Monday, February 21, 2011

Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an age of Anxiety, by Richard Rohr with John Bookster Feister

In this insightful book we are presented with the models of Jesus and Francis of Assisi, both of whom lived in times of crisis similar to our own, and how they found a way to make a difference.  As he almost always does, Rohr gives us a strong dose of cultural criticism.  He cites the unhealthy attitudes, cynicism, sarcasm, darkness and confusion that are rampant in our postmodern era.  But in the midst of the darkness and confusion, even perhaps because of it, he sees that people of true greatness are emerging.  They have somehow captured the transformative vision of Jesus and Francis of Assisi.  In them he sees a glimmer of hope that all our wounds can be healed.

Rohr offers insight after insight, in his familiar and inimitable style, along with practical solutions for healing ourselves and our society.  He ends with a "Reconstitutionist Creed" as an aid for rebuilders to begin anew.

This is my third consecutive review of a book by Richard Rohr, a world-known writer, speaker, retreat master and a Franciscan priest.  Besides a countless number of books, he has also produced many audio-cassettes, all on matters of religion and culture and filled with insights and inspiration.  I invite you to check him out and discover for yourselves just how good he is.   

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Job and the Mystery of Suffering, Spiritual Reflections, by Richard Rohr

This book is a spiritual commentary on the many themes to be found in the story of Job as is grapples with the question of why there is suffering in the world, even for people who live a good and upright life.  Rohr says that in its essemce , it is a call to let go of old certitudes and goals and to place faith and trust in God alone.  He adds that instead of showing the patience of Job, the story portrays the “impatience of Job,” and the patience of God.

Besides being a study of the mystery of evil, Rohr regards it as “the anatomy of a conversion,” and he says it speaks most strongly to those whole world has fallen apart.  Based on an ancient legend of a man named Job,  a pious person of faith, the anonymous author expands it and creates a profound theology of the problem of evil.

As the story begins, we see Job richly blessed by God, with ten children and many possessions.  Then Satan appears, and when asked by Yahweh if he has noticed that God-fearing man, Job, he replies that Job would end up cursing God if all his possessions were taken away.  But even after Job lost everything, including his children, and his body was covered with painful ulcers, he did not curse God. But he did become very angry, at his wife, at his “friends”, and even at Yahweh. He maintained his innocence and complained bitterly at the unjust treatment he was getting. 

After a long and colorful conversation between Yahweh and Job, God finally restores to Job twice as much as he had before, plus ten beautiful children and 140 more years of life.  The Book of Job in the Old Testament, all 24 chapters of it, is well worth reading again, and even more so, the reflections on the mystery of suffering that Richard Rohr so masterly weaves into the story and relates to our everyday life.