I was listening to a radio programme a couple of days ago in which a recent decision by a Christian company to refuse facilitating a service to a homosexual union was being discussed. One of the contributors, a journalist, was in-between minds as to who was correct, he understood both sides, he said. However, he mused, he said that Christians, if they followed Christ, would ask "What would Jesus do?" and this journalist said that Jesus would not have refused the service.
Now that opinion reveals that this journalist doesn't know his Scripture or Christ, if he did he would know that Jesus would not act in opposition to his own moral teaching. However the comment, which we often hear, usually when musing on actions and situations contrary to Christian teaching, reveals the penchant modern people have of reinventing Jesus and his teaching to suit their opinions and contemporary mores. It is rooted in the dominant, erroneous view, that Christianity is simply being kind and tolerant about everything, never judging anything and letting people do what they like as long as nobody (or nobody significant) gets hurt.
Our Gospel today challenges this view. Jesus, meek and mild, gentle and permissive, has changed into what some moderns might regard as a ogre: he takes a rope, makes a weapon out of it and turns to violence to hurl contemporary businessmen out of the Temple. Not what one expects, or is it?
We have to be careful when it comes to Jesus, he cannot be categorised, he defies our attempts to put him in a box: he is who he is. When we approach him we must do so with the hope of coming to know him as he is, to exorcise our preconceived ideas and images. One of the stages of the spiritual life, for example, is one in which we are purified of our image of Christ and God, our imagination is purged, emptied, we think we are abandoned, that the Lord has withdrawn and left us to shrivel up. In reality, God is trying to get the soul to abandon its image of God so He can reveal himself as he really is. This process is painful because it entails a real purgation of our devotional life.
Jesus is Jesus, the eternal Son of God, he is not to be used to justify our thoughts, words, actions or opinions. It is for us to conform to him and that means we have to change, hence our need for Lent (and much more besides).