FAST FOOD (AD 2019): Thirty-Third Helping
Ignorance of the Gospels is ignorance of Jesus. It is from the Gospels that we know how Jesus loved. As the Dogmatic Constitution on Revelation of Vatican II states,
“It is common knowledge that among all the Scriptures, even those of the New Testament, the Gospels have a special preeminence, and rightly so, for they are the principal witness for the life and teaching of the incarnate Word, our savior.
The Church has always and everywhere held and continues to hold that the four Gospels are of apostolic origin. For what the Apostles preached in fulfillment of the commission of Christ, afterwards they themselves and apostolic men, under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, handed on to us in writing: the foundation of faith, namely, the fourfold Gospel, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy held, and continues to hold, that the four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation until the day He was taken up into heaven.”
A Christian who is serious about his or her faith, who truly desires to daily obey Jesus’ “new commandment” and love as Jesus loved, would have to be committed to have as part of his or her life hearing, reading and pondering in prayer the actual words of the Gospels. How else could he or she possibly know how Jesus loved? How else could he or she possibly love as Jesus loved?
It is possible to help another person know how to love as Jesus loved by reading to him or her the Gospels themselves. For a person to hear or read an interpretation of the Gospels by another is not the same as hearing or reading the Gospels themselves. The Four Gospels are the inspired and revelatory living Word of God. Fred Jones’ or Mary Smith’s or Charlie McCarthy’s interpretation is neither inspired nor revelatory in the same modality or genre or way.
I know many people who have spent much time and life listening to interpretations of the Gospels by saints and sinners, scholars, visionaries and/or preachers (including myself) of every ilk, but who have never actually prayerfully read and pondered Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
In all the retreats and conferences which I have directed on Gospel Nonviolence over a period of five decades, I have always tried to preface them or conclude them with the words, “If there is anything that I have said here that is not in conformity with the person, words and/or deeds of Jesus in the Gospels, throw it out, reject it.” And so also must this be done with anyone’s attempt to state the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
However, a person cannot know whether what another is saying is in conformity with the person, words and deeds of Jesus unless he or she actually reads or hears the Gospels read to them. To rely on what another says is in conformity with the person, words and deeds of Jesus in the Gospels, rather than reading the Gospels in order to make that determination for oneself about what it means to “love as Jesus loved” is unnecessary and unacceptable, as well as, morally and spiritually precarious.
There is probably not a single evil that some Christian or some Christian authority (including the authority of overwhelming popular opinion) somewhere has not justified by associating it with Jesus name, e.g. war, torture, capital punishment, abortion, infanticide, lust, envy, anger, hatred, revenge, greed, oppression, mercilessness, cruelty, deceitfulness, etc. Aristotle holds the argument from authority to be the weakest of all arguments by which a truth can be validated, indeed it borders on being a fallacious argument. Perhaps, more Christians than we would like to know spend far more of their time reading about the Gospels or listening to commentary about the Gospels rather than spending time with the actual Gospels. Jesus’ “new commandment,” to love as I have loved is spoken directly and personally to each unique person in each of his or her unique moments of life. The “new commandment” of Jesus is not “love as Fred Jones says I have loved.”
Read, hear, ponder and pray on the Four Gospels because ignorance of the Gospels is ignorance of Jesus. Then in good conscience make your honest decision on how to obey Jesus’ “new commandment” in this moment of moral choice. After that be at peace, for you have tried to “love as Jesus loves” as best that you can discern what that means.
-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy