The Spear was written by Louis de Wohl. He referred to this book as “the magnum opus of his literary career.”
Synopsis (from Goodreads): This panoramic novel of the last days of Christ ranges from the palaces of imperial Rome to the strife-torn hills of Judea-where the conflict of love and betrayal, revenge and redemption, reaches a mighty climax in the drama of the Crucifixion. For this is the full story of the world’s most dramatic execution, as it affected one of its least-known participants-the man who hurled his spear into Christ on the Cross.
Discussion: I really enjoyed this historical fiction book and finished it quickly, even though it is a relatively large book. The Spear is another retelling of Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection. Jesus’ story has been told many times and in many different ways. I always enjoy getting a different viewpoint of the story. Most stories of Jesus center around Jesus’ point of view or those closest to him such as His mother or the Apostles. Most of these stories focus on the first-hand experience with Jesus and His actions or words. This book is unique, for me because it takes a “panoramic” view of the story. Meaning the story is full of characters that had minimum exposure to Jesus, most never even encounter Him.
The main characters in this book are those that heard rumors of Jesus, or they meet people He healed, or they stayed with those close to Him. They did not, for the most part, have a firsthand encounter with Jesus. These are the people who were changed or converted solely by what they heard about Jesus.
It is named The Spear because the main character is the soldier from the gospel of John the one who “pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water” (Jn 19:34). This is the only encounter the soldier had with Jesus. Still, since he was a soldier during this tumultuous time, he had heard many stories about Jesus, was involved in looking for him, and all the other things leading up to the crucifixion. Some of the minor characters in the book were others from the bible. The adulterous woman who Jesus stopped from being stoned, and He forgave her sin. We get to see how her life was changed after that limited encounter with Jesus. We get to see Martha, Mary, and Lazarus often (but never when they are with Jesus), and I really enjoyed reading about Lazarus’ behavior after Jesus brought him back from the dead. I always wondered how that experience changed Lazarus, and while this book is fiction, I enjoyed Louis de Wohl’s interpretation.
I think I enjoyed this book because of the unique Lent I am experiencing. I really needed a story that focused on the outsiders during Jesus’ ministry. Those not directly involved in His story, but yet were changed dramatically. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the majority of Catholics outsiders to their faith. We cannot partake in the sacraments, and we are denied the Eucharist, “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). Luckily we live in a time where we can still offer ourselves in the mass via streaming live or recorded. I am so thankful for all the priests and others involved in getting these masses out to the public.
This week is Holy Week and tomorrow begins the Triduum. This is three days long, but only one liturgical celebration. It begins on Holy Thursday night, where we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Good Friday continues with the Lord’s passion where we venerate the cross at Jesus’ hour of death (3 pm). Holy Saturday continues as a somber day and ends with Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord at the Easter Vigil.
I heard this analogy on the podcast, Catholic Stuff You Should Know, and it is worth sharing. Catholics have a physical relationship with Jesus via the sacraments. We now are in a perpetual Holy Saturday, as Jesus has been physically removed from us. We don’t know what is happening right now given the world’s pandemic, but something is going on as God is always in control. On Holy Saturday, Mary and the Apostles were mourning as Jesus was removed from them. Yet, something was happening that they could not see. Jesus was conquering hell and the devil. He was dominating during Holy Saturday. We can trust that God is working through this pandemic even if we can’t see it now.
We will be outsiders this year watching Holy Triduum on a screen. Just like the outsiders during Jesus’ time, we can still be changed by His death and resurrection. We can still have a spiritual conversion without fully partaking in the sacraments. I was worried about how we were going to make this the most important time of year for our faith. I don’t need to. Jesus can still reach us. I only need to show up and open myself up to His graces. My family has increased our prayers and devotions more during this time, which would never have happened without COVID-19. This year I won’t be distracted by many of the secular ways we celebrated Easter in the past, as I can’t acquire many things from the store that we use. Jesus has already made this time more holy for us despite being outsides. Even as outsiders we can still be part of Jesus’ story. Jesus came for everybody and He can reach us no matter where we are or what is going on in the world. He is in control.
Jesus, I trust in you.