Father Martin giving his talk

“To be invited into friendship with Jesus and one another, we need to understand Jesus first.”

That was the message for The Catholic University of America last week, as Rev. James Martin, S.J., addressed a room packed with students during a CUA on Tap talk Sept. 22 in Caldwell Auditorium.

CUA on Tap, which is sponsored by the Office of Campus Ministry, is a monthly gathering for students that includes food, drinks (for those who are of age), and a guest speaker. It has been held for more than 10 years and regularly draws 200 to 300 students.

Father Martin, who serves as the editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America, is the author of 10 books, including The Jesuit’s Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life and Jesus: A Pilgrimage. He is also known for his many media appearances, including Comedy Central’s The Colbert Show.

During his talk, Father Martin shared funny stories from his travels in the Holy Land and spoke about how those experiences helped him understand Jesus Christ’s humanity in a new way. By visiting the actual settings of biblical events where Jesus preached, Father Martin was able to gain new insights into what real-life factors may have inspired Jesus’s words and actions, and how frightening and amazing it would have been to hear him speak.

Father Martin discussed how, when people talk about Jesus, they often try to focus on either his humanity or his divinity. Some people talk primarily about the historical Jesus, what his life was like, and what his words would have meant for those living in first-century Palestine. Others take a more spiritual approach to studying Jesus, by looking at the miracles he performed, how he saved humanity from sin, and how his life, death, and resurrection fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament.

While each perspective can help people grow in their faith, Father Martin said he believes it is necessary to look at both to get a complete picture of who Jesus really was.

“You can’t tame Jesus, you can’t put Jesus in a box,” he said. “To have a friendship with Jesus, you need to understand both perspectives.”

While it can be hard for someone to wrap their head around the idea that Jesus was both human and divine, Father Martin said that is the point. To him, the life of Jesus is “a beautiful mystery, the most beautiful one I know, and one worth pondering.”