Over the past few weeks, the gospel narrative has concentrated on the controversies between Jesus on the one hand, and the Pharisees and Sadducees on the other. These controversies covered topics as to whether Jesus had the authority to teach in the Temple; his condemnation of his opponents for their hypocrisy; the parable of the owner of the vineyard who sent his servants to collect his fruit, and the farmers killed them; the king who gave a wedding party for his son and was snubbed by his invited guests; and in today’s excerpt we read how Jesus was tested on his knowledge on the Torah, .... the Law! I can’t help grinning at the thought that He, who gave it, knew it, and those who tested him on it didn’t practise it!! It reads like a religious soap-opera, in reality a comic opera! But of course in our time we have the benefit of hindsight, therefore we can accept Jesus as Son of God with greater surety; it is our faith.
To be fair to Jesus’ opponents, they had every right to check the credentials Jesus presented, albeit unwritten, but one might have thought that considering the knowledge he demonstrated both in the synagogue and in front of the thousands who came to hear him, let alone the miracles he performed at the drop of a hat, such evidence would have added credibility to his claims. The gospels give us only a snap-shot of Jesus’ saving ministry, both in human and spiritual terms, meaning that in broader terms, his effect on society and local culture must have been phenomenal. Many didn’t believe what they witnessed during Jesus’ ministry, which impulsively encouraged Jesus to say: ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.’
Despite the shortness of the Gospels, the scope, the vast range of guidance they illustrate to help man to lead a good life, is without equal. From this wealth of wisdom, and I include all scripture, has evolved the Social Doctrine of the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explaining its social doctrine says this [CCC2419] ‘Christian revelation . . . promotes deeper understanding of the laws of social living.’ (GS 23 § 1.) [Gaudium et Spes: Joy and hope!] it continues; ‘The Church receives from the Gospel the full revelation of the truth about man. When she fulfils her mission of proclaiming the Gospel, she bears witness to man, in the name of Christ, to his dignity and his vocation to the community of persons. She teaches him the demands of justice and peace in conformity with divine wisdom.’
The next paragraph (2420) begins ... ‘The Church makes a moral judgement about economic and social matters “when the rights of the person or the salvation of souls requires it”’. [GS 76 § 5]. So what are the rights of the person? Here are a few; they amount to the bare essentials of life: food, shelter, clothing, security, freedom from fear, education, employment and many more. For any reason, including financial, not to have access to any or all of these fundamental rights is to live in poverty which leads to lack of self esteem, lack of dignity, a sense of worthlessness, depression and mental sickness, and so on. For Catholics, if we accept the dignity of mankind made in the image and likeness of God, then, without question, we will accept as divine truth the answer Jesus gave to his opponents when they asked Jesus ‘which is the greatest commandment of the law?’. His answer is unequivocal; to love God is to love everyone else, not by paying lip-service, but by relieving those suffering the ignominy of poverty in all its guises. That is our faith.