Our Holy Father, in his Bull about Mercy, observes at one point Iesus legem praetergreditur [Jesus goes beyond the Torah, the Law]. I think a rereading of Jesus of Nazareth, written by his learned and distinguished predecessor Pope Benedict, would enable Pope Francis ... and you ... and me ... to sharpen our thinking and nuance its expression. I repeat here something which I first posted last December (with the original thread). It is the view of this Mutual Enrichment Blog that the Scholar pope, and the Pastor pope, together, have much to say to each other.
As Joseph Ratzinger engages with the eminent Jewish Rabbinical scholar Jacob Neusner to discuss the Sermon on the Mount, we enter a world in which we can breathe fresh air, set free from the fug of 'liberal' expositions. No longer are we told that Jesus is simply a teacher of an elevated morality, but a morality which nevertheless can be interestingly paralleled from the sayings of many other great moralists Eastern and Western. No; what we encounter is One who sits on Mount Sinai throned in the Teacher's cathedra as ... No; not as an appealingly 'liberal' rabbi - forerunner of all Christian liberalism - not even as a New Moses - but as the Torah Itself, God's Eternal Word to His People, God-Enfleshed-Speaking. As Benedict XVI puts it, "The issue that is really at the heart of the debate is thus finally laid bare. Jesus understands himself as the Torah - as the word of God in person." The Torah, that is, no longer as it was to be heard when it was the discriminating marker of one privileged race, but that 'fulfiment' of Torah which is equally and without discrimination for every man and woman.
I will not spoil the adventure which Neusner and Ratzinger lay out before you by giving my poor summary of their dialogue; I will simply point out that this analysis links up with the Pauline teaching that Christ is the Wisdom ... that is, the Torah ... of the Father; and with the credal chant of the Johannine prologue which we read at the end of each Mass: God's Own Utterance (Logos, Verbum) which is God, became Flesh. (So, happily, we can dump that grim orthodoxy of the old debunked 'New Testament Scholarship': the idea that the 'different strands' of the New Testament are quite unrelated to each other.)
And the Jesus who is the Torah, also is the Temple, as I have explained before. That is why he can forgive sins. True, expiation for sin could be sought, only of God, and only in His Temple ... but Jesus is that person, that place.
So how does this relate specifically to our present situation in the Catholic Church? I will attempt to explain.
The style of much modern dialogue is to set things against each other as polar opposites. Law vs Freeedom; Judgement vs Mercy; Cultus vs Prophecy; Demands-of-the-kingdom vs Compassion-and-Love. Any such cheap game needs to be exposed to the fact that Jesus is both. Writers often give me the impression that the Demands of the Kingdom, God's commandments, are something which we can't, unfortunately, get round, get out of, much as we might wish to do so. So we grit our teeth and loyally get down to compliance with as much dutiful obedience as we can muster. But ... if only we could square it with our consciences ... we would so very much rather be singing, to our congregations and to the World, great paeans of sentiment about God's Compassion, Mercy, and Love. So we do our best to circumscribe and render practically ineffective the Truth of the Gospel and the Kingdom, out of our fear that, by laying too much emphasis there, we shall be robbing people of the Compassion and Love which we would so much rather be seen to be dispensing to a waiting World. I hope I am not being unfair or too cruel when I share my fearful suspicion that the anonymous ghost-writer of that CBCEW document is, with the best will in the world, at just about that stage of thought.
But Jesus is there in both places. The Truth that you cannot divorce a spouse and then acquire a replacement, without committing Adultery, is the Merciful Love of Christ. He is like the loving and compassionate Land-owner who puts a safe fence along the edge of a dangerous cliff in countryside where people are strongly tempted to behave carelessly, and then sets up as Law the truth (which in fact is inscribed into the very situation itself) that we cannot leap over that fence without falling to destruction. Any contradicting definition of Mercy, of Compassionate Love, is a fabrication of the Anti-Christ, who decks himself with devastating plausibility in the most apparently authentic religious language so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
You can't set Love or Mercy against Law because Christ has you in the most unavoidable of all pincer-movements: He is both.