of living remains an unknown, nothing else works. But this art is not the object of a science—this art can only be communicated by [one] who has life—he who is the Gospel personified." Thus our own relationship with Christ is critical to our helping others evangelize effectively. Every Christian ought to be able to witness through his life to the happiness of being a Christian - that is the best evangelization.

Bishop Lori:
Certainly, evangelization, which is bearing witness to Christ so that others might open their hearts to him, that is certainly a challenging call. It is, as Pope Paul VI said, the deepest identity of the Church. To bear witness to Christ in today's world can be daunting, although it has never been easy. Time and again, Pope John Paul II repeated the words of Jesus, "Do not be afraid." The first way we can be evangelizers is to deepen our life of prayer and our attachment to him and to the Holy Spirit, who made the Apostles evangelizers. I also believe we have to look at what we do in the Knights and in the parish, in the family, in the professional life, and see the practical opportunities that present to us to witness to the faith: such as, explaining the faith to someone in doubt, inviting a colleague to Mass. The first step is to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, to deepen our own life of prayer, and to evangelize ourselves.

Loreto Thompson
Wallingford
How would you recognize Jesus if you were to run into him today? Has the book provided the bridge to close the gap between the old and the new as was intended in this regard? Have we become wise enough, after all we think we know, to be able to see the "light"?
Carl A. Anderson:
We should, I think, see Christ in every person we encounter in need. That is what Jesus himself told us to do, when he said whatever we do to the least, we do to him. That having been said, I think that if Christ himself were in our midst, we would know him by his love.

Margaret
Albuquerque, NM
With this book, and with his encyclical and other writings, Pope Benedict appears to be trying to reach out to a broader audience than just Catholics, but as a teacher and not a moral or world figure. Would you agree or disagree? And why?
Bishop Lori:
The pope is a world leader and a moral figure because he is a teacher. Perhaps if there is an emphasis or stress in this papacy, which is clear, is that he is first and foremost a teacher of the faith. While he teaches Catholics primarily, he is reaching out to all people of good will, and he makes that clear in the writing of Jesus of Nazareth. It is written for all people of good will. I would be careful to draw a dichotomy between a person of love and a person with a broad reach, and being a moral teacher. When you speak the truth, you are doing the loving thing. That, I believe, is what the Holy Father is doing.

John Heary
Warminster, PA
My wife is concerned the book might be written as complex analysis rather than leaning more toward the story of Jesus. Can you comment on that?
Bishop Lori:
The book can be read on different levels; all books are. The genius of this book is that if you are a theologian or biblical scholar you will see that the Holy Father handles complex themes with virtuosity. If you are not familiar with the byroads of theology you can find in this book a beautiful and touching portrait of Christ. The pope applies the truth about Christ to life today. He often does this in the course of the book.

James
Westchester, NY
I found the chapter on temptation very interesting. I never reflected on the fact that Jesus's temptation had to happen as he was a man and through prayer and faith he overcame the temptations. Do you think that the temptations we experience in everyday life are similar as it can make us more understanding of others and makes our faith stronger?
Bishop Lori:
I found the Holy Father's reflections on Christ's temptations very interesting. I believe the temptations that he points out are expressions of temptations that beset us all; for instance, power and bread are perennial temptations that beset us. I believe the pope's temptations are part of that descent into our human condition so that he can redeem our human condition and help us overcome temptation. He was tempted like we are but never sinned.

Mike Jones
Toronto, ON
In a recent Knightline it was reported that you met with several chaplains to discuss ongoing spiritual formation of Knights. I look forward to the developments on this. How could the pope's book fit in to your plans or a council's plans?
Carl A. Anderson:
Thank you very much for the question. With this book and the other books that have been included in the Supreme Knight’s book club, it is my hope that councils and parishes will consider forming reading and discussion groups using these books. In this way, Knights, and all Catholics, will have a chance to think about and discuss important spiritual and cultural issues, thus growing in their faith. For individual members as well, I hope that these book selections will provide the same opportunity to think about those issues of faith, family, and daily life that matter to and affect each of us.

