Book Review

The Passion of John the Baptist

August 29, 2020

The Faithful Spy

A True Story

Dietrich Bonhoffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler

John Henrrix

Book Review and Reflection

Dietrich felt the Twigs snap

beneath his bare heels as

they punched through the

unusual April frost.

The Lord walked next to him.

He had always been there, but

now Dietrich could almost see him,

as if just on the other side of the veil.

He knelt and prayed aloud

for a final time.

Dietrich closed his eyes.

The Lord drew near.

Even closer.

Even closer.


    “Thou shalt not kill,” says Holy Scripture  but how do you stop Hitler’s campaign of horror. This is a book full of beautiful art  describing  the struggle, in which Dietrich discovers  in the end there are  no black and white answers but only  grey.

    For me I wrote yesterday: “Life is about the unknowable be it health=-one day you are healthy, the next terribly sick; have   friends, one day who  are our bosom buddies, the next walk away; and death, in the words of yesterdays  lectionary: “For you do not know the hour of my return.”Matthew 25:10. Death comes when it wishes.

    Today I listened to a lady with a thriving business in March, and tomorrow she is closing down, mourning the loss of hard work and  seeking to discover how she will make a living. 

    This week listening to people with housing a week ago, and now it is gone;  in the past three months sitting with healthy people one minute, the next, near death’s door. Life is unknowable. All we are certain of is we will die. Our only secure reference point is God.

    Through his forty five years Dietrich journeyed with the unknowable, and in the end was death. He shared this uncertainty, fears, and  doubts in his writings.

    Bonhoeffer at an early age entering  into a living relationship with Jesus, he became obsessed with the notion of a universal Church outside of   race and nation, and he asked himself the question, “What could this universal Church do if it left the comfort of the sanctuary?’

    I have moved through the   journey of life  to the same conclusion, a belief in a universal church, with out walls, receiving  everyone into her  arms, living and breathing with her church, who ministers outside the doors of normalcy.

    Looking around we  see institutional churches locked down when there are people on the street, suffering from hunger, loneliness and lack of health insurance and housing. .

    Today  the Black Lives Movement teaches the inclusion of every one. I go from one area of Marin and San Francisco to a segregated not by law, but by choice  of rich whites, to another of Latinos and Blacks. John the Baptist does not die because of his belief in Jesus, but as a result of speaking the truth.

    I hang out with Latino and Black youth, and their parents, and we see  how differently they are treated from their white neighbors. I see people who are the cream of the earth treated with disrespect, as a result of their color.  Laws can not solve the problem, as Dorothy Day reminds us: “There must be a revolution of the heart.” We have to enter into that revolution, we have to make the effort. We have to work  at the  transformation of our hearts.

    This is not something that any politician is going to fix, it begins with us, entering  into  relationship.

    Bonhoeffer wrote his dissertation in 1927 called “Sanctorum  Communion,” or communion of the saints asking what the church could do if God’s people acted in the world with one voice.

    He concluded that the true church of God would not always agree with the world it inhabits and so it must be revolutionary, it must be different.

    The night before he was hanged Dietrich had a dream,  described the next morning,  a dream that gives him hope and faith, and it is a dream, that we,  Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, black, white, brown, grey haired, dyed hair, may have as we come to the end of our lives, and look back and see ourselves in the universal church:


he went

except down

became up!

He swam upward

through the salty water

it satiated his lungs.

but the water felt like air.

The sun was dawning over the surface above him as the light hit his face, he felt a weight fall off his body.

Suddenly a strong hand

plunged through the watery roiling veil

and held his arm fast

it jerked, and Dietrich shuddered.

The hand lifted

him straight up-

into the warmth,

into the Light.

“This is the end–

 for me the BEGINNING OF LIFE.”


Father River Damien Sims, sfw. D.Min., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


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