I recently had this told to me, and I'm sure most of you may have heard
it as well. It went like this, "People don't need some church telling them
what's right or what's wrong. I can think for myself, I can tell what's
right or what's wrong." The question is, can we?
Throughout history, everyone has used some standard of measurement. Whether it was spiritual,
mathematical, or architectural, whatever. We use rulers and measuring tapes
to determine lengths of things. We use set standards of measurement, whether
inches or centimeters. No one would hire a carpenter who said he didn't need
to measure the wood he was working with to build. We have codes of conduct,
whether the 10 Commandments, the Code of Hammurabi, etc. We have laws that
guide our lives. No one can say that they don't need laws, that they could
determine what's right or wrong on their own. If we accepted that, there'd be
anarchy. After all, who hasn't felt that the 25 mph road should be 35? Or
the 75 should be 55? If it were left up to us, the death rate for auto
accidents would sky rocket. If it were up to us, consider, not only who we
may put in prison, but especially, who'd we let out? Instead of freedom,
living in our homes, we'd stay locked in our own personal fortress.
History is full of things where people thought they knew what was right
or what was wrong. To the ancient Romans, it was right to persecute and
execute Christians. Why? Because Christians posed a threat to the Empire.
(Or so they thought) So to defend themselves it was perfectly ok to execute
them, even as a form of entertainment. In the US, we saw how many saw blacks
as not quite human, but a 'species' somewhere between men and apes. IN fact,
even some of the most 'kind' of southern slave holders felt they were doing
them a good by 'civilizing' them while they worked their plantations. And of
course, many Americans, especially western settlers, saw the American Indians
as just uncivilized savages. ("The only good Indian is a dead Indian" [Gen.
Philip Sheridan]). And of course, thousands of Germans felt they were merely
protecting their civilization by sending Jews (and other 'undesirables') to
'work camps' to be rehabilitated. (And some Germans thought they were doing
a good by just exterminating them).
So, we can see from history how well we have 'determined' what is right
and wrong on our own.
More often than not, this 'saying' is repeated by those wishing to
justify something, establishing their 'authority' over the Church. Ask an
avowed homosexual if he (she) is sinning by engaging in homosexual sex and of
course the answer would be that they aren't. But if you ask them if a
pedophile is sinning by engaging in sex with a child, the answer would be
yes. But can't the pedophile determine what is right or wrong as well?
Isn't he imposing 'his' morality on the pedophile?
"Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the
LORD God had made. He said to the woman, 'Did God say, 'You shall not eat of
any tree of the garden'?' And the woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat of
the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, 'You shall not eat of the
fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you
touch it, lest you die.' ' But the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not
die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you
will be like God, knowing good and evil.' So when the woman saw that the
tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the
tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and
she also gave some to her husband, and he ate" (Genesis 3:1-6).
Now Eve knew God's command, His 'standard' of morality. But the serpent
told her what she wanted to hear. "But the serpent said to the woman, 'You
will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be
opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'" Eve knew God's
command but she desired what the serpent offered. "So when the woman saw
that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and
that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and
ate;" She ultimately convinced herself that this was not wrong, but good, even
though God had commanded otherwise. But not content to merely go against
God's command alone, she get's Adam to do so as well.
We hear much the same thing today. From phrases as "Searching for the
god/dess within.", and other similar sayings. But is this what being a
Christian is about? Is this what being a Catholic is about? Let's look to
Christ for an example.
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who,
though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to
be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, * being born
in the likeness of men. And being found in human form He humbled Himself and
became obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2: 5-8).
God, the Creator of the universe, took the form of man. And not just
any man, but a helpless baby, born in poverty. But it doesn't end there.
"Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the
Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up according to
custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus
stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing Him to
be in the company they went a day's journey, and they sought Him among their
kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find Him, they returned to
Jerusalem, seeking Him. After three days they found Him in the temple,
sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and
all who heard Him were amazed at his understanding and His answers. And when
they saw Him they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, 'Son, why have
you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you
anxiously.' And He said to them, 'How is it that you sought Me? Did you not
know that I must be in My Father's house?' And they did not understand the
saying which He spoke to them. And He went down with them and came to
Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and His mother kept all these things in
her heart" (Luke 2:41-51).
