The Face of Jesus The Face of Jesus 

Pope Francis: ‘A Divine Plot’ helps us see Jesus in action

In his preface to a new book by Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, Pope Francis writes that we must follow God’s storyline, as we seek to discover the true face of Jesus as He journeys to Jerusalem.

By Christopher Wells

In the face of multiple and ongoing crises in the modern world, writes Pope Francis, “we need the genius of a new language, of powerful stories and images, of authors, poets, and artists capable of shouting the Gospel message to the world, of making us see Jesus.”

That is the aim of a new book by Fr Antonio Spadaro, S.J., the editor-in-chief of La Civiltà Cattolica. Taking a cue from the world of cinema, Una trama divina. Gesù in controcampo (“A Divine Plot: Jesus from a reverse angle”) looks at the life of Jesus almost as a screenplay, allowing the reader to see Jesus from a new perspective.

A Divine Plot accompanies us in our search for Jesus,” Pope Francis writes in the preface to Spadaro’s volume. The Holy Father warns against “taming” Jesus, “making Him lovable, but in such a way as to make His message unnecessarily sweet.” Instead, in our day, there is a need to see Jesus as He really is, to see the contrasts and “roughness” found in the Gospel accounts.

“Let us learn to remove the dust that has accumulated on the pages of the Gospel, to rediscover its intense flavour.”

The cover of "A Divine Plot" by Antonio Spadao, S.J.
The cover of "A Divine Plot" by Antonio Spadao, S.J.

Jesus' story envelopes our own

In his preface, Pope Francis insists that the “divine plot” or storyline runs through the Gospel story, with the story of Jesus woven into our own stories.

“Reading the story of Jesus does not distance us from the fabric of our existence,” he writes, but rather “calls us to look at our own history, to turn to face it without trying to escape it.”

Seeing the story of Jesus in cinematic terms can help us “see Jesus in action,” recalling St Ignatius of Loyola’s invitation to “contemplate the Gospels with the eyes of the imagination, rather than mental abstraction.” In doing so, the Pope says, “the story of Jesus enters into our own story.”

Finally, writes Pope Francis, A Divine Plot challenges us to reflect on how we talk about Jesus. We must not fall into the habit of simply using stale, timeworn language to proclaim Jesus’ message.

“The worst thing that can happen is to translate the power of evangelical language into cotton candy.”

Instead, “the Gospel must be a source of brilliance, of surprise, capable of shaking us to the core.”

14 January 2023, 09:00