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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Because I Said So.

Because I said so.

It has long been a favorite phrase of many parents.

For one thing it is the quickest and easiest answer to pretty much any question of authority that a child brings to the table. It is also kind of a power thing - in the end it doesn't matter what reasoning I give to my child for not allowing a certain thing - I am the authority and I do say so - and so the final answer is NO!

While "because I said so" certainly works and as the parent you have the right to make decisions for your children without having to explain yourself - there is something to be said for actually answering your child when they ask "why" you are making them do or aren't letting them do a certain thing. Parenting experts say that it is better to teach your child right from wrong and help them to understand consequences so that they can know how to make good choices in life.

The Church was the "because I said so" parent for a long time - at least on the ground level.

Faithful: "Can I have sex before marriage?"
Priest: "NO!"
Faithful: "Why not?"
Priest: "Because Mother Church says so!"

Faithful: "Can I get a divorce from my husband - we just "fell" out of love?"
Priest: "NO!"
Faithful: "But why not - everyone else is doing it?"
Priest: "I don't care what your friends are doing - Mother Church says so!"

And the list goes on. For too many years we have given the answer "No" without explaining the incredible "Yes" that is the reason for every no.

Faithful: "Can I have sex before marriage?"
Priest: "No, you can't have sex before marriage - because you will be selling yourself short. Because there is an incredible YES that God has in store for you in the Sacrament of Marriage and if you wait, if you hold out for that you will experience a joy that is better than any lustful encounter you can have today."

Faithful: "Can I divorce my husband, we just fell out of love?
Priest: "No you can't get a divorce because no man can divide what God has joined. Besides when you got married God gave you an incredible YES - in that Sacrament - that YES meant that God's grace would be available to you throughout your marriage no matter what. That Sacrament also means that God is in your marriage - an integral part of it - God is the third person in your marriage - and if you involve him in things - even the difficult things - he will give you the Grace to love each other again."

These days the Church is responding with many more reasons why and why not. The Bishops are being more forthcoming in explaining Church teaching and Priests are taking time to explain Church teaching to the faithful. Yet, still we have this childlike tantrum every time we hear anything sounding like "no".

We whine and complain about why things aren't a certain way, why we can't change things to fit our needs, desires, wants. We don't understand why our "stupid, out of touch, over-reaching" parents are getting into our business and "ruining our lives". Even now that the Church through her Bishops and Priests (our parents in the faith) is making her teachings available so that all of the faithful (her children) can know why she teaches what she teaches - Catholics continue to disobey - all the while justifying their beliefs. Even many priests and religious justify this disobedience.

While our parents (the Bishops) are clarifying the "reasons" why, her children continue to proselytize with their own "reasons" why they can do as they wish. This has led to many Catholics being "disobedient" to their parents. This disobedience is in one regard sinful - in another it is the first step away from a faithful walk with God.

As Christians, Christ calls us to put away the old self and take on a new image. - of course it is His image He is speaking of. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit we have the Word of God which is the "heart of Christ" and through this Word of God we can come to know what God wills for us - what is "good and pleasing and perfect" (Romans 12:2). It is also through the teachings of the Church - guided by the Holy Spirit that we come to know this same "will of God." Through God's constant revelation - given through the Magesterium of the Church and through the inspired words of Scripture we can be transformed into this "new image" that scripture speaks of.

This happens by being obedient to God and those he has placed in authority. When St. Paul tells us "Do not conform yourself to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind." (Romans 12:1) He is not asking us to do this in a vacuum using our own reasoning and basing it on our own wishes. We do this by submitting ourselves to God's Holy will which is understood through the Church. No single person (bishop, priest, or lay person) is capable of understanding the whole depth and mystery of God's love - nor is one person capable of discerning "what is good and pleasing and perfect" on his or her own. It is through the combined discernment and prayer of countless Bishops, Saints, Church Fathers, Doctors of the Church, and faithful over 2000 years that we come to know the Truth - through the Holy Spirit.

As Jesus tells His disciples "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." (John 16:12-13)
We, the faithful, as children of God must come to understand why obedience to God and to His Church are so important. This obedience takes on a spiritual dimension in that it requires a surrendering of our own will. When we find ourselves at odds with Church teaching we are being given an opportunity to grow deeper in understanding. If we fight it, if we ignore it, if we disobey it we will find ourselves in conflict with that "new creation" that Christ wants to make us into. In turn, rather than God making us in His image we we begin to make God in our image.

However, if we surrender our will, our desire, our own thinking and allow ourselves to be transformed by the renewal of our minds - we will grow more into that new creation. I can't tell you how many times I have had to let go of my own thinking on a certain issue and allowed myself to accept Church teaching - this surrender of my will to God's will leads to a closer walk with Him. In turn I have found that through this surrender, my own understanding becomes greater and I begin to see why the Church teaches a certain way - indeed I become a new creation.

Obedience is a difficult thing. Surrender is a difficult thing - but Christ never said that following him was easy. Think of how many times Christ's disciples must have had to surrender their own understanding to accept what Christ had to say.

Surrender your will today, be obedient always, seek to know "what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect," (Rom. 12:2) so that you too can become a new creation.