Jean VANIER, Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John. NY/Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 2004, pp. 360. $18.95 pb. ISBN 0-8091-4296-1.
Reviewed by Jill RAITT, University of Missouri-Columbia, MO 65211

What a gem! I used this splendid book as a basis for my retreat and recommend it for that purpose and as a basis for prayer group meditation and discussion or just to read, ponder, and savor.

More than fifty years with L'Arche—a community Vanier founded to serve the disabled—have informed his understanding of John's Gospel. Vanier has also consulted biblical scholars and historians as well as recent world events and his experience of a variety of Christians and non-Christians to produce a volume of "meditative prose written in a way that I [Vanier] hope will lead people to be drawn slowly and prayerfully into the mystery of Jesus." (8) Certainly he has succeeded. The mystery of Jesus into which the reader is drawn is the crucified and risen Word made flesh who embraces all times, all places, all peoples. No one is exempted from Jesus' effective, gentle, loving embrace. Vanier makes clear that service of the disabled, the poor, the marginalized is the best way to learn who Jesus is and why he lived, suffered, died, and rose to remain among us as our nourishing companion. Meditating on each chapter of the Gospel of John, Vanier takes us into the heart of Jesus and into his own heart to learn how to love, to serve, to forgive, to heal, to encourage, and to grow.

I have to admit that it took me about ten minutes to get used to the format, a kind of loose verse, but then I forgot all about that in the beauty, profundity, and challenge of this book that for all its gentle touch, makes the same demands as Jesus. To give a cup of water to the least of our brothers and sisters is to enter into the heart of the reality of Jesus in the world today: to hear, to see, to touch, to learn, to draw apart to pray, and to return to the hungry multitudes in self-forgetful service.

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