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Because I Said So!

One of the comments we often hear in certain circles is the need to follow Church teaching. "You need to follow Church teaching; you need to obey the Magisterium." There is really a need to change the terminology. Obviously, as a Catholic priest, I do not disagree with the need to follow Church teaching, but we need to teach and understand the why of that need. In other words: "Why do I need to follow Church teaching?" It is important to reflect upon and answer that question, or the call to live Church teaching sounds more like the Church saying: "Because I said so!" and for no other reason.

A good example of why I this question has to be answered can be found in a situation that happened to me many years ago. The people of a Catholic parish were awaiting a new pastor. In preparation for the meeting with the Archdiocese, they compiled a list of the qualities they were looking for in their new man. They asked me to review it. I realized the list contained elements of the qualities of a good mayor. "Keeps the streets clean, the street lights on, the youth occupied." They really did not understand the qualities of a spiritual leader versus a political one. That would make sense for they saw the Church as another level of government, even though the Church is not connected to the government AND we have separation of church and state in our country. In their mind, however, there was the federal government, the state, county, city and finally the Church through the parish. They really did not understand the mission of the Church. So, how could they understand Church teaching or the need to follow it? So, as they would do with laws they did not like, they complained about Church teachings and rules.

We need to understand what listening to the Church is all about. We do not need to follow Church teaching, unless we are in search of Christ, unless we seek the fullness of our humanity in eternal life. If we truly seek Christ, we will seek to live Church teaching.

Church teaching is there to lead us to Christ. It is there to lead us to becoming the saints Christ called us to be at Baptism. We follow Church teaching not because we have to, like we have to stop at a red light or pay our taxes. We follow Church teaching because we recognize Christ as the source of all wisdom. We follow Church teaching because it leads us to become the light of the world and the salt of the Earth Christ called us to be. We do it because it shows us how to manifest the gifts of the Holy Spirit received at Confirmation. We do it because it is a true source of wisdom which we experience in humble submission to it. We do not do it because it is the law enacted by a city council or congress.

If you want to know Christ, seek out the wisdom behind Church teaching and live it. If you reject Christ, you might want to seek out the qualities of a good mayor.

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