St. Jude vs. the Funhouse Mirror

El Greco St. Jude
Let us imagine ourselves to be Jewish converts to Christianity, living at the time of the Apostles. We find ourselves confronted with a difficult question.

The ancient law of our forefathers demanded a life of rigorous honesty, piety, justice, and self-discipline.

In fact, the Law of Moses demanded such intense religion and morality that generation after generation of Jews found it impossible to comply with the Law.

Then the long-expected Messiah came–and it was the God of Moses Himself, made man. He offered the perfect sacrifice which atones for all the countless sins of the past, and He mercifully reconciles us with the Creator—in spite of our hopeless unworthiness. Our religion now follows Christ Himself; He has established the definitive covenant.

But: Christ does not immediately transport us to heaven and eternal life. His Church baptizes us into His mystery, but we still live here on earth, confronted with the same temptations and evil that we faced before Christ came.

Here, then, we find the difficult question: What kind of behavior does God expect of us now?

He came to save those who were not able to follow the moral law which He had previously laid down. His Precious Blood washes away all sin. No human being could ever commit a sin which God will not forgive. This is gospel truth.

Does this mean we can do whatever we want? Can I now have my cake and eat it, too? Can I act immorally, indulge myself, play fast and loose? God will forgive, so does it matter?

This would be the distorted, funhouse-mirror image of the Gospel. Can we be surprised that, in certain corners of the ancient world, a lot of new Christians went ahead and embraced it?

St. Jude dedicated his apostolate to combating this error. Being redeemed by Christ and having our sins forgiven calls us to a higher moral standard than the Ten Commandments, not a lower one.

Christ did not reveal an indulgent God Who doesn’t care about our sins. Rather, He revealed God’s zealous love. We meet this love not with selfishness, but with selfless love in return. God patiently forgives. We love Him back not by continuing to try His patience, but by being patient and forgiving ourselves.

The heretics taught that Christ’s cross meant that we could forget about the Law. Christ’s cross does mean that we can forget about the Law, like someone walking on the sidewalk can forget about the speed limit.

Going 85 miles an hour doesn’t stop being dangerous and illegal. Neither does impiety, profanity, malice, lust, greed, sloth, vengeful anger, or envy. They all still violate God’s law, and are punishable with a kind of justice that we definitely do not want to have to face.

But if we live for God, we may find ourselves distracted from deadly sins by things like praying and taking care of our neighbors.

One thought on “St. Jude vs. the Funhouse Mirror

  1. Father Mark,

    To quote one of your fellow priests, one with boucoup experience (read that as “old”, and “married with children”): “It’s a matter of doing the right thing, not doing the thing right.” In any event, both you and he come down on the same side as Christ in castigating the Pharisees for their punctilious exercise of The Law — no surprise there.

    But, the use of the “fun-house mirror” is not limited to two millenia ago. One needn’t look far for the same repeated use of minimalizing mantra in place of real action. For example, those who chant, “Privacy” when the subject is “murder” — and that “most foul” (Hamlet, Act 1, scene V).

    Besides, just ask Till Eulenspiegel (the fun’s in the name), comedy is the best way to expose hypocrisy; and we can have fun in the process of pulling off our “merry pranks” (apology to Strauss — and think of Newt Gingrich’s “non-Rotarians”).

    LIH,

    joe

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