By KRISTINE SCHROEDER
“Sacrifice and offering you wished not, but ears open to obedience you gave me” (Psalm 40: 7).
That line has been on my heart for the past month. Our Catholic faith is about obedience – a difficult word to swallow for us independent, willful Americans. Yet, that quote is the crux of our faith.
On two separate occasions recently, I was told that the main reason people are leaving the Catholic Church is because, “it is too harsh.” In both cases, the speaker pointed out that the Church’s stand on abortion, cohabitating and other controversial issues did not conform to our contemporary world views.
Are we aware that the Church’s teachings were not arrived at haphazardly? For 2,000 years, the councils of bishops and popes have discerned the questions of the ages. Their decisions “articulate arguments based on Scripture, philosophy and the theological tradition” according to Bishop Robert Barron’s article, “Inclusivity and Love.”
Obedience requires trust – or fear, depending on the enforcer. God is a benevolent leader. He allows us free will to choose our path, while continually loving us in spite of our missteps. Using Scripture and tradition, God has shown us the way. He first gave the 10 Commandments through Moses to guide His chosen people, the Israelites.
Jesus then came and spoke of the two most important commandments: Love God above all else and love our neighbor as ourselves. In high school, I was taught that pure love, agape love, is defined as wanting only what is best for another. No personal wishes or hidden agendas are allowed. Mankind can only achieve agape love in a heart directed toward God.
“God is Truth and Love” (CCC 231). If we accept that, then we must ask ourselves: Would God ever set boundaries to hurt us? The answer is simple; no!
As a child, my parents had rules I didn’t necessarily agree with or understand. However, for the most part, I obeyed them because I knew they loved me, which allowed me to trust that they had my best interests at heart. And my parents, like all of us, were fallible.
God is infallible. The Trinity is perfect. God loves us and desires to lead us to a life of fulfillment, joy and, ultimately, heaven. Jesus was the Word made flesh. He came to proclaim the Good News – God’s formula that will allow us to be in full communion with Him. Yes, Jesus welcomed all - the blind, the lame, the sinners; but as Bishop Barron says, “… this inclusivity of the Lord was unambiguously accompanied by the summons to conversion.” Jesus accepted every person, not every action.
I believe the real reason so many are leaving our faith is that we are spiritually starving. In his book “Welcome,” Matthew Kelly states, “The average Catholic has an elementary understanding of the faith.”
I concur. For years, my knowledge of the Bible was limited to the Sunday readings and random Church-sponsored studies. Similar to many Catholics, my faith was on life support.
St. Jerome says, “Ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” I agree. The operative question is how can we obey what we do not understand? How can we understand what we do not study? It would be comparable to taking an Algebra test without becoming familiar with the concepts needed.
For a few reasons, I avoid political discussions. I confess that I am not well-informed – nor do I take the time to be so. But I also feel thwarted because I do not know where to find a definite source of truth. Fortunately as Christians, we have the source of Truth in the Bible and the Catechism.
Let us feed our souls daily on God’s word, or we too will suffer the spiritual poverty evident in today’s society. In a conference in Paris, Cardinal Robert Sarah said, “We have to let ourselves be converted so that the Church can shine once more.” As Catholics, It is our solemn duty first to learn the truth of our faith and then to speak it. God is the Truth the world hungers for. May our hearts be led by His teachings always! Amen!