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Jesus Today: a spirituality of radical freedom

Orbis Books 2007
RRP $24.95

Albert Nolan is a Dominican priest from South Africa who writes, ‘My aim is to look … at what Jesus might mean to you and me and our contemporaries in the twenty-first century. This is a book about spirituality, Jesus’ own spirituality, which I have chosen to call a spirituality of radical freedom’.

Jesus Today is in four parts. The first part examines the nature of our postmodern society, identifying a number of defining signs of the times – a hunger for spirituality, a crisis of individualism, a grassroots movement which seeks to overcome global suffering and a new understanding of the uncertainties built into the physical world. It is at such a time as this, Nolan suggests, that we are most in need of a rediscovery of the spiritual life, and that Jesus had a spirituality of his own from which we can learn.

In part two he looks at Jesus’ revolutionary outlook on the world into which he was born, at his role as prophet and mystic, and at his holistic ministry of healing. His conclusion is that Jesus was absolutely free: free to contradict the assumptions, customs and norms of his society; free to love without reserve; free to be fearless, to give up his life. Jesus’ freedom knew no limits because his trust in God knew no limits.

Bearing this in mind, Nolan moves on to look at our own need for personal transformation. He focuses on Jesus’ need for silence and solitude, on his insistence that we should know ourselves, on his appreciation of thankfulness, on the injunction that we should be childlike, and on the need we have to let go. Speaking about our busyness and possessiveness and the effect they have upon our souls, he suggests that freedom is to be found in detachment, even from God.

The final part of Jesus Today is devoted to the subject of oneness – with God, with ourselves, with other people, and with the universe. And it is here that Nolan makes some challenging observations about modern spirituality which could be looked at positively in a retreat or small reading/discussion group.

Reviewed by Peter Harvey Patrol Minister Frontier Services – Flinders Patrol