“NOT ALL HAVE EARS”
VATICAN II SPIRITUALITY No 3
“He who has ears, ought to hear.”(Mark, Matthew, Book of Revelation). The Ecumenical Council, Vatican II, of the last century upgraded the sum and substance of the notion of revelation or God’s manifestation of itself to members of the Catholic Church, expanding and deepening its meaning of God’s call to all humankind, collectively and individually. Revelation was seen as the development throughout history of a relationship of the human race with God. For the Christian the relationship began with Abraham; the pinnacle of God’s epiphany to humankind has always been Jesus the Christ that walked over the hills and dales of Galilee preaching and teaching with words and example about God as our father. He was God’ human face.
Jesus was God’s divine gift, a completely human person truly one of the human race, the maximum expression of God’s presence among us. At Vatican II with its opening to the new notion of revelation the science of history took on new and significant spiritual importance. For, the criteria for a human rational belief in God’s manifestation across the millennia demands solid grounding for its credibility. Believing in God’s entrance into human events that occurred long ago when a much less sophisticated culture dominated the world could only make sense today through a knowledgeable recourse to the canons of good historical scholarship including its many ancillary sciences accepted as valid by and for the human community.
At a distance of two thousand years of and a much greater distance in cultural conditioning the fathers at the Council were faced with the awesome task of presenting Jesus now both the historical Jesus as well as the risen Christ of the canonical gospels and through him of the father creator. The modern world of today represents mostly an indifferent and/or hostile world, rapidly evolving in knowledge, the sophistication of its social institutions and an explosion of scientific discovery and technology. The makers and inhabitants of this new, increasingly sophisticated, diversified but ever more closely knit planet-village were being invited through Vatican II to enter into a relationship unfolding over millennia with their unknown and unknowable creator based on the historical credentials of a peasant prophet and a few followers who proclaimed that their rabbi had risen from the dead.
It should be vital to believers of today seeking the “relationship” of revelation to discover whatever can be known about the Jesus of history, God’s most unique manifestation of itself to humankind. And although among the findings of Catholic scholarship, primarily interested in defending the risen and glorious Christ that was needed to launch successfully a new belief system, little has been produced about what the historical Jesus can teach us. On the other hand widely accepted historical data with direct bearing on the believer’s search for the stuff of a relationship has been uncovered outside the Catholic church.
Through a methodical and prolonged analysis of over 200 verses discovered in but studied by the experts for over two hundred years independently of the canonical gospels, the Quellen (a German term for sources ) have been accepted today even by Catholic scholars as the oldest genuine sources of canonical writings about Jesus. They are viewed by the experts as data as nearly as we can find to the words and actions of Jesus. A quote with respect to the LOST GOSPEL, a published collection of the verses contained in the Quellen, by Thomas More a Ph.D. author and monk for twelve years reflects its potential for the life of the spirit: “I will read it…as one of the primary revelations of life’s sacredness. I expect it to give me a Jesus who is less shielded and packaged by later traditions, less nuanced by the purposes of well-intentioned institutions, and, therefore, more poetic and more sublimely relevant to my own desire for a truly intelligent, deeply felt and socially responsive life of the spirit.” (The Lost Gospel Q, The Original Sayings of Jesus, Ulysses Press, Berkeley, California, 1996, p.12).
When you contemplate the Jesus of the Quellen you become acquainted with the human Jesus who can teach us with peasant simplicity a complete human spirituality framed by an intense life of living with his father God. He finds God everywhere, in the weather, the birds of the air, even the hairs on your head. He emphasizes God’s interest in the individual whose well being and happiness in a small community trumps man made laws and religious precepts. A later post will deal in more detail how the Quellen, or Lost Gospel, offers God the father’s spiritual program through Jesus’ life in history before his crowning act of love in his death and resurrection.
Studying this man of history in the known context of a small and remote peasant village of Galilee known today to have been on a commercial route of that time, you discover a person entirely in compassionate touch with his limited village surroundings the stuff of his father created world. Experts in Jesus studies now think that he was in his travels a typical peasant who never entered a real city until he went up to Jerusalem to die. When he started his public life his audience was the Palestinian community of his upbringing, or similar neighboring ones. He addressed his listeners versed in scriptural hot button religious issues common in a village environment without a formal synagogue. Such was the village of Nazareth estimated to have housed some 200 inhabitants where he had studied and prayed over for the thirty years prior to his public life.
Through modern known historical studies Jesus emerges as a profound student of human potential but aware of its limitations. He manifests this through his wisdom sayings conducive to a call to his “way,” the life required to be a worker for the kingdom of his father God. He preaches “He who has ears, let him hear,” without surprise that many would listen but not hear. You could characterize him as a village psychologist when he cures people through natural means, many through faith healing and others with pathological conditions open to healing by those in close harmony with the little known energies of God’s creation. Even though it is probable that Jesus did not know how to read or write he comes across as a naturally gifted student of contemporary issues intuitively grasping as a framework for his call to the kingdom the steaming social, economic and political pressures in Galilee.
Immediate listeners and hearers, the privileged ones to see, live with and know from close quarters, God’s manifestation of itself in Jesus, could only express their human reactions and impressions limited to their cultural, physical and environmental conditioning. Similar cultural limitations have filled libraries with impressions passed on to them over the centuries through intermediaries ever further away in time and place. We can seek him only through the word of a human mind or heart written or spoken of him through the mediation of their culture. But the the word reverberates down and across the times and places of God’s created world, “…the WORD was with God, and the WORD was God.”(St. John1:1). Perhaps some day when technology can find and untangle the uncountable sound waves of the atmosphere we will be able to study and reach with our puny human instruments the WORD itself.