Just received a copy of Leonard DeLorenzo’s new book, A God Who Questions, and I want to make a point of recommending this slender volume to everyone, because it is such an unusual, thoughtful book and one that can really reinvigorate your prayerlife or jump-start your practice of lectio divina.
What DeLorenzo has done with this book is turned the tables on us a little, in a counter-intuitive but enlightening way. Our habit is always to ask Jesus “Why” and “What about” and “Who are you to me?”, but we do not often contemplate the questions Jesus is asking us, constantly, through the Gospels. What sorts of questions?
- “What do you seek?”
- “Why do you call me ‘good’?”
- “Do you see anything?”
- “Do you want to be healed?”
- “What are you thinking in your hearts?”
- “How does your concern affect me?”
And here is a taste of what DeLorenzo brings to all of that — from the question Do you see anything?:
Right before this peculiar miracle of Jesus healing the man in stages, Jesus chides his disciples for having eyes [but] not seeing, and having ears [but] not hearing (8:18). They follow him, they watch him, they hear him, but they see and hear only obscurely, not yet trusting him with all their heart, not yet hoping in him beyond expectation, not yet loving him completely. Do you not yet understand? (8:21) is the last thing he says to them, and then they witness this peculiar miracle.
In and through his own body – his spittle, his hands – Jesus works on the blind man. He touches the man’s sick eyes directly, and the cure sets in. Watching this, the disciples see the power of Jesus’ body, perceiving how his spittle and flesh touching another’s body brings about healing. But they don’t see the healing happen all at once; they see it occur in stages. And so by watching this blind man receive the gift of sight in stages, they gaze upon a mirror of themselves: they who see but do not see fully, they who hear but do not hear well.
Right afterwards, Peter sees what he didn’t see before – “You are the Christ” (8:29) – but he immediately reveals just how blurry his vision still is – And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him (8:32). He’s seen but does not see and he’s heard but has not listened – not with all his heart, all his mind, all his strength. He’s and the other disciples are being cured, in stages, to the extent that they are able, or rather willing.
For those who have become blind and deaf to the Messiah given to us in the flesh, moving out of our old ways and customs and preconceived notions is never immediate. We are healed in stages. We must first be broken from what we clung to before, then we must learn what is true, and then we shall come to delight in this new gift. In the mystical tradition, these are called the stages of purgation, illumination, and perfection. In sum, this is how we grow accustomed to Jesus’ touch, for it is the power of God that is communicated to us in and through his body.
We resist that power because it changes us, and change is hard, just like being healed is often hard and tiring. But once the cure has set in, we start to see something new and hope grows. The way forward to the fullness of health opens wider, and yet it will require more change, and more change is daunting.
It is a natural inclination for humans to ask God questions, particularly in difficult times, and then wonder at the answers we get — or whether we have been answered, at all. With A God Who Questions Leonard DeLorenzo does something so original it is almost subversive: he examines the questions Christ Jesus asks of us through the Gospel, and invites us to feel feel challenged while we explore the answers. This is at once a daunting and inviting book — a chance to consider the often-overlooked nuances to what Jesus is saying to us, throughout the ages, but most especially, and compellingly, in our present day. Though a fast and accessible read, this is a rich collection of Christian considerations that should be kept handy and re-accessed again and again over time. It may well be vital to the faith in the 21st Century.
So, yes. I am highly recommending A God Who Questions to you.