Thursday, April 26, 2012

Obedience, faithfulness

Father Denis at Life WIth A German Shepherd wrote a nice reflection on the Pope's Chrism Mass homily.  I just want to quote one small bit:

The idea often is out there that obedience to the Church means turning your brain off, becoming passive, relapsing into a kind of ‘pay, pray, and obey’ mode where all the power and initiative of the Church lies with the clergy, while the laity are supine and essentially inert.

This is simply not the case. ... There is nothing passive about it.

He goes on to give some examples of how the difficulties of being faithful to the Church are commensurate with the fruits that result from persevering, but I want to focus briefly on this misconception of obedience.  

I can muster some sympathy for people on the outside.  They look at dogmas, hear something about the necessity of assent of the intellect and will to something, then look at all the contingent notions in their own lives, and somewhat understandably completely miss the fact that, guided by the Holy Spirit or not, the Church has spent the last two thousand years studying the human condition, and so might just have a pretty good idea of what factors that distinguish modern life from that in medieval Europe or ancient Palestine just really aren't game-changers, after all.  

At the very least, it would behoove more of us to look at the prudential teachings found in Tradition, and thereby save ourselves the trouble of repeating all of the mistakes in human history firsthand.  But maybe that's more about the intellect than the libido, so I'm getting ahead of myself.

Some people joke, sometimes nervously, about how they'd hate to be married because then they'd be spending their whole lives with just one person, instead of living it up with whomever and then moving on when they'd had enough.  People in healthy marriages understand, and single people who have a well formed understanding of what marriage and chastity are, recognize, that such concerns completely miss the point, and are often flatly wrong.  They understand that by submitting their will and libido to a monogamous covenant, they make themselves fertile soil for graces that will bear fruit in this life and in the life to come.  So it is with obedience to the Church:  in submitting--not abandoning--their wills and intellects to the expertise and guidance of the Church, they make room for renewal and growth, in ways expected and unexpected.