Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Our Own Edited Version of the Bible

It has been said that Thomas Jefferson edited a version of the bible to make it conform to his views. It just so happened that he omitted all of those Scripture passages that made reference to miracles. The Jefferson bible was, for all intents and purposes, a miracle-free bible. Supposedly, Jefferson was a Deist; that is, one who believed that God created the universe and then left it alone.

Today, many Christians do much of the same as it regards to our Lord’s tough love. Many would rather focus exclusively on the image of our Lord as the Good Shepherd holding a helpless lamb in his arms or having children on his lap. This, to be sure, is a valid and biblically sound image of our Lord. But it is not the only image! There is, in fact, another side that we read about and hear about within the life of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, few retain this other side- this other image -as they proceed to act on behalf of the Church.

The historical figure of Jesus Christ, one preached by the Apostles, the Fathers and the Saints, is far from this portrait that has him accepting souls into his arms with no questions asked. He does have standards. Even his mercy comes with a condition: that we accept it on his terms.

In the Gospel readings of today’s Mass we see this vividly. It is a side of Jesus that people seldom consider. He tells his Apostles a parable about a faithful and wise steward who does the will of the master, even in his absence. But what about the unfaithful steward; the one who is found to be derelict upon the master’s return? “The master of that servant,” our Lord said, “will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him, and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master's will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating.” A severe beating? Is this the same Jesus who goes out in search for the lost sheep? Indeed, it is!

Jesus tells other parables to this effect. The heavenly banquet is yet another story in which one of the guests is without the proper wedding garment. What does the King do upon entering the banquet hall? Is he a non-judgmental King who shrugs his shoulders and mutters, “To each his own?” To the contrary, he has the guest escorted out into the darkness. And what about the parable of the Foolish Ten Virgins? What happens when their lamps run out of oil upon the Bridegroom unexpected appearance? They are summarily turned away at the entrance.

Does not the Lord Jesus say that many are called but few are chosen? If this is true why then do so many Catholics totally omit this side of Christ? Yes, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who goes out in search for the lost sheep. He bids children to sit on his lap so he can embrace them. He is the father who meets his prodigal son half way upon his return. But if the lost sheep or the prodigal son does not repent, or if the servant refuses to do the will of the master, then abovementioned consequences will follow.

This is not suggest that our Lord is out to get us or that he is God hell-bent on punishing us. It's just that too often only one side of God and one side of love is being presented to people. Half of the Gospel will not save us. Only the fullness of the Gospel will.

Among the highest priorities of the Catholic Church is to prepare souls for eternity. And this all-important preparation is one that must involve the full disclosure of Jesus Christ as we find him in the New Testament. We cannot, as Thomas Jefferson did, tear pages out of the bible so that its final redacted version conforms to the worlds standards. To do so is to seriously undermine our mission. To do so is to leave souls unprepared for the inevitable return of the master.