There is no doubt that we know, from the life, suffering (sometimes called “passion”) and death of Jesus Christ, that God is a God of unbelievable love and mercy. Just as two reference points on this:
·         Pope Francis proclaimed the current year a Year of Mercy. (See his statement (formally a “bull of indiction”) “Face of Mercy,” April 11, 2015. (See Link #1 at end.)
·         During his homily at the Mass canonizing St. Mary Faustina Kowalska on April 30, 2000, Pope St. John Paul II proclaimed every “Second Sunday of Easter” on the liturgical calendar (which is the Sunday after Easter) to be “Divine Mercy Sunday.”” (See Link #2 at end.)
But is Jesus more than a “Mr. Nice Guy” who showers each of us with mercy? There was an early Christian heresy labeled Marcionism and, like many heresies, it reappears again and again. Marcionism rejected the mean, judgmental God of the Hebrew Scriptures (or “Old Testament”) in favor of the nice loving God of Jesus. In fact, it carried this view to perhaps its logical extreme by rejecting the Old Testament as canonical for Christians and denying that Yahweh was God. I say that the current views about Nice Guy Jesus bear a great deal of similarity to Marcionism because the current views reject any image of Jesus where He, like the God of the Old Testament, is judgmental.
Those who hold these views reject accounts of Jesus upending tables, cursing fig trees, calling people to repent, commanding them to avoid lust in their hearts not just fornication with their bodies, and informing them that, if they don’t avoid sin, they will go to Hell. According to them, He didn’t say “Be perfect, as Your Heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matt. 5:48), but as Anthony Ensolen wrote on March 26, 2015, He must have said, “Be nice, even as your imaginary deity is nice.”
The current views on Jesus assert that being compassionate, being “nice,” is sufficient for salvation, and that adherence to His commands is not necessary. Jesus makes no demands. He makes no judgments. According to these views, that have become pervasive over several decades, compassion trumps all moral analysis of good and evil, of right and wrong. Father, now Bishop, Robert Barron addressed this false notion in his January, 2015, essay, “Why Having a Heart of Gold Is Not What Christianity Is About.” (See Link #3 at end.)
An excellent example of these views of Jesus appeared in an interview posted online on March 3, 2016, by AlterNet. The article is entitled, “Meet the Texas Abortion Provider Who Refuses to Cave in to Anti-Choice Extremists: A Brave Doctor Helps the Women Who Need It Most.” (See Link#4 at end.) The woman interviewed, Amy Hagstrom Miller, operates several abortion clinics as Whole Woman’s Health, in Texas, and she is a plaintiff in the pending U.S. Supreme Court case on the constitutionality of Texas regulations which treat clinics as ambulatory surgical centers and require abortionists to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. [See my article on this subject: “Joan Rivers, Outpatient Surgical Centers, and Admitting Privileges,” American Spectator, Sept. 15, 2014.
Here is the pertinent question and answer:
Interviewer: Would you say that this work [of abortion] has a spiritual dimension for you?
Hagstrom Miller: Absolutely. I was raised in a liberal Christian tradition, and I come to the work because of that background, not in spite of it. The Jesus that I was taught about would be holding the hands of women inside the clinic; he wouldn’t be screaming at them. Acting on Christian principles is holding the hands of people at difficult times in their lives, and being supportive and nonjudgmental and kind. That is very much what we bring to the work. I don’t know how to say it more clearly than that.
This mindset enables the new pro-abortion campaign to depict abortion as a positive good with the Twitter hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion. See, e.g., Katie Yoder, “Actress Martha Plimpton Promotes New Campaign of Women Bragging About Their Abortions,” Oct. 15, 2015, (see Link #5 at end).
The interview with the abortionist Amy Hagstrom Miller brings to mind two fairly recent images. The first is from early July 2015, when the head of Ecuador, Evo Morales, cheerfully and seriously presented Pope Francis with a syncretic crucifix/hammer-and-sickle. (“Syncretic” is a suitable word to describe this object since it means “an attempt to reconcile different or opposing principles or practices.”)
The second image the interview brings to mind is a picture that appeared in the print edition of the New York Times on January 8, 2016, on page A14. The story was about the endorsement of Hillary Clinton by Planned Parenthood, the first time in its one hundred year history, of a candidate for president before nomination. The picture showed Richards in her New York office with a cross on a table. (The online version, which appeared on January 7, see Link#6) also shows a picture of Richards in her office, but shows a different view, one without the table in the background.)
