Summary: Wisdom gently attracts the mind of humans to a quest and a love for what is true and good through the beautiful. The modern mind no less than the ancient mind needs God.
Monday of 4th Week in Lent 2013
Gaudium et Spes
Most commentators–even those who wrote in the first millennium–believe that John’s Gospel was the last one written. The historian Eusebius quotes Clement of Alexandria as saying that John, aware of the other three Gospels, wrote a “spiritual” Gospel. But many of the stories in John, like the one we just heard, have the feel of true history, and even of eyewitness history. We know that John the apostle very likely either wrote the Gospel or left the stories and theology for his disciples to write down. John was an early disciple, and the only one to witness firsthand the crucifixion of Christ.
What we have here is a narrative and a theology that spoke to the Christians and seekers of John’s time, and no less to us in our time. Throughout all the Gospels Jesus is portrayed as a teacher and healer. But John adds a new dimension. John’s is a sacramental Gospel. He especially weaves themes of baptism and eucharist into his stories of Jesus. Here he begins a healing tale with a reminder that it took place in Cana of Galilee, where he had made the water into wine. Now the story in chapter 2, of the wedding feast of Cana, told how Jesus had taken the worn-out customs of Judaism, like the ceremonial washings, and turned them into the water and wine of the kingdom of God. So when John reminds us of that first miracle, he is telling us that Jesus is about to reveal something important about that kingdom by his work.
The official–we don’t know if he is a Jew or a Roman–begs Jesus to come down and heal his dying son. Jesus interprets for him: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” This was his constant complaint about his fellow Galileans and the Jewish officials. The man then makes an act of desperate faith: “Sir, come down before my child dies.” And Jesus tells him without coming down that his son will live. The man “believed his word.” That is, he believed in Jesus, the Word of God, and went home confident and unsurprised when his servants brought the good news that his son would live.
The modern world is awash in goods, services and technology, but is empty in spirit. The Council Fathers insisted that humans, even modern humans, need more than ideas and “stuff”: “Man judges rightly that by his intellect he surpasses the material universe, for he shares in the light of the divine mind. By relentlessly employing his talents through the ages he has indeed made progress in the practical sciences and in technology and the liberal arts. In our times he has won superlative victories, especially in his probing of the material world and in subjecting it to himself. Still he has always searched for more penetrating truths, and finds them. For his intelligence is not confined to observable data alone, but can with genuine certitude attain to reality itself as knowable, though in consequence of sin that certitude is partly obscured and weakened.
The intellectual nature of the human person is perfected by wisdom and needs to be, for wisdom gently attracts the mind of man to a quest and a love for what is true and good. Steeped in wisdom. man passes through visible realities to those which are unseen.
Our era needs such wisdom more than bygone ages if the discoveries made by man are to be further humanized. For the future of the world stands in peril unless wiser men are forthcoming. It should also be pointed out that many nations, poorer in economic goods, are quite rich in wisdom and can offer noteworthy advantages to others.
It is, finally, through the gift of the Holy Spirit that man comes by faith to the contemplation and appreciation of the divine plan.(G&S Art 15)”
We can add to the Council’s statement that wisdom gently attracts the mind of humans to a quest and a love for what is true and good through the beautiful. Much of what surrounds us today is just ugly. Look at the number of murders one sees in a week on network TV. Look at what they are doing to the image of the human body and spirit. Ugliness is all around us. That is one reason more and more in the Church realize that we need to make our Catholic worship beautiful again, particularly in our music. Frankly, that means we need to turn our backs on much of what we have written in the last forty years, recover the beautiful chant and polyphony, and restore some reverberation to our churches. You can’t sing beautiful, worshipful music into a pillow of cushions and carpet. When beauty reverberates, it penetrates the soul.