Brimstone on hold


“I think we too are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with, to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think — and I say it with humility — that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy.”

— Pope Francis, Homily on March 17, 2013

As an American blogger put it: ‘OMG, Francis is really on a mercy roll!’ But is the Jesus being portrayed by the Holy Father the Jesus of the Gospels or the Jesus of Walter Kasper?

‘Neither do I condemn you: go and sin no more’ (Jn 8:11) says Jesus to the adulterous woman. But it is not His only, and possibly not His last word on the subject. Jesus was not the libertarian of the modernist theologians. More plausibly he was a legal rigourist. He came, as he himself said, not to abrogate the Law but to fulfil it; nowhere more so than in the Sermon on the Mount, where the provisions of the law are rendered ever more stringent – ‘You have heard that they said in former times ….but I say to you‘ – and where adultery (the sin of the current, compassionate moment) gets exceedingly short shrift.

Perhaps those powerful morning sermons at the Domus Sanctae Marthae demand a more challenging text. ‘For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Mtt 5:20)… for starters.

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