Jesuit author talks about the historical Jesus, trip to the Holy Land in ICC
Fr. James Martin, S.J., one of the most famous and active Jesuit authors in the world, Editor-at-Large at America magazine, and semi-official chaplain on The Colbert Report, gave a talk last Wednesday in the ICC Auditorium simply entitled “Jesus” in which he, at times, hilariously explored Jesus‘ dual nature in Catholic theology and spoke about his trip to the Holy Land.
Martin’s talk follows the release of his new book Jesus: A Pilgrimage in which Martin attempts to reconcile “the Jesus of history” and “the Christ of faith.”
During his talk, Martin said that both aspects are vital to understanding who Jesus really was, since Catholic theology holds that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. Martin said that one side of Jesus shouldn’t be emphasized at the expense of the other but should complement one another.
Martin talked extensively about the historical Jesus and the reality of his identity as a real person.
“Jesus had a body, like yours and mine, which means he ate, he drank, he slept,” Martin said. “He had sexual longings and urges. Of course he did. He was a human being. The adult Jesus felt joy. We know this. He tells clever parables. He’s critiqued once for being a glutton and drunkard.”
“A couple of years ago, there was a norovirus in our Jesuit community,” Martin later said. “Let me tell you: when you live in a religious community, if one person gets sick, everybody gets sick. So one night, as I was hunched over the toilet for, yes, the fifth time, I counted, I had this strange thought: and I thought ‘Jesus did this.'”
Actually being present in the Holy Land, where Jesus preached and taught, illuminated the reality of Jesus’ ministry to Martin. Martin spoke about finding a site where Jesus may have preached on the Sea of Galilee and realized that the surrounding scenery complemented one of Jesus’ parables.
“As I stood under the broiling sun with my friend, I was amazed to see rocks, thorns, fertile ground,” Martin said. “No one had planted the thorn bushes. No one had carted in topsoil or arranged the stones to make it look like it was in Jesus’ time, as if we were in a theme park called ‘Jesus Land.’ They were just there.”
Martin realized that Jesus used real objects around him when he preached. Martin went on to describe how the experience “grounded” the Gospels in reality for him.
Throughout his talk, Martin remained joyful and funny, cracking jokes, often at the expense of the Jesuit order, the entire time. “I’m gonna look at my watch here,” Martin said at the beginning. “My talk’s three hours and I don’t want to go over. I gotta go to the crypt Mass, which sounds really scary, actually.”
During the Q&A period, one student asked Martin what he thought about the Israeli-Palestinian situation in the region. Martin was guarded in his answer, saying he was not a political expert. He did say, however, that the Palestinians claim to be a persecuted minority in the context of the Holy Land, which they are, and the Israelis claim to be a persecuted minority in the context of the Middle East, which they are.
Photo: James Martin via Facebook