Not all people who live at the same time are contemporaries
I came across this statement in a discussion on Karl Rahner’s theology in The Quest for the Living God by Elizabeth Johnson. It stopped me in my tracks. I don’t know enough of Rahner’s writing to offer any comment on what he intended by that statement, rather what follows is what I make of it.
I find this such a powerful idea. I am frequently baffled by the opinions that others hold. A current example would be the upset in the ultra-traditionalists blogosphere over the Pope Francis washing the feet of two young women on Maundy Thursday. The temptation for me is to divert myself into writing about my frustration at this response. But the idea that not all people who live at the same time are contemporaries gives me a way to defuse my own reaction.
Somehow this simple statement allows me to accept the fact that others will think quite differently to me. I must be true to myself and to the understanding that I have, but my task is not to convince others of that. I must be prepared to hold my opinions up for examination, and in so-doing allow for the possibility that I need to rethink and reconsider, but this is all that is required of me. The rest is in God’s hands. I need to let God be God.
Rahner is insistent on the mystery of God. Perhaps this phenomenon of the differences of thought and opinion is part of the way in which God reveals Godself. None of us hold a sufficiently large fragment to speak with certainty of the whole, but each of us holds enough of the nature of God, to be led further into it.
My task then, is to sit lightly to the detail – in Ignatian terms to use what leads deeper into the mystery and set aside that which prevents further exploration – but to hold firmly to the journey. To trust that in so-doing I will be led by God. If I can trust God’s hand in my own wanderings, perhaps I can trust that others will be led along very different paths but to the same end – even though we may never agree on the detail of description of the scenery along the way.