To Be Honest 3: You Were Made For Greatness
Sunday 27th Week in Ordinary Time: To Be Honest Wk 3: You Were Made For Greatness
Today Jesus is speaking to us about faith and what we are commanded, or required, to do. So let’s jump into that. Let’s talk about faith and rules.
What’s more important, knowing and following the teachings, and traditions, the rules of the Church, or having a relationship with God? The fact is, one does not happen properly without the other. Can you imagine having any relationship without rules? That just doesn’t work.
We know Jesus tells us ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ All of Moses’ Teachings and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.” Obviously, the teaching and rules, if you will, are based on proper relationships with God and neighbor.
We can’t just say that we follow all the teachings of the Church, but don’t relate to other people well or don’t have a deeply personal relationship with God because thinking that, or saying that, is not following the teachings of the Church or of Jesus Christ himself.
To conform to something without entering into a deeper relationship with the one who gives that rule or law — and here we’re talking about the law of God — we simply try to follow the externals of the law and do not understand that the law is intended to lead us to God, into a relationship with God and with other people.
The one thing that distinguishes the dead from the living is growth. To be honest, you were made for more than just being a rule follower. You are made for greatness. If you keep the rules of our faith, that’s great. You should. Rules are important, but at the same time we don’t want to just go with the flow of keeping the rules, we want to GROW with the flow of our rules. Growth is essential.
Do you remember your mother or father telling you to do something that you didn’t want to do and when you asked why, their response was ‘because I said so…” and in later years as you grew up, you began to understand the reasons for your parents’ rules and began to appreciate the guidance. It’s a matter of maturity. We didn’t learn to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ by understanding the joys and graces that come with manners. No. We did it initially because we were told to and eventually grew into maturity to understand the impact of good manners. So too in our spiritual lives, we need to grow in spiritual maturity to understand the value of the teachings and rules instead of just judging them by the inconvenience they cause in our lives or the inconvenience we think they may cause in the lives of others.
The rules and regulations of the Catholic Church no more stifle an individual’s personal relationship with Christ than the rules and regulations of a driver’s manual stifles a driver’s capacity to drive his or her vehicle. Just like knowing the owner’s manual frees the driver to enjoy his vehicle and keep it in tip top condition, so knowing the rules of the Church help us spiritually to be in the best “condition” so to speak, so we can more fully participate in our personal relationship with Christ. The rules of the road don’t hinder us and restrict our fun, though they can appear to. In fact, they are essential in helping us reach our destination in the easiest and safest manner. They prevent breakdowns. So too in the spiritual life, rules are there to help us; help us reach our destination which is Heaven and to help us avoid those spiritual break downs.
The bottom line is this; know, learn, and live the teachings of the Church not merely for the sake of living rules, but for the sake of strengthening your life in Jesus Christ. Then, as surely as the law of gravity had to be mastered before we could learn to fly, the rules of your faith will not be restrictive but will be the principles upon which you will be able to spiritually soar.
You have probably heard it said that the teachings of the church are out of step with the culture. Maybe you have heard it said that the Church needs to modernize or be more moderate. When it comes to being out of step with the culture, to that I say, of course we are. Our call to live counter-culturally is as old as the Church itself. We believe in a God who lived among us, died for us, and showed us the way to live lives of courage and conviction–whatever our culture. Catholics are called, yes, to engage with the society around us, but not to adapt ourselves to the popular sentiments of our time. Instead, Catholic Christians are called to live in radical service to God. This includes loving our neighbor as ourselves. This also includes letting go of pleasure as the path to happiness because pleasure never has been the path to happiness and never will be. There’s nothing modern –or moderate –about that.
Many Catholics struggle today with this idea of going against the culture. They are constantly inundated with so much ‘pleasure’, they fear ridicule if they question any of it, or hesitate to participate. I understand this sense of loyalty to friends and family. However, your loyalty to them should be about helping them to eternal life, not helping them live their life the way they want to live their life. We live in a society that promotes indulgence, and everyone feels entitled to their way. “If you love me, you will let me live my life my way!” Heard that before? Sometimes, they just don’t know any better.
You see, when you know better, you do better. Jesus gave us the Church to teach and to guide us; she does so, in part, by telling us what we must do in order to keep growing spiritually. And as we grow spiritually, those teachings begin to make a lot more sense, and we want to follow them even without being told to do so.
When you know better you do better. When we know and understand that love is behind every teaching and the desire to bring all souls to heaven – it’s that simple, really. That’s the Church’s only goal, to evangelize, and thus guide all people to heaven. I want that, don’t you?
I don’t know about you, but I trust that the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church. Are there teachings of the Church you struggle with, If so, consider this. Can you say to yourself, I believe God to be the God of the universe, which means he is bigger than all the teachings I may disagree with. Can you then say, I humble myself to know that all God wants is for me to have relationship with him so that I will be with him at the end of time?
Remember too there are rules for every relationship. Can you imagine a relationship without rules? There is no such thing.
I pray that the teachings and rules of the Church may be hooks on which you can hang your faith and an opportunity for you to humbly ask questions, and explore, and draw closer to God as you experience his unmerited favor toward you in a new and profound way.
Seek to understand how the rules of our faith help you grow in your relationship with God. Look them up, read about them in the catechism. Pray to the Lord, and ask him to increase your faith by helping you to understand how the church’s teachings and rules help you grow in your faith.