By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Feb 26 2024

This Lent, readers can ‘experience’ in a new way the Gospels through Andrea Tornielli’s latest book ‘The Life of Jesus,’ featuring Pope Francis’ introduction, which was presented in a Loyola Press; organized Lenten webinar with the author and Sr Bernadette Reis.

This Lent, the book ‘The Life of Jesus,’ written by Andrea Tornielli, with the introduction of Pope Francis, and published in English by Loyola Press, offers readers an opportunity to get closer to the Lord, its “protagonist.”

In a webinar hosted by the publisher on Thursday, Feb 22, Tornielli, Editorial Director of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, and Sr. Bernadette Reis, FSP, who translated the text in English and who had been a long-time collaborator of the same Dicastery, invited faithful to be nourished with the Word of God (as Pope Francis always insists), through the book, which is a unique interlacing of the Gospels and imaginative reflections, containing inspiring insights of the Holy Father.

‘I imagined myself present with a notepad’

During the encounter, Tornielli described his creative process.

“I imagined myself present in the Gospel scene with a notepad in my hand taking notes on what I was seeing, what I was hearing, the colors, the smells, the weather,” he said, clarifying his was a work of ‘imagining,’ not ‘fantasy.’ 

“The scene, the words, the facts, are those described in the Gospel; they are not my own.”

Rather, he explained, “I try to make those scenes present and alive today, as if they were happening for me, for you,” suggesting that those who will read the book will see whether this attempt was successful.

To love the Lord best, we must be in continuous contact

In the book’s preface, Pope Francis acknowledged that love is challenging from a distance, and that ‘presence’ and contact is key to have a loving relationship with another. 

“The relationship of love needs to meet each other, be close, look into each other’s eyes, and to listen to one another. This,” the Vatican’s Editorial Director highlighted, “is what the Pope is telling us: that the same happens with the Gospel.”

“To meet the protagonist of the Gospel – Jesus – we need continuous contact,” Tornielli said, stressing this is why Pope Francis invites us to read and immerse ourselves in a Gospel passage daily.

As we listen to Jesus’ Word, the Vatican veteran stated, He speaks to us, and, each time, “tells us something new for our lives.”

Imaginative deepening and describing of existing accounts

Our time ‘meeting’ Christ in Gospel accounts, the webinar participants observed, both accompanies us, and connects us with God.

Sister Bernadette likewise acknowledged that as we “refresh our memories,” we are left “a bit more open to that encounter with the Lord, that the Pope speaks about so often.”

“It’s a means by which we can prepare ourselves for a real meeting with Him,” she marveled. “Now, He is not going to come physically, but there are ways that He can inspire us. And that can only happen if, we’re kind of on the same wavelength or mind pattern that He is. We can definitely do that by picking up a thought or two from the Gospels every day.” 

Speaking about the book’s descriptive accounts of the Gospel episodes, Sister Bernadette explained the author does “not add or take away from the stories, but just creates perhaps a little more context to help us relate to it.”

Tornielli works “craftfully,” she said, “from the material already there,” but “in a more descriptive, lively, and action-oriented” sense, “that makes other connections, throughout the story.”

Mercy at heart of Gospel

Tornielli explored how mercy is at the heart of the Gospel, as he recalled the Gospel account of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, to whom Jesus showed immense mercy, even to the point of provoking scandal. The author observed “how powerful” of an episode it is, “because so often, we think that we have to have it all together before we encounter Him.”

“There is no condition outside the possibility of being loved and touched by the mercy and by the love of God,” he said.

In these Gospel reflections, and through the Pope’s words as well, Tornielli suggested, we see always more clearly “that God is faithful. We are not faithful, but God is,” for He is “trying continuously to touch us” and “acting first.”

Tornielli highlighted how the Gospels are an indispensable instrument for encountering the Lord today. “Because if the encounter with Jesus is not happening today, faith no longer has its meaning, and becomes a thing of the past.”

“We need each and every day, to see, to encounter, to meet Jesus, in the eyes, in the voice, in the face, of our brothers and sisters, especially those who are suffering,” the author said, as he voiced his hope “that this book help someone to meet the protagonist of the Gospel.” – Vatican News