- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 1, 2009

It’s been 25 years since Albany, N.Y., penned “Joshua,” a most unusual novel about a Jesus-like character who shows up in a small American town.

“Joshua” sold 3 million copies and spawned two dozen books. Now 78, the author spends two weeks of each month near Lothian and assisting at Our Lady of Sorrows in West River.

He also serves up a mean low-carb shrimp spaghetti. I showed up for an interview, only to get a “Babette’s Feast” of noodles, aromatic home-baked bread, banana-split ice cream and a bottle of Blue Nun.

I quizzed him on his latest book: “The Wisdom of His Compassion: Meditations on the Words and Actions of Jesus,” which brilliantly connects the dots on the in-between times in Jesus’ life.

“It’s easy to fall in love with a character in a novel but not in the Bible, which is written newspaper-style, which doesn’t develop Jesus’ character,” the priest told me.

The Jesus described by this born storyteller suffers setbacks, gets depressed, is constantly on the run from the Pharisees or provoking them, is mocked by His brothers, is incredibly humble and longs for the friendship of us humans.

“He never criticizes anyone but the Pharisees,” the author said. “He had this uncanny ability to accept people as they are. He created us imperfect, so why would He find fault with us?”

As images of His impending betrayal and crucifixion flood His mind with daytime nightmares, Jesus escapes more and more into the hills for prayer, drawing strength from God to face his final ordeal. Father Girzone gets into the thoughts of Jesus in a way that makes readers long for such a person who won’t reject them.

“People don’t feel loved by God because they feel when they sin, they displease God,” the priest said. “And if God doesn’t like us, how can we like ourselves? Jesus knew the only antidote to sin is finding God and getting to know Him and trust Him and little by little, you’ll give up sin.”

Trained as a Carmelite monk, Father Girzone meditates on Scripture for hours, getting insights on the flesh-and-blood character described therein. He intends to post many of those insights on joshuamountain.org, a new Web site.

Jesus’ life, he told me, is a vast puzzle one can piece together with the help of maps and a knowledge of what harvests, Jewish festivals and historical events transpired during His final three years. The Mary, Martha and Lazarus trio in John the Baptist’s birthplace and got to know Jesus through His cousin. Bethany was close to the Judaean desert where Jesus fasted. Perhaps Jesus stopped there after being tempted by the devil.

And during His five months hiding out in the Gentile region of Tyre, He had to come to grips with massive rejection by the Jewish crowds farther south.

“There is not a seminary in the country nor the world that talks about Jesus; how he thinks and feels,” Father Girzone said. “Before the Reformation, there were the mystics who experienced Him. After the Reformation, that’s when the church began preparing catechisms.”

Does God give him hints, I asked, as to what took place during these off-the-record moments in Jesus’ life?

“I feel a lot of times I am not really writing it,” he said of his meditations. “It’s very precise.”

Julia Duin’s Stairway to Heaven column runs Sundays and Thursdays. Contact her at [email protected]


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