The Sharp Corners of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

The true Gospel of Jesus Christ has some sharp corners. The Word that proceeds from the mouth of Jesus is a sharp two-edged sword: it cuts for you and against you. When you do good, or repent from doing evil, or suffer for doing good, the sword of Jesus cuts in your favor. But when you sin, and especially when you sin and do not repent, that sword cuts against you.

The sword of the Gospel is also sharp in its requirements for a life pleasing to God. We must avoid all kinds of sinful behavior, which is approved and celebrated by sinful secular society. We must practice self-denial. We must change to become more like Christ, and change can be difficult.

Certain Catholic speakers and authors have become very popular among the faithful by sugar-coating the Gospel message, by dulling all its sharp edges, by ignoring the difficulties of carrying one’s cross every day. They make excuses to justify grave sins, especially abortion, abortifacient contraception, contraception, and various sexual sins. They radically reinterpret the magisterial teaching that intrinsically evil acts are always immoral, making exceptions for the most popular sins. They tell their audience what they wish to hear, not what God wishes them to hear. They do not sharply correct sinners. They do not sharply rebuke teachers who are leading their listeners astray.

Jesus did not sugar-coat the Gospel. He did not dull its sharp edges. He spoke of the souls suffering eternal torment in Hell, due to unrepentant actual mortal sin. He sharply rebuked the religious leaders of His day, who were leading the people astray: the conservative Pharisees as well as the liberal Sadducees. He did not deform the Gospel message to make it conform to the most popular sins of the day. We must imitate Him in this regard.

Modern Bible translations increasingly show the tendency to dull the sharp corners of the Gospel. Wherever the message of Sacred Scripture is difficult to accept, or represents a sharp rebuke to modern society, their translation suddenly becomes vague. They prefer whatever translation will be least harsh, regardless of the true meaning of the text.

For example, some modern Bible translations, throughout the entire Old and New Testaments, entirely lack the world “Hell”. In another example, New Testament texts that clearly condemn homosexuality are translated with a vague term, such as licentiousness. More generally, any text which is difficult to accept, or which conflicts with the accepted norms of modern society is undermined by unfaithful remarks in the footnotes and annotations.

The same tendency is found in the writings of present-day Catholic authors, in print and online. Not only the Bible, but also the teachings of the Magisterium are reinterpreted to agree with popular opinion, or to justify sin, or to undermine the more difficult teachings.

And when some Catholic teacher goes astray from the true faith, teaching heresy or approving of grave sin, other Catholics are unwilling to offer a sharp rebuke. They have a “play nice” attitude that refuses to condemn grave errors on faith, morals, and salvation, even though souls are being harmed daily. They are not imitating Jesus in this regard.

{11:20} Then he began to rebuke the cities in which many of his miracles were accomplished, for they still had not repented.
{11:21} “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in haircloth and ashes.
{11:22} Yet truly, I say to you, Tyre and Sidon shall be forgiven more than you, on the day of judgment.
{11:23} And you, Capernaum, would you be exalted all the way to heaven? You shall descend all the way to Hell. For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Sodom, perhaps it would have remained, even to this day.
{11:24} Yet truly, I say to you, that the land of Sodom shall be forgiven more than you, on the day of judgment.”

{15:7} Hypocrites! How well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
{15:8} ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
{15:9} For in vain do they worship me, teaching the doctrines and commandments of men.’ ”

{23:13} So then: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you close the kingdom of heaven before men. For you yourselves do not enter, and those who are entering, you would not permit to enter.
{23:14} Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you consume the houses of widows, praying long prayers. Because of this, you shall receive the greater judgment.
{23:15} Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you travel around by sea and by land, in order to make one convert. And when he has been converted, you make him twice the son of Hell that you are yourselves.

{12:54} And he also said to the crowds: “When you see a cloud rising from the setting of the sun, immediately you say, ‘A rain cloud is coming.’ And so it does.
{12:55} And when a south wind is blowing, you say, ‘It will be hot.’ And so it is.
{12:56} You hypocrites! You discern the face of the heavens, and of the earth, yet how is it that you do not discern this time?
{12:57} And why do you not, even among yourselves, judge what is just?
{12:58} So, when you are going with your adversary to the ruler, while you are on the way, make an effort to be freed from him, lest perhaps he may lead you to the judge, and the judge may deliver you to the officer, and the officer may cast you into prison.
{12:59} I tell you, you will not depart from there, until you have paid the very last coin.”

{13:24} “Strive to enter through the narrow gate. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and not be able.
{13:25} Then, when the father of the family will have entered and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us.’ And in response, he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’
{13:26} Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’
{13:27} And he will say to you: ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!’
{13:28} In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, yet you yourselves are expelled outside.

{19:12} Therefore, he said: “A certain man of nobility traveled to a far away region, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.

{19:27} ‘Yet truly, as for those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here, and put them to death before me.’ ”

And there are many other such passages in the Gospels, the Epistles, and throughout Sacred Scripture. But so often today, when the Gospel is presented, absent is the carrying of the cross, absent is the threat of punishment in Purgatory or in Hell.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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