Tony Genco, Deputy Grand Knight
Woodbridge, Ontario Canada Council 13630
How do the divine Jesus and the human Jesus distinguish themselves in their actions?
Does Jesus’s humanity ensure our divinity as we continue our journey in life?
Carl A. Anderson:
To answer the first question first, I think that Pope Benedict describes Christ’s taking on of a human nature on page 26: “It is a descent into the perils besetting mankind, for there is no other way to lift up fallen humanity. Jesus has to enter into the drama of human existence, for that belongs to the core of his mission; he has to penetrate it completely, down to its uttermost depths, in order to find the ‘lost sheep’…” This is what makes Jesus like us in all things but sin. He is able to enter this drama of human existence while fully maintaining his divinity. In answering your second question, I think Christ’s humanity gives us hope not in divinity but in the fullness of the life to come.

Bishop Lori:
I think the writer of that question alludes to a persistent theme in the Fathers of the Church, namely that God's Son became man in order to make men gods; or, as we say at Mass, he shared in our humanity so we could share in his divinity. His book is an illustration of that based on the Gospels. It does indeed show how the Son of God became incarnate and entered the drama of human existence in a line that stretches from the Incarnation to the Cross and the Resurrection. What I think the Holy Father’s book does, which is largely based on Scripture, is to demonstrate the balance of the Church's faith classically expressed in the Council of Chalcedon, that Christ is the divine Person, the Second Person of the Trinity with both a human and divine nature. The pope shows the great validity and balance of that teaching.

Robert J.Fallon
Brooklyn, New York USA
Knights are called to be disciples and to evangelize. Many do. How can we more effectively lead others, especially teenagers and young families, to encounter Jesus in secular society while moving our efforts from words to events and compete with the duties, distractions and the often subtle influence of evil in our secular driven lives?
Carl A. Anderson:
This book, Pope Benedict’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est, and the Eucharist theme of this papacy, including at World Youth Day in Cologne, all point us to the need for a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. Pope Benedict tells us that Jesus’s first task, upon entering his public life, was to be tempted. He provides an excellent example of responding to temptations of any kind by “interior recollection,” that is prayer, and the “struggle for fidelity to the task,” that is, fidelity to our vocation. This relationship with Christ will form the basis of the good we can do, and the example we can provide. As Pope Benedict has said: “From full communion with him flows every other element of the Church's life: first of all, communion among all the faithful, the commitment to proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel, the ardor of love for all, especially the poorest and lowliest.”

Larry
Boise
I haven't had time to read the book. What would you say the most important points are for a Knight of Columbus?
Carl A. Anderson:
I think the most important thing for any Knight of Columbus to realize with this book is how important it is to cultivate a relationship with Jesus Christ. Understanding that the Historical Jesus was REAL – and is, in fact, the Jesus of faith, the Jesus that we pray to – is a message that can help us all grow in our faith.

Tony Genco, Deputy Grand Knight
Woodbridge, Ontario Canada Council 13630
With having just celebrated Corpus Christi, how can we reconcile the Eucharistic experience with the humanity of Jesus? The Body and Blood of God that we nourish ourselves with along with the human Jesus who enriched us by his actions?
Carl A. Anderson:
I think Pope Benedict, in this book and his other writings, is working to give us a better understanding of the person of Jesus so that we can grow in our relationship and friendship with Christ. Perhaps, Pope Benedict said it best in his first homily as pope when he noted: “The Eucharist makes constantly present the Risen Christ who continues to give himself to us, calling us to participate in the banquet of his Body and his Blood. From full communion with him flows every other element of the Church's life: first of all, communion among all the faithful, the commitment to proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel, the ardor of love for all, especially the poorest and lowliest.”

Bishop Lori:
One expression of the Church's Eucharistic faith is that we receive the whole Christ - Body, Blood, soul and divinity. In the pope's book, he helps us to see from the perspectives of the Gospel who we are receiving in the Eucharist. He helps us to see who Jesus was and what he did. We are inserted into the whole plan of redemption that is described in the Old and New Testaments. This intimate portrait of Christ presented to us by the pope should enhance our Eucharistic faith and fill us with amazement when we receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. Because the pope has helped us understand who Jesus is and what he did to save us.

