It is impossible to read The Diary of Jesus Christ by Bill Cain, SJ and not reflect on your own life. Here is the genius of the author and the invitation to all of us. Why not write a diary of your own, now? No matter if you doubt anyone would read it. Is that not how diaries normally work, more for the writer than for any reader?
In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius invites us to pray on the hidden life of Jesus. Bill Cain has turned that prayer into a form that can be shared, and an intimate form at that: a diary. To be honest, I have almost always associated diaries with grade school girls — pink, fuzzy notebooks complete with a lock. Bill Cain, SJ begins with a Jesus of just nine years, a young Jew who wants to be a rabbi, but there is a catch. No one likes the current rabbi.
So what does Jesus want to be as a child? A baker. Why? Because he comes to know one who is happy. How? Because he is well-liked, works hard, and makes people laugh.
Would this aspiring baker have kept a diary? I have never daydreamed about Jesus having one. How hard it is to set aside our 21st century, American minds, as if they were blended concoctions or smoothies, and try on 1st century, Palestinian minds. Bill Cain does something in between, I think, lest we be completely lost — culturally, linguistically, religiously. I suppose none of us can completely rid ourselves of whatever smoothie we were born with, and into, and have been surrounded in from the beginning.
Remember, Jesus was human.
What Bill Cain offers is something that goes down so easy, that is so rich, that it is difficult to put down, like a smoothie on a hot day, or better yet, a cold beer, which, by the way, also makes an appearance in Jesus’s diary. So does his broken arm as a youngster. You will never guess how it happened. So does an instance or two of reparative justice. So does that first miracle and its drunken effects, beneficial though they may be. So does a talk with John the Baptist about sex. So does a man who confronts Jesus about the lack of inclusivity in his preaching, a man who would play a role later on in Jesus’s life, and death. So do women who are offended that they were not invited to join Jesus, too, like the apostles.
Before I was halfway done with Jesus’s diary, I felt myself growing closer to Him, not because of footnotes, but because of a familiarity of and with Jesus that the diary cannot help but cultivate.
Read the diary for yourself, and as you go, begin writing your own. Bill Cain gives us quite an example to follow, combining scripture, prayer, and our otherwise hidden stories. The question is, do you know your own story? After all, ‘All God asks is that we become ourselves fearlessly,’ something that we are sometimes hesitant to do and something that is always punished by those who have not. Read The Diary of Jesus Christ and come to know, in a new way, that Christ is not so much about rules as he is about relationship, or even better, relationships.
The Diary of Jesus Christ is available from Orbis Books.