Tuesday, March 17, 2015

the rules and the reasons why

Have you ever felt that we, as a Church, are quite good at laying out the "rules," yet sometimes quite bad at expressing why those rules are important to follow? 


I teach Confirmation preparation classes to high school students, and it is clear that many teens (and plenty of adults, too!) look at the Church and see an endless list of rules and regulations - whether it's the "administrative" things they are required to do in order to get confirmed, or the actual teachings of the Church.

These rules and regs and requirements are important - but unless their underlying reasons are understood, they lack meaning. When a rule lacks meaning, it is much easier to let it fall by the wayside. It is one thing to tell a teenager that premarital sex is a mortal sin; it is quite another to actually explain to them why sex is a gift to be shared within the bonds of marriage, and why treating that gift like a plaything outside of marriage is effectively playing with fire.

It seems to me that often, we do a great job laying out the rules, and a poor job of expressing their meaning... In other words, we're often really good at telling people what they have to do, and we're really bad at helping them understand why they should do those things.

Odds are, you've been on the "telling" or "being told" end of this at some point - am I right?

Halfway through Lent, it is worth it to point out that the same could be said for the manner in which we often approach Lent - giving something up in order to say we have done it, instead of considering carefully what we need to do in our lives to grow closer to God. We are good at observing the letter of the law - not unlike the Pharisees - but sometimes (often?) we fail to meet, or even recognize, its spirit, whether out of our own ignorance, fear, or indifference.

We all know what we have to do - we know the rules and regs  - we've been through the what, the when, the where, the who, and the how.

Don't lose sight of the *why*. The rules and regs aren't a checklist (and in the case of Confirmation, they are not "graduation requirements"). They are important, because they provide us with a framework for our lives - a way along which we come to know and love our God, and find that his ways are true, just as the Church has said.

High school Confirmation preparation programs are intended to help young Catholics develop a relationship with Christ that will continue to grow long after they are confirmed. The teachings of the Church are intended to accomplish precisely the same thing - to help us develop our relationship with Christ throughout our lives - though we often forget this because we lose sight of the why.

We need to know God because we live in a dark world that does not.

We need to know God so that we can offer the light of Christ to this dark world - and because we need a safe harbor when the world's storms come our way.

Ultimately, we need to know God so that, when we finally see his face in eternity, we can say, "Lord, I love you, and I have done your will."




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