Jesus of Nazareth

From the FAITH Magazine July-August 2007

Extracts from Pope Benedict's book Jesus of Nazareth


At the heart of all temptations, as we see here, is the act of pushing God aside because we perceive him as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying, in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill our lives. Constructing a world by our own lights, without reference to God, building on our own foundation; refusing to acknowledge the reality of anything beyond the political and material, while setting God aside as an illusion – that is the temptation that threatens us in many varied forms. (p.28)


Having posed the challenge of world hunger and how people would expect a loving God to feed the world the Pope states:

(The) miracle of the loaves has three aspects, then. It is preceded by the search for God, for his word, for the teaching that sets the whole of life on the right path. Furthermore, God is asked to supply the bread. Finally, readiness to share with one another is an essential element of the miracle. Listening to God becomes living with God, and leads from faith to love, to the discovery of the other. Jesus is not indifferent towards men’s hunger, their bodily needs, but he places these things in the proper context and the proper order. (p.32)

When this ordering of goods is no longer respected, but turned on its head, the result is not justice or concern for human suffering. The result is rather ruin and destruction even of material goods themselves. When God is regarded as a secondary matter that can be set aside temporarily or permanently on account of more important things, it is precisely these supposedly more important things that come to nothing. It is not just the negative outcome of the Marxist experience that proves this… (p.33)


The aid offered by the West to developing countries has been purely technically and materially based, and not only has left God out of the picture, but has driven men away from God. And this aid, proudly claiming to ‘know better’, is itself what first turned the “third world” into what we mean today by that term… The issue is the primacy of God. The issue is acknowledging that he is a reality, that he is the reality without which nothing else can be good. History cannot be detached from God and then run smoothly on purely material lines. If man’s heart is not good, then nothing else can turn out good, either. And the goodness of the human heart can ultimately come only from the one who is goodness, who is the Good itself. (p.33)


The prevailing view today is that everyone should live by the religion – or perhaps by the atheism – in which he happens to find himself already. This, it is said, is the path of salvation for him. Such a view presupposes a strange picture of God and a strange idea of man and of the right way for man to live. Let us try to clarify this by asking a few practical questions. Does someone achieve blessedness and justification in God’s eyes because he has conscientiously fulfilled the duties of blood vengeance? Because he has vigorously fought for and in “holy war”? Or because he has performed certain animal sacrifices? Or because he has practiced ritual ablutions and other observances? Because he has declared his opinions and wishes them to be norms of conscience and so madehimself the criterion? No, God demands the opposite: that we become inwardly attentive to his quiet exhortation, which is present in us and which tears us away from what is merely habitual and puts us on the road to truth. To “hunger and thirst for righteousness” – that is the path that lies open to everyone; that is the way that finds its destination in Jesus Christ. (p.92)

Faith Magazine

July - August 2007