Pope Francis addressed our use of the mercy and love of God to justify acts and omissions contrary to His will on October 19, 2014, at his talk at the close of the Synod on the Family (the first of two Synods a year apart) (see Link #7 at end), when he referred to it as a “temptation,” the temptation of “deceptive mercy”:
"The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [Italian, buonismo; “do-goodism”], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the do-gooders, of the fearful, and also of the so-called progressives and liberals."
In this milieu in which we live, we can forget the sin of presumption. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in Paragraph 2092, defined the sin as presuming “upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain His forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit).” A person guilty of the sin of presumption is not engaged in a single act against God but is living a life that makes a moral life close to God in which one grows in habits of virtue unnecessary. Jesuit Father James V. Schall wrote on this topic in a February 2, 2016, article:
"Mercy is the forgiveness of what need not or ought not to be forgiven. Indeed, mercy follows after, not before, both forgiveness and punishment. Mercy was never designed to minimize the heinousness of sins or to eliminate their possibility. It was meant to affirm their disorder. But their disorder did not prevent God from forgetting them to allow us to begin anew. Thus, God does not just “forgive” sins because He is merciful. He forgives them in the context of our realizing and acknowledging their disorder. Mercy is designed to encourage virtue, not to undermine it."
What I want to do here in this article is to help ensure that we do not neglect the truth that God, that Jesus, is a God of judgment. We need to be reminded of what are called, in the Catholic tradition, the “four last things”: death, judgment, hell and heaven. In the Nicene Creed, from the First Council of Nicaea, 325 A.D., that Catholics recite at every Sunday Mass, “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ…He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead…
To help us to keep this other face of God from falling outside of our purview, to help you discover the Jesus you may not have heard of, I provide in this pdf excerpts from the Gospels. I do not aim to be exhaustive. I rely principally on the Gospel According to St. Matthew[2] and, again while not trying to be exhaustive, I make references to “parallel passages” from the other “Synoptic Gospels” of St. Mark and St. Luke. And, of course, I have some quotations from the Gospel According to St. John. I have grouped all of these excerpts under headings -- with each heading being an imperative that came from His lips. They are commands from Him that we must recognize our sins and we must change our behavior . . . or else!
I did not include references to the scribes and Pharisees because it is all too easy for us to escape Jesus’ harsh words by thinking that we are not filled with religious scruples like the scribes and Pharisees or that we are in some other way better than the scribes and Pharisees. I should add that Our Lord warned us of this very problem when He told us to beware the obstacle (“log”, He said) in our vision (Matt. 7:3) and when He told the parable of the publican who boasted while the tax collector pled for mercy (Luke 18:9-14). He told that parable, as St. Luke specifically wrote, “to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.”
I also did not include Jesus’s statements where He says, “Believe in Me, and live” because it is too easy for us to think that belief in Jesus does not require any change of behavior. Acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus is no more a license to persist in sin than relying on St. Augustine’s oft-quoted phrase “Love, and do what you will” is. (St. Augustine, Sermon on 1 John 4:4-12)
Let me suggest this thought experiment to you. After the conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman by the well (John 4:4-43), after she realized that He knew everything (including sins) she had ever done in her life, after she called all the townspeople to Him, after the townspeople proclaimed Him the Savior of the World, after Jesus spent a couple of days visiting with the townspeople, including her and the man with whom she was cohabiting, do you suppose that she changed her life?
The headings are listed immediately below. They are not in any order. The numbers are used merely to identify them.
1. Do Penance
2. Repent
3. Sin No More
4. Be Merciful; Forgive
5. Keep the Commandments
6. Do More Than What the Law Commands
7. Open Your Eyes and Your Ears
8. Do Not Postpone
9. Keep the Word of God
10. Do Not Deny Me
11. Love One Another
12. Bear Good Fruit
13. Don’t Publicize Your Goodness
14. Fear, and Avoid, Hell
15. Take Up Your Cross
[1] I have used a translation into English from Douay-Rheims 1899. It is not copyrighted and using it allows this pamphlet to be free to you. Another advantage is that, when we use various translations, we read the Scriptures with new eyes. I have, however, altered some of the word forms into more modern English, such as “hear” for “heareth” and “you” for “thee,” and I’ve added quotation marks. I provide the full citation (Gospel, chapter, verse) so you can always go to a translation you customarily use. 
[2] In choosing to focus on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, I cannot help but to remember than an atheist Italian director made a highly regarded film in 1964 by the same name, and dedicated it to the recently deceased Pope John XXIII: “dedicato alla cara, lieta, familiare memoria di Giovanni XXIII” (“dedicated to the dear, joyous, familiar memory of Pope John XXIII”).



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Spero News columnist James Thunder is an attorney based in Washington DC.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not of Spero News.

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