Andrew Greeley, Jesus; A Meditation on His Stories and His Relationships with Women (New York: A Tom Doherty Associates Book, 2007), 172pp.
According to his web site, Father Andrew Greeley (born 1928) is "one of the most influential Catholic thinkers and writers of our time, a priest, sociologist, author and journalist who has built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career that spans five decades. He is the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction and his writing has been translated into 12 languages. A Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, Father Greeley is a respected scholar whose current research focuses on the Sociology of Religion." This little book of meditations is not an academic or scholarly tome, but the sort of work he could write over a long and quiet weekend, and its awkward subtitle points to its lack of focus. But it's still worth reading.
The God whom Jesus revealed, writes Greeley, is a God of wonderful surprises and endless generosity. After illustrating this from the Christmas narratives and then from the story of the encounter on the road to Emmaus, in by far the longest chapter (pp. 57–106) Greeley explores the "profoundly shocking" nature of Jesus's relationship with women. He not only took their financial support but accepted them as traveling companions. He elevated them to an equality with men, just as he would elevate Gentiles to an equality with Jews. Although people could feel profoundly vulnerable in the presence of Jesus, women also felt unconditionally safe. These relationships with women, says Greeley, were not "passing incidents peripheral to the main story but central to Jesus' vision of the kingdom of God" (p. 104). In his final chapters Greeley examines the four "Great Parables" of reassurance that speak of God's outrageous and even profligate generosity: the stories of the Crazy Vintner, the Indulgent Father, the Lenient Judge, and the Good Samaritan. The parables of urgency remind us that grace is not cheap, life does not last forever, that our choices matter, and that the kingdom that Jesus announced calls us now and asks for everything. Along the way Greeley debunks the "absurd fantasies" of books like the DaVinci Code, and warns us of the many ways that we domesticate the Biblical stories into trite religious sentiment.