I’m honored today to kick of a blog tour for a new Loyola Press book: Under the Influence of Jesus: The transforming experience of encountering Christ, by Joe Paprocki.
A friend of mine told me a story about the time when she went to hear author Annie Dillard speak at the University of Chicago. During the Q&A time someone in the audience asked Dillard why she became a follower of Jesus. Her response was: “We met.” Then she moved on to the next question.
It was a simple answer, but it spoke volumes to the power of a true encounter with Christ.
How do you explain such an encounter? It’s deeply personal, deeply spiritual, and difficult to put into words. And some fear that proclaiming the message of Christ will turn us into real-life Ned Flanders – the bible-thumping neighbor of Homer Simpson, writes Joe Paprocki.
But Paprocki also believes that proclaiming the life-changing encounter with Jesus is what the Catholic church is often lacking. He begins his book, Under the Influence of Jesus, by lamenting that Catholic masses are often filled with dull music, perfunctory prayers, and boring homilies. He contrast this with the scene at Pentecost, where crowds who gathered to hear the apostles proclaim the gospel were “wowed” by the inhibition displayed by the apostles. Some in the crowd even commented that perhaps the followers of Jesus were drunk.
“The crowds saw a group of men who should have been terrified to set foot in public taking to the streets filled with uninhibited joy and enthusiasm for Jesus Christ. It was this dramatic and observable transformation in the behavior of a small group of former fishermen and tax collectors that caught the attention of thousands and led them to ‘sign on’ that very day,” he writes.
Jesus proposes an alternate reality, Paprock writes. And this alternate reality gives us hope for finding true and lasting fulfillment.
“An encounter with Jesus turns us into humble, sincere, authentic people who are no longer governed by the worldly powers of pride, fear, anger, lust, or envy, but by ‘otherworldly” virtues such as charity, joy peace, patience, kindness and goodness.”
Under the Influence is a provocative, practical and inspiriting book. Paprocki provides equal parts anecdotes, exposition, and practical lists of what the kingdom of God really is, and how an encounter with Jesus transforms us. He reminds us that “discipleship” and “church membership” are not the same.
The book is an important message during these times where people are grasping at the true meaning of life. And it offers a clarion call for the church to proclaim this hope to the world.
The life-changing kingdom of God is at hand….if we only have eyes to see.