Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Obedience: the road to freedom and unity

As the recent discussion on the different approaches to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist (transubstantiation vs. consubstantiation) gets more complex and difficult to follow, I would like us to take a step back with a comment from an anonymous blogger about obedience:

“…obedience is necessary for all of us (and really hard for most of us). I think it’s only when we exercise it will we learn to submit and be truly free.”

I post the above comment in relation to the discussion on the Eucharist in order to make the general point of obedience to Christ as head of the Church. Obedience to Christ as head of the Church means that we are faithful to Christ through the teachings of his Church. The foundation for this obedience is the belief that Christ’s teachings didn’t end in 33 A.D.; rather, they have continued for 2000 years through the Church he founded on the Apostles, the Catholic Church. In short, to be obedient to Christ is to be obedient to the Church (which continues to present His teachings).

There is much evidence from Sacred Scripture which shows that Jesus intended the Church to not only continue his teachings, but to teach with His authority. In Matthew 28:18-19, he makes it clear: “all power in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”.

Other passages in which our Lord gives teaching authority to the Church include Mt 16:19, Mt 18:18, Lk 10:16. His prayer to the Father in John 17 indicates that the Church not only shares in Christ’s immense authority, but also in His glory: “And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one” (v. 22).

One of the main reasons Christ established the Church and gave the Church his authority to teach (as well as govern and sanctify) was so that we “may be one, as (the Father and Son) are one”. For 1500 years, the Church was one. Then, reformers “protested” against the Church and her authority. They rejected the validity of almost all of the sacraments, changed Scripture (from “this is my body” to “this symbolizes my body”, e.g.) to meet their new theology, and started their own “Church” (there are now almost 30,000 different Protest-ant denominations). The Reformation was a protest against obedience, grounded in pride which is the antagonist to obedience.

Regarding the specific teaching on the Eucharist, we see how chaotic and complex things get when one is not obedient to the tradition of the Church. It is pretty clear to any person of faith and reason that Jesus teaches in John 6 that the Eucharist is His Body and Blood and then institutes the Eucharist at the Last Supper (“this is my body”). St. Paul confirms this in his letter to the Corinthians (circa 54 A.D.) and the Church taught that “the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ” as early as 110 A.D (St Ignatius of Antioch). We can know that this is the Truth about the Eucharist because it is from the Church who has been led for 2000 years by the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of Truth (who) will guide you to all truth” (Jn 16:13).

Obedience to the Church is obedience to the Spirit of Truth. “I think it’s only when we exercise (obedience) will we learn to submit and be truly free.” And, through obedience to the Body of Christ, we will be one as the Father and Son are one.


At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” -John 14:15

Jesus didn’t say if you understand, you will keep my commandments. There is much I am not meant to understand, which is hard, for I have a pretty energetic inner child who often asks, “But why?”

I must remind myself that the church is the mystical body of Christ. When I look to my own counsel on any particular matter rather than being obedient to the church’s teachings, I’m actually moving away from God, not just a “church.” I don’t have to agree with everything the church teaches (and I don’t), but I must obey.

I have family and friends who give reasons why they do not follow the church’s teaching on a variety of issues. A while back, my eldest son talked w/me about the hypocrisy he sees in the church’s teaching on chastity (as a result of how the issue of molestation within the church was handled). He doesn’t understand how the church can expect its members to follow its teachings on matters of chastity when many of its leaders did anything but. In Matthew 23:3 it says "practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do." I explained that every human being has human failings, and we are called to follow our leaders’ teachings even when we can’t follow their examples. I think there are many who excuse themselves from certain teachings because they find a seemingly reasonable justifications, but obedience isn’t a matter of intellect; it’s an act of will and an act of love.

Funny thing- when I asked my son if he thought his sisters should follow the church's teachings on chastity and abstinence his asnwer was a resounding, "Absolutely!"

At 11:45 AM, Blogger fran said...

I came across this, just last night, in a book I am reading:

"Christ did not become man so that man could become a theologian."
"Christ simply wants you to do your best to understand the Church's teachings and assent to them freely. For example, not even the holiest Pope or the wisest Father of the Church fully comprehended the doctrine of the Trinity, yet each of them upheld that doctrine and freely assented to it. The same is true of the Church's teaching about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. No human being has the natural capacity to grasp the vastness of this truth, but we believe it nonetheless because Christ and the Apostles taught it. To reject that teaching of the Magisterium is to reject Christ."

At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m going back to the trans vs. con thing for a moment (which is a weird topic to sit with ME for very long). But I've been wondering about it; I really do not understand the importance of the distinction here.

Tom said-
”the difference between transubstantiation and consubstantiation implies a difference in what actually happens on the altar, which implies differences in what the priesthood is”

Why? How? (I've never been to a Lutheran service- do Lutherans believe than a minister rather than a priest changes the host?)

As the minister said-
“The real substance which we do not see is what the priest has been empowered to change.”

If a change occurs, whether it is Jesus’ presence with the host or the host is transformed, isn’t there still a sacramental presence? It seems so similar- the “accidents” remain the same but the substance is still changed. Why is this a big point of distinction? How does the Lutheran belief really change what happens on the altar? I know what I believe happens, but I don’t see that as so different to what a Lutheran believes.


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