William Clay Howe
Durham, Connecticut USA
I have three questions, all somewhat related: 1) What was the public that Pope Benedict had in mind as he wrote the book? 2) Do you think that he had in mind, at least to some extent, a public of non-Catholics or of "spiritual searchers"? 3) What do you think about the extensive use of quotations from works of non-Catholics in this work?
Carl A. Anderson:
Allow me to answer all three of these together. I think that Pope Benedict takes his vocation as “teacher” individually, and as pope, very seriously, and as such had all people who seek truth in mind - especially Catholics and other Christians. Critical scholarship, of course, affects the outlook of many Christians, including some who are not Catholics. This book, then, allows the Pope to take on a scholarly debate, in dialogue with scholars of many denominations, while pope, but not as pope, thus addressing issues of concern to countless people, without making a “dogmatic” or “official” statement as pope.

Charles Edmond
Fair Haven, Connecticut, USA
Now that Pope Benedict has written so positively about the historical critical view of Scripture and taken it so seriously, even while showing that it is not the fullness in itself of exegesis, do you think that some "so-called conservatives," including some on Catholic TV, will stop bashing it? Can't it just be accepted now in the Church and not be dismissed as "liberal heresy"?
Bishop Lori:
The Holy Father has taken a very careful and nuanced view of the historical critical method. I believe he sees it as a tool, but really one tool among many. If there is a more prevalent method found in this book it would be canonical exegesis, which was developed to some extent at Yale University, of all places. It begins with the premise that the canon of Scripture was formed for a reason and that the early Church knew who Jesus was, and guided by the Holy Spirit, knew what books were to be part of the canon. There is a remarkable unity in Scripture in the Old and New Testaments. The pope shows us repeatedly how one passage of Scripture is illumined by another. This is the principle method of exegesis in the book; this is a leitmotif of the book. The pope discusses scholars who use historical-critical method and he sorts out what are the best, and that his judgments are open to criticism. He also takes that approach to task for being the be all and end all of analysis. For trying to reach into the past to create a living portrait of Jesus. He makes this abundantly clear. He calls into question some of those judgments. He takes a more logical approach and says that these things came about because of historical knowledge of Christ.

Tom
Burbank, CA
This book sets itself up as an academic treatise. Do you think this book will make a significant contribution to biblical scholarship? If so, how?
Carl A. Anderson:
It is important to remember that even before going to the Vatican as cardinal and then as pope, Josef Ratzinger was a highly regarded and brilliant theologian. He has had many books published even while working at the CDF. Given his academic credentials alone, I think this book would be taken seriously. Given his position as Pope Benedict XVI, I think notice by many theologians is assured.

Paul
Killingworth, CT
Does the term "son" and the numerous examples of deference by Jesus to the Father denote that the Father is superior in some respect to the Son?
Bishop Lori:
The answer to that is No, from the point of view of his equality as the Divine Son. But, as Jesus enters into the drama of human existence and assumes our humanity, he reveals our stance before the Father. In fact, the equality of the Persons of the Trinity is not based on competition the way we often think of equality. Instead, it is based on the other gift of self. Jesus reveals that in his humanity. That is how God is. The expression of deference to the Father -- Jesus never says "I want something" -- it really is a revelation of how things are in the Trinity. The only thing Jesus says he ever wants is that his followers be where he is, which is with the Father.

Paul
Killingworth
Since God could have entered human history at any point, what significance is there to entering that history 2000 years ago? In other words, why then?
Carl A. Anderson:
Certainly that is a question that only God can answer for sure, but I think there are several possible reasons that jump to mind. First of all, Christ came just a few years before the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the resulting diaspora, and, of course, the "Pax Romana" allowed the Gospel message to spread throughout the known world very quickly.

Bishop Lori:
I concur with the supreme knight; his answer was great.

Carl A. Anderson:
Thank you again for your participation. Join us every month as we discuss books on important issues of faith, family, and society.

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