Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Under the Influence of Jesus" -- A Book Review

Under the Influence of Jesus
by Joe Paprocki, D.Min.
Loyola Press (2014)
168 pages

Joe Paprocki’s latest book, Under the Influence of Jesus, models adult faith formation at its best: faith-full, contemporary, and applicable to everyday life. Readers who approach this book  with “same-old, same-old” expectations risk missing both its stirring evangelical passion and its down-to-earth/up-to-heaven spirituality. Paprocki invites his readers to imbibe the Spirit-filled joy that marked the original Pentecost event, as described in Acts 2. After spending days in seclusion, fearing for their lives, Jesus’ reenergized band of followers took to the streets of Jerusalem early on a Sunday morning. Instead of blending into the city’s normal life, they started proclaiming the “good news” that the Jews’ long-awaited Messiah had indeed come and had risen from the dead And they did it with such Spirit-filled enthusiasm that the mocking bystanders’ first reaction was to accuse the noisemakers of being “under the influence” of too much wine. 

As Paprocki reminds us, “The crowds . . . weren’t ‘wowed’ by miracles or . . . soaring rhetoric. Rather, what captured their imagination was the [disciples’] total lack of inhibition.” Relying heavily throughout the book on examples from familiar movies, literature, and music, the author compares the infectious joy of that first Pentecost to every movie buff’s favorite line from When Harry Met Sally: “I’ll have what she’s having.” Three thousand people joined the Jesus movement in a single day. Paprocki then fastforwards to later periods of Church history (including our own) when Catholics “instituted some kind of ‘prohibition’ against the inebriating influence of the Holy Spirit.” 

Under the Influence of Jesus invites today’s Catholics to indulge in the same intoxicating submission to the mystery of the Risen Christ that sparked the birth of Christianity. This book does more than inspire renewal of the reader’s faith. Chapter upon chapter offers practical methodologies for uninhibited kingdom dwellers. RCIA teams, in particular, will draw inspiration from chapters on the “baskets” of discipleship and the stages of conversion (drawing on St. Paul’s experience in Acts 9). 

“Ultimately,” Paprocki says, “the goal of discipleship is contagion: ‘infecting’ others with the Good News through our words and actions.” 

(Reviewed by Alfred J. Garrotto for the June 2014 Issue of US Catholic Magazine)