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Christ The Lawgiver

July 13, 2022 Frontpage No Comments

By JAMES MONTI

It was during the Sermon on the Mount, and almost immediately after annunciating the Beatitudes, that our Lord declared:
“Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:17-19).
Our Lord knew that His reprimands and admonitions directed toward the scribes and Pharisees were going to be misconstrued by some as constituting a rejection of all “rigid rules,” so precisely at this moment, at the defining moment of His public ministry, He sets the record straight, as it were. No, He had not come to smash the tablets of the Ten Commandments and tell everyone, “You’re free to live and sin as you please.”
The truth of the matter was quite the opposite. Not only does our Lord not abolish the moral code of the Commandments; rather, He raises the bar on multiple fronts. For immediately following His declaration about fulfilling the law rather than abolishing it, He goes into the specifics of what He means. Those specifics include the fulfillment of the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” a Commandment that our own lust-obsessed age has sought to eradicate:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. . . .
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matt. 5:27-28, 31-32).
Our own age has fabricated a diabolically false image of Christ as a gutless wonder who never judges anyone but rather condones and even blesses any and every kind of extramarital sexual intercourse. The above Scripture passages prove what an utter and sacrilegious lie this is, as do the numerous admonitions of St. Paul on this subject:
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
“Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18).
“But immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:3-6).
Undoubtedly there are those who have misconstrued from our Lord’s description of the final judgment as recounted by St. Matthew (Matt. 25:31-46) that in God’s eyes “the sins of the flesh” matter little by comparison with the sins of neglecting one’s neighbor. Yet in reality the sins of the flesh are for the most part sins against one’s neighbor, the violation of another’s bodily chastity, whether in thought or in deed, whether consensual or not.
Our Lord’s repeated affirmations that He shall come to judge all mankind at the end of the world confirm that He indeed is a Lawgiver who will hold us accountable for our breaches of His law.
There is also that other day of judgment that will inevitably come for each of us personally when we shall breathe our last, as Dietrich von Hildebrand (+1977) explains:
“Here we encounter the tremendous seriousness of death as the moment when the very God who created us now calls us home and we have to give Him an accounting. No longer are we in the dark shadows of death. We stand instead before the great verdict. We shall hear from God either the horrifying doom of our condemnation to Hell or else a blissful invitation for us to enter the mansions of Heaven — even if this blissful moment is delayed by our stay in Purgatory….In a certain sense, it is the decisive event of our life” (Dietrich von Hildebrand, Jaws of Death: Gate of Heaven, Manchester, NH, Sophia Institute Press, 1991, p. 71).
One of the crown jewels of the Church’s sacred liturgy has been the Requiem Mass sequence Dies Irae, the words and music of which have captivated its hearers for centuries, including numerous musicians. In this haunting chant we encounter Christ as the “King of tremendous majesty.” Its ill-considered removal from the postconciliar funeral liturgy has played into the mentality that sees the image of Christ the Judge as outmoded and “too negative.” In a 1976 essay lamenting the removal of the Dies Irae from the Proper of the funeral Mass, Fr. Deryck Hanshell, SJ, observes:
“As at every point time must be in relation to eternity, and as with the passing of every soul the end of all things is upon us, so hangs judgment over us. Was it not then a mistake to delete the Dies Irae — at least formally — from the liturgy? Do we or do we not stand under the judgment of God, all mankind and each individual? And have we not to have some picture of this?” (Fr. Deryck Hanshell, SJ, “The Dies Irae Should Never Have Been Dropped,” Clergy Review, volume 61, n. 11, November 1976, p. 448).
Of course, the dismissal of the thought of Christ judging us for sins of the flesh is cast in terms of the false claim that since God is a God of love, He is therefore unwilling to condemn anyone for their sins of the flesh. Yet this view stems from an erroneous notion of what love is. True love cannot condone what is evil. Rather, true love, the love with which God loves us, summons us to face the truth about ourselves, as Fr. Hanshell explains: “God does not love us by hiding from himself or from us the mess that we are in” (Hanshell, p. 449).
The affirmation of the justice of Christ as Lawgiver and Judge by no means denies His boundless divine mercy; indeed, His mercy and His justice are inseparable. In a reflection upon the Church’s administration of the Last Rites to the dying, Blessed Ildefonso Schuster (+1954) presents a most beautiful image of how we shall all encounter our Lord on our deathbeds:
“A man’s last hour is solemn and decisive. Upon that moment depends not only his eternity but the very efficacy of the Saviour’s Passion. . . . Jesus stands beside the deathbed, for the salvation of that soul is the fruit of redemption and the Sacred Heart yearns to win it. The Church, filled with the spirit of Christ, cannot be indifferent when the last hours of the wayfarer in this land of exile have arrived, and she does all that is in her power to cooperate with the divine Redeemer, in saving the souls of the dying” (Blessed Ildefonso Schuster, The Sacramentary (Liber Sacramentorum): Historical and Liturgical Notes on the Roman Missal: volume 5 (parts 8 and 9), London, Burns, Oates and Washbourne, 1930, p. 331).
It certainly seems that some within the Church would like her to forsake her perennial identity as a sign of contradiction conformed to her Crucified Spouse and become instead the servile pupil of the secular world — that the Church ought to make the world’s demented and debased values her own.

The Spirit Of The World

To those who are trying to reshape the identity of the Church into a church that says every sexually permissive “lifestyle” is okay, a church in which the only three “sins” deemed deserving of unconditional condemnation are love for the Traditional Latin Mass, refusal to take the COVID vaccine, and refusal to believe in the secularistic “dogma” of global warming, one must ask: Do souls need to be saved or not? Do souls need a Savior or not?
And if so, what do souls need to be saved from? Is it or is it not a sin to desecrate and destroy God’s precious and loving gift of matrimony by acts of adultery and fornication? And if no one is accountable for their actions no matter what they do, if no one is in danger of going to Hell for their actions, no matter what they do, why have a church at all? Many of our young people have reached this conclusion and have acted accordingly. If the Church were truly to become what is described above, she would have no future.
But the Church shall live on, because despite what some of her bishops, priests, and theologians are saying and doing, there are other bishops and priests, and many laity and religious, who will not conform to the spirit of the world, no matter what. The Church’s eternally true and irreformable doctrines and her sacred traditions shall be faithfully preserved by them, come what may. And they will find support in each other, in the bonds of family, friendship and fellowship in the Lord, as described so poignantly by St. Maximilian Kolbe (+1941):
“. . . even if a whole army of bitterest enemies were to plot against us on one side, we will also find true friends on the other, joined to us with sincere love in the unity of a common ideal. They will comfort us in sadness and come to our rescue when we fall, so that we never drop our guard but fight on with tenacity and firmness unto death, trusting only in God through the Immaculata” (St. Maximilian Kolbe, “The MI,” November 15, 1919, in The Writings of Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, ed. Antonella Di Piazza, FKMI, Lugano, Italy, Nerbini International, 2016, volume 2, n. 1248, p. 2167).
Christ the Lawgiver shall not be dethroned. He shall be the Judge of the living and the dead: “. . . prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” (Amos 4:12).

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