With all good presentations, motivation is the key. (Full disclosure: I was also “motivated” to get this selection off of my Amazon wish list!)
“Christians venerate the Old Testament as true Word of God. The Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void (Marcionism).” (Catechism Of The Catholic Church, Nos. 123)
With 46 books in the Old Testament (45 if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one), Fr. Veras has much material to choose from. Fr. Veras in Jesus of Israel gives a most profound and yet simple reconciliation of the two creation narratives found in Genesis (1:1-2:3; 2:4-25). It is certainly the best explanation that I have come across to date.
If we do not understand and remember all that God did to prepare the Jewish people and the world (in that order!) for the coming of Jesus Christ, if we don’t recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of this long history, then Jesus can seem to us like just any other religious figure, not much different from others whose altruism and godliness have distinguished them. His claim of divinity can seem a bit outlandish. We can think of Christianity as “my religion” the way America is “my country” or my old high school or college is “me alma mater.” We can see our devotion to Jesus as not much different from the devotion of those of other faiths. Our faith can become generic and our worship formalistic.
The two stories show us that man himself is a mystery, a paradox, a reality that needs to be revealed to us.
The first description reveals a “divine” God: mysterious, powerful, beyond. The second description reveals a very “human” god, a physical person who walks among us. A God who is divine and human? Is this what you expect in the opening pages of the Old Testament?
When we put the two descriptions of man together, we see a true revelation of who man is. When we put together the two descriptions of God, we see the beginnings of the revelation of who God is, for we have the foreshadowing of the fullness of God’s revelation: Jesus Christ. The stories together show us the unimaginable mystery of God, which will be fully revealed in a way we can see and touch at the Incarnation, the literal unity of divine and human.
Fr. Veras writes in a very easy style with anecdotes from his own life and from his experience as a teacher and priest. His comments on contemporary students and Catholics really “hit the mark” in terms of motivating one to go deeper into the Old Testament in order to discover the New Testament.
[T]he two creation stories are no more separable than the divinity and humanity of Christ. They exist together as one, and only in this way do they reveal the mystery of God and man.
Recall the Jewish notion of memory. The Passover, which remembers and makes present the Exodus, and the Mass, which remembers and makes present the death and resurrection of Christ, are both repeated for this very reason: that we never make the grave mistake of losing hope in God, whose mercy endures forever and is present and operative now.
Jesus of Israel is Fr. Veras’ first book publication. I hope that there are many more to come, else I suppose I may have to subscribe to Magnificat , of which he is a frequent contributor.
How sad that so many people image God to be like a stern judge, ready to condemn us with our long list of evil deeds. This is not the God Jesus Christ revealed, and this is not as many mistakenly believe, the God the Old Testament reveals to us. Abraham merely had to say yes and trust in God’s promise.