Friday, June 26, 2009

Why do Catholics have so many rules?

Isn’t the Catholic Church full of rules? Do this… don’t do that… seems to be all we talk about. Some people assume that the Catholic Church has so many rules because the pope, or whomever, wants to control the masses by imposing his will on them. Or maybe the rules are there because we believe we can work our way to heaven?

I’m happy to say that none of the above is true. I can see how a person could misunderstand; so let’s talk about why we have these rules.

The core reason for the Church’s teachings that impact our daily lives, teachings against contraception come to mind along with many others, are not created to hold lay Catholics down, but to raise us up. Following the Church’s teachings will not earn us heaven, the Catholic Church never taught or teaches that, but they put us in a position to better accept Christ’s saving grace. Let’s use an analogy.

Swimming lessons in themselves do not save anyone’s life. At the time of the lessons, my life was not in danger. However, if I have a water-related accident what I learned from those lessons could very well save my life. The teachings of the Church act the same way. Attending Mass every Sunday will not earn me heaven (save my eternal life). However, if I pay attention, listen to the Bible readings, apply the sermon to my life, and am open to the graces of the Eucharist, I may well have my life saved because of the experiences of going to Mass.

Practicing NFP instead of artificial contraception won’t “earn” me heaven. However, by forcing myself to be open to God’s plan in the most intimate part of my life I am naturally more open to God’s plan in other parts of my life. By surrendering artificial control to God, I allow God to train me to surrender in other areas.

This logic can be applied to every Church teaching I can think of. The purpose of the teaching isn’t to “earn” heaven. The purpose is to become through discipline and practice the sort of person who chooses God over the world.

St. Paul says in 1 Cor 9:25-27 “Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified”

St. Paul lived a life of discipline, which requires following rules. Why? Not because he has already earned haven, but because he wants to train his body and soul to become accustomed to the ways of God, not the world. Catholic “rules” are in place for the exact same reason.

1 comment:

dave ruiz said...

well put ,the things we do do not earn us "heaven" as you say. You say they help to put us in a better position. I disagree. Paul says "my righteousness is as filthy rags". Paul put himself in the best position to receive spiritual light, with his Jewish lifestyle,legalism, traditions and studying, and sincerity and passion.. Did it put him in a better position ? NO. NO. NO. He called it all dung for it inhibited the gospel truth in it's simplicity, when it was right under his nose. Just like when an evangelical approaches someone with salvation by knowing Jesus personally( going door to door etc.) and the catholic will say confoundedly "NO" ,that he is "catholic". Here is the simple gospel under his nose and he says no. Why ? Cause he is full of doing religious things, that put him in a "better position to receive from God" ???? Legalism and religiosity are old wine skins and can NOT accept new wine. If you want to become a person that "chooses God and not the word", first know that in yourself you are worldly and want nothing to do with God. "No man seeks after God, we have all gone astray". You must first be born again. Then you will seek His ways.....Do not put words in Paul's mouth about him, doing things "not because he has already earned heaven". Indeed first thing first, and that is where you muddle things up.... Say what you must do to earn heaven, not put me in a better position.... Paul states that "ALL THINGS BECOME NEW" AFTER SALVATION. You bet that means doing things differently than before . Be careful that your rule following does not give you false security as to your salvation...... Yes, to the unbeliever the christian walk is "restrictive" and narrow, not so much fun. It is a narrow gate purposely. He must be told his ways are broad and fun for a season, but the end is DEATH. He must First go thru the narrow gate, because it is right and it is God's will. He can NOT understand the true freedom and joy on the other side,.until he goes thru. Then he will see His yoke is easy. alleluia.