Wednesday, October 15, 2014

That's The Craziest Thing I Ever Heard (Lk 11:37-41)

This reads as a typical tearing into the Pharisees at first, and we'd probably just let it wash over with little more than a self-satisfied chuckle, but for the fact that Jesus wants us to hear this, and apply it to ourselves some way. Look at v. 41; if you are a good little papist reading this liturgically, you don't have the verse number, but do yourself a favor and pick up a Bible. Now, this may be the only time that the New American Bible is superior for both accuracy and clarity, at least in English, to the RSV.

Look here at the NAB rendering: "But as to what is within, give alms,
and behold, everything will be clean for you.”

Give alms?!? What kind of Mickey Mouse Pelagian operation is being run here? Indeed, what we might call the Crass Pelagian Reading says, "See? Salvation by works. You want to be saved? Try harder and do stuff." But wait! What sort of error did these Pharisees make? They strained out a gnat, and swallowed a camel. Same thing in Matthew 23, and other places. What sort of person gives alms without a thought? A person who is on fire with supernatural love. A merely religious person isn't going to sacrifice his own comfort for love of God and neighbor; he will rather be invested in making it appear so.

The profoundly Christian aspect of this is that if we find ourselves disinclined to give and serve in this way, we have to pray for the grace to do it, to live with open hands toward all blessings. We can't simply work up the courage to be "good people"; we have to taste the transforming love of God. While it is true that God requires us to give the alms, and not merely metaphysically suppose that Christ has given them for us, we are but creatures, and we have no capacity for friendship or similarity with God unless He makes it possible. Christ is not calling us to a religion of self-help, but in union with the Church, I have to call malarkey on that "imputation of Christ's active obedience" stuff, because frankly, Christ would rather have my active obedience.

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