Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Great Fiction Reading For Lent

Flannery O'Connor is a brilliant writer. Her novel (Wise Blood) and short stories cut to the heart of humanity, the struggles with race, anyone who's an "other," and with Christ. Her works are soaked in him. As she once said, "I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted." The characters in her fiction wrestle with self-acceptance, accepting others, and accepting grace. O'Connor has a keen mind, strong faith, and cutting wit. 

Shusaku Endo's historical novel Silence is the story of a Jesuit missionary to 17th century Japan. When I first read this work it haunted me and still does. It was the first time I truly asked myself not only, "Would I be willing to die for my faith?" but, as the main character in this novel has to ask, "Would I let others die for it?" 

Endo would also go on to write a nonfiction work entitled A Life of Jesus to make Christ understandable to the Japanese.

Brendan is the follow-up to Frederick Buechner's Godrick. This is a fictional account of Saint Brendan. It shows with great humor and poignancy how Brendan struggles to overcome his failures. It is a miraculous book and is amazing how it recreates Ireland at this time. 

One of the most brilliant novels ever written. Even Albert Einstein said, "Dostoevsky gives me more than any scientist . . ." He writes about the depths of depravity and the beauty of divine grace like no other author. See if he isn't spot-on correct when he wrote:

The world says: "You have needs - satisfy them. You have as much right as the rich and the mighty. Don't hesitate to satisfy your needs; indeed, expand your needs and demand more." This is the worldly doctrine of today. And they believe that this is freedom. The result for the rich is isolation and suicide, for the poor, envy and murder.

The Brothers Karamazov also has one of the most profound discussions of free will, on the freedom Christ offers, and how the modern world would still reject and crucify Him all over again.

In this fictional work, C.S. Lewis meditates on the concept of heaven and hell. Whenever Lewis was wrestling with a theological issue, he would work through it by writing both a fictional and nonfictional work around that spiritual problem. This work was heavily influenced by authors like Saint Augustine, Dante, Milton, John Bunyan, and even Lewis Carroll. The narrator of the story gets on a bus that travels through hell, purgatory and heaven. One of my favorite quotes from this novel is:

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." 

The title comes from the end of the Lord's Prayer: For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever, amen.

Graham Greene's protagonist is an unlikely one called the "whiskey priest" who enters a town where Catholicism is outlawed and follows him as he attempts to minister to people.  As he does, he struggles between repentance and self-destruction. Haunted by his personal demons, the whiskey priest comes across a child he fathered, a Lieutenant who is a socialist and despises the church, a and Judas like figure in the mestizo. Through this work Greene examines sin and salvation. 

He writes:

It was too easy to dies for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or a civilization - it needed a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt.

What are your recommendations for good Lenten reads? If you have one, please comment and let me know.

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