Matt C. Abbott
February 28, 2014
Jesus the Christ: no saccharin Savior
By Matt C. Abbott

We often hear modernist Christians – and some non-Christians, for that matter – describe what amounts to a "sugar-coated" version of Our Lord Jesus Christ who is supposed to unite everyone and get us all to love one another in a nonjudgmental fashion. Not to mention that everyone goes to heaven no matter what!

Of course, we know from Scripture that Our Lord taught the following:
    Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. (Luke 12:51-53)
I asked Father John Trigilio Jr., author, theologian and president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, how he would place the aforementioned scriptural passage in its proper context (from an authentically Catholic perspective) and in regard to the cultural and spiritual wars that rage around us.

Father's response is as follows (slightly edited):
    Jesus, contrary to popular opinion in the secular press and the vox populi of those who identify themselves as 'spiritual but not religious,' was no cream puff. Just as many of the modern media confuse Pope Francis' more casual and informal approach to the papacy, so, too, these same observers erroneously contend that mercy and compassion are inimical and diametrically opposed to orthodox doctrine and morality.

    As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said so well and so often, Catholic Christianity is not a religion of either/or; rather, it is a great religion of both/and. Hence, the Church must be both merciful and just; pastoral and authentic. Christ and His Bride must always be Priest, Prophet and King as fulfilled in the sanctifying, teaching and governing offices.

    Mother Angelica often spoke in her weekly television show about the dangers of misguided compassion. We do no one a favor if we remain silent about the immorality of unmarried sex. At the same time, however, one can and must teach the truth in love and charity, with kindness yet also with conviction. Jesus, the Divine Physician, would be guilty of spiritual malpractice had He not told the woman caught in adultery to 'sin no more.'

    What doctor refuses to tell a patient to stop smoking or to lose weight out of fear of offending the person? Yes, Jesus ate and drank with sinners. He visited and conversed with tax collectors and prostitutes. He never condoned their sinful habits and neither did He give any impression that avoiding evil did not matter. In fact, He spoke about the reality of hell (Gehenna) and how better it was to enter heaven with one eye or one hand rather than burn in hell for eternity with both eyes and both hands.

    The real Jesus, as seen in the Gospels and Sacred Tradition, is a loving, forgiving and patient Savior Who also rebuked the powers of darkness. Sin and evil are not neutral. Men and women are created good yet have a wounded nature, which only divine grace can heal and strengthen. Empowered by that grace, men and women can literally become saints.

    Hollywood used to portray Christ as an ethereal and other-worldly being who appeared human but whose divinity was definitely of another planet. Often, actors portrayed Him as so aloof and genteel as to almost appear soft and prissy. More recent depictions show the human side while often neglecting the divine. The orthodox doctrine is that Jesus is both human and divine; He is God and man. He speaks the truth even when it is not always accepted or embraced.

    Today, one would accuse Our Lord of being politically incorrect for condemning divorce and remarriage. His repudiation of lustful thoughts with the same vigor as His denunciation of injustice toward the poor would place Him in the category of a fanatic by modern secular standards. The Beatitudes in Luke's Gospel includes emphatic 'woes' to those who would reject the divine command to love your neighbor.

    Jesus shows us the best of humanity, as His human nature was as real and true as His divine nature. Therefore, he can be manly without being a macho bully, and He can be compassionate without being a wimp. Working in a carpenter shop for thirty years and hanging out with a bunch of fishermen for another three years is not going to require a 'sensitive' Jesus in touch with his 'anima.' No, the Incarnation and hypostatic union make it clear: Christ is true God and true man. His humanity makes no apologies and His divinity has no reason to, either.

    Loving the sinner and hating the sin requires making proper distinctions. Sin is more than breaking a law and more than a mere mistake or bad judgment. Sin is a moral evil. It is injurious to the soul and can kill the life of grace. It is infectious and threatens the Mystical Body like a virus or bacteria.

    Jesus taught that He came not to bring peace but division. One does not negotiate with evil. Sin and evil are bad for the soul. Sinners, however, can be forgiven, but to be saved, they need to cooperate and repent. John's Gospel makes the choice clear: Choose light and goodness, and live. Choose darkness and evil, and die. No fuzzy morality from Jesus. Mercy, yes, in that He is always ready to forgive.

    The problem is that modern man seeks the lowest common denominator. Like Neville Chamberlain, it is peace at the cost of justice. Hitler could not be appeased into avoiding war, and the devil is even more pernicious, malevolent and untrustworthy. Do we learn from history? You would hope. Yet, today we hear the familiar call for idiotic ideas like 'go along to get along,' 'don't rock the boat,' and 'live and let live.'

    Fraternal charity is not an option; it is based on the notion that love of neighbor extends to warning and admonishing him when he is in spiritual danger or peril. We warn others about bad movies and bad restaurants, but are reticent and reluctant to caution those about to engage in, or are already immersed in, sinful behavior, especially if society has decided these behaviors to be 'alternative lifestyle choices.'

    Jesus loves us too much to hide the truth, deny the truth or dilute the truth, as the truth will set us free. What He did do and what we are to imitate, however, is the art of telling and defending the truth in love. It is not brotherly love to pretend immoral behavior has no consequences. It is not love of neighbor to keep quiet while innocent life in the womb is unjustly killed or when the state attempts to redefine and reinvent marriage. The unborn and traditional marriage can be upheld without resorting to hateful epithets, but the sin of omission is on our conscience if we do nothing – lest we appear uncooperative by those who are fooled by the author of lies.


Check out the website www.prayforbishopsnow.org.

© Matt C. Abbott

 

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.


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