Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Precepts of the Church: Introduction

These precepts are an answer to the question of what does it mean to be a Catholic in good standing.  These precepts are the baseline, the beginning, the bare minimum of what the Church says are concrete measures of what being a Catholic entails.  I write these pastor’s pens with an understanding that all the precepts are is the jumping point of the Catholic life and relationship with God and His Church.  I will go into greater detail on each one over the course of several columns so that we may see why each is an integral part of the Catholic life, how each is necessary to the identity of a Catholic, and how each points to a call to holiness that we are given by virtue of our baptism.

    I know that in our culture over the past 5 or 6 decades we have adapted a ‘away with the rules’ approach.  Those who uphold rules are seen as Pharisaical or rigid ideologues impinging on freedom.  It has led to a moral anarchy in our society where what is moral or immoral is up to