On the Way to Jesus Christ. By Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) (Ignatius Press, P.O. Box 1339, Ft. Collins, Colo. 80522. 2005), 169 pp. PB $19.95.
The articles gathered together in this book were written or given as lectures by Cardinal Ratzinger a few years before he became Pope Benedict XVI. So this is a collection of articles rather than a book on the topic of the Person of Jesus Christ. But it is Jesus Christ, God and Man and Savior of the world, who is the central figure in the whole book.
Cardinal Ratzinger considers Jesus in the Bible, in the Church and in the theology of the Church. The book is fairly easy to read and gives the reader a good insight into the Christological focus of the thinking of the new pope. He looks at Jesus in himself and also as the unique Redeemer of mankind. Reflecting on the letter Dominos Jesus of the year 2000, he does not hesitate to say that Jesus Christ is the only Savior of every man, woman and child on earth. In this context he also considers the universal reach of the Catholic Church. Whoever achieves eternal salvation will gain it through the gift of the grace of Jesus Christ.
The author offers his reflections on the three temptations of Jesus in the wilderness and helps the reader to see the true humanity of the God‑Man. There is a short meditation on the Eucharist as the Bread of Life which he delivered for a Corpus Christi celebration.
Since 1985 there has been a lot of writing about the notion of Communio as a key to understanding the documents of Vatican II. Cardinal Ratzinger offers an essay on that topic and relates it to Holy Communion and the notion of “solidarity” in the Church which was dear to the heart of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
In the last part of the book the Cardinal offers his evaluation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which, apparently, was written ten years after its publication in 1992. He sees the Catechism as a significant contribution to the health of the Church and the new evangelization called for by his predecessor. Of course, he was head of the group of bishops that finally composed the Catechism so he was very much involved in the creation of the book.
Ignatius Press has more than 25 books in English by Cardinal Ratzinger. Perhaps the best one to read for an understanding of the thinking of the new pope is the famous The Ratzinger Report (1985). But this small volume, which contains his thinking of the past few years before becoming pope, offers a window to the theology and spirituality of the man whom divine providence has given us to lead the Church in the first part of the new millennium.
Since Pope Benedict XVI is a scholar and professor, I suspect that we will see more books coming from him as he gives leadership to the Church as the Vicar of Christ.
Kenneth Baker, S.J.