A Fresh Look at the Human Jesus
By Fr Fio Mascarenhas, SJ, D.Min.
(Gujarat Sahitya Prakash 2021, 82 pages, Rs 80)
At any of our social gatherings, there will always be someone who is identified as 'the life of the party'. After going through this book, it struck me that Jesus was one of those whose very presence brought life and good cheer. (No wonder the wine ran out at Cana!)
Fr Fio Mascarenhas is a well-known Jesuit writer and preacher on biblical and charismatic spirituality. Here, as a 'happy son of St Ignatius', he invites the reader to use a specific Ignatian prayer method to enter deeply into gospel scenes, and encounter therein the person of Jesus. He explains how to do this using the method called "Application of the Senses" or Imaginative prayer, in which all the five senses are used to participate fully in different gospel events. Our whole being gets involved in this imaginative participation, the mysteries of Jesus' life come alive, and we are drawn into a deeper experience of this wonderful person, Jesus!
The author then takes "a fresh look" at Jesus as a human person, highlighting his "human character-strengths." What are the qualities deemed necessary for a person to be considered of good character? Fr Fio outlines incidents from the gospel that highlight five different character-strengths of Jesus. The reader is invited to enter these scenes through Application of the Senses and to recognise how Jesus is a paragon of these qualities – Joy, Compassion, Wisdom, Courage and Transcendence, but he reserves the lion's share of the book to deal with 'Laughter and Joy'. In doing so, he challenges us to break our stereotype image of Jesus as a 'chronically grim person'.
Through this kind of Ignatian prayer, we are led to discover Jesus as a joyful human being who uses wit and humour to draw people closer to God. The logical conclusion is that, in imitation of Jesus, joy and laughter should be intrinsic to the life of every Christian. Fio here quotes some words of Pope Francis that a healthy Christian is a joyful Christian.
I urge all youth, laity and religious (Jesuits included, especially in this Ignatian Year!) to eagerly accept this little gem of a book. While you will surely enjoy reading it, I encourage you to actually do the prayer exercises (I certainly enjoyed doing them), in order to taste its richness and draw much fruit from it. By bringing us closer to the human Jesus, this book enables us to better live out our Christian vocation. So, embark upon this journey of new discovery, and may you experience the joy and delight that comes from being in Jesus' company.
Fr Luke Rodrigues, SJ (Former World Ecclesiastical Moderator of CLC in Rome)