Today I attended Mass at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church on Main Street in Amherst, New York. The church was packed and the service was lovely. For much of this week I have had the recurring thought of the mission of Jesus or maybe the omission of Jesus.
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,Luke 4:18-19
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Jesus provides the mission statement for his ministry and throughout the rest of the gospels regardless of the author there is one instance after another where Jesus does exactly what is spelled out in Luke. In Matthew 4:19 he says, “Come, follow me.” In Matthew 25:35-36 he says, “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’
Jesus provides loads of examples of what kinds of behavior he expects of his followers. Nonetheless his whole impact of Western Christianity is reduced to the crucifixion and resurrection. He was crucified because he welcomed the stranger, he reached out to those on the margins. If you ask most Christians about Jesus they will say, “He died for our sins.” They mention nothing of the kind of life he lived nor what he expected of his followers.
This stems from the doctrine of original sin which was never mentioned by Jesus. St. Augustine was the first to use the term original sin. St. Augustine was also the author of the “just war” theory. Jesus said, “I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
I guess it is just easier to say he died for your sins and then you don’t have to be one of his followers which is much more difficult.