He came with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them. God, the
Creator of the universe was obedient to His human parents. Now He would have
had every right to say, "No Mary, Joseph, you don't understand. Go home
while I stay here and do My Fathers work." But even the Son of God had to
obey the commands of God. "Honor your father and your mother, that your days
may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you" (Exodus 20:12).
"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by
him. John would have prevented Him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by you,
and do you come to me?' But Jesus answered him, 'Let it be so now; for thus
it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he consented. And
when Jesus was baptized," (Matthew 3:13-16).
Jesus, the Son of God, baptised? " it is fitting for us to fulfill all
righteousness." Again, we see Christ humbling Himself and doing what God
commanded, not what He wanted to do.
"So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews
seized Jesus and bound Him. First they led Him to Annas; for He was the
father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year" (John 18: 12-13).
Is there any doubt that Christ could have avoided this? That with a mere
thought, He could have walked away untouched? Do you recall when some who heard
Him wanted to stone Him? Yet He just walked through them!
"He (Pilate) entered the praetorium again and said to Jesus, 'Where are
you from?' But Jesus gave no answer. Pilate therefore said to Him, 'You will
not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power
to crucify you?' Jesus answered him, 'You would have no power over Me unless
it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has
the greater sin'" (John 19:9-11).
Again, Christ submitted to God's command, letting Himself be put under
the power of mere men. Why? Because it was God's will.
So, even Christ humbled Himself, and did what God commanded. And what
of His followers? His faithful?
"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold,
you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name
Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and
the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will
reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there will be no
end.' And Mary said to the angel, 'How shall this be, since I have no
husband?' And the angel said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be
born will be called holy, the Son of God.'" (Luke 1:30-35).
Even by today's standards, this is pure absurdity. But in her time, it
was more, it was death to be an unwed mother. But as a true faithful
daughter of the Father, Mary humbled herself and said yes.
"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your
word" (Luke 1: 38). Wouldn't a 'modern' answer have been "I can think for
myself and I won't. You ask too much of me."
"And at the end of eight days, when He was circumcised, He was called
Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.
And when the time came for their purification according to the law of
Moses, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is
written in the law of the Lord, 'Every male that opens the womb shall be
called holy to the Lord' and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said
in the law of the Lord," (Luke 2: 21-24).
Mary and Joseph, knowing who He was, still did everything according to
the law of the Lord. How easy it would have been to rationalize that they
didn't need to "present Him to the Lord" since He WAS the Lord!!!
And again, going back to John the Baptist, he did as God commanded Him,
even though, logically, he concluded that, "I need to be baptized by you,"
(cf. Matthew 3:14)
" And when He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the
people came up to Him as He was teaching, and said, 'By what authority are
you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?' (Matthew 21:23).
Isn't this the same question we hear of the Church today?
"Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the
kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness,
and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed
him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him"
The tax collectors, prostitutes and other sinners heard and believed John,
and Christ, and turned from their sins. The tax collectors asked only what
they were required to ask for, prostitutes and other sinners repented and
turned from their sins.
Christ never asked the woman caught in adultery if she 'thought' she had
sinned. He told her to go and sin no more. Sinners who asked for
forgiveness were forgiven. Though I'm sure many others asked who gave Him
the authority to call it a sin, or even forgive it. (If it isn't a sin, how
can it be forgiven?)
If we rely on ourselves to determine what is right and wrong, with no
standard, no guidance, then we will only be advocating anarchy and chaos.
After all, how can we then say one person is wrong if they are their own
arbitrator of what is right or wrong?
We make ourselves God by setting ourselves above His Church, the pillar
and bulwark of truth (ref. 1 Timothy 3:15).
By whose authority does the Church teach right from wrong?
"And Jesus came and said to them, (the 11 Apostles) 'All authority in
Heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of
all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and
lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age'" (Matthew 28: 18-20).
"He who hears you hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who
rejects Me rejects Him Who sent Me" (Luke 10:16).
So, a Christian, a Catholic, submits humbly to the Church as they would
to God since it teaches with His authority. They don't first consider what
they want to do, but rather what God wants them to do.
"Then Jesus told His disciples, 'If any man would come after Me, let him
deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his
life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For
what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?
Or what shall a man give in return for his life?'" (Matthew 16: 24-26).
But when we hear someone say, "People don't need some church telling them
what's right or what's wrong. I can think for myself, I can tell what's
right or what's wrong." Aren't they saying that he need not deny himself?
That Christ (and the Church) should come after him? Submit to his will?
Pax Christi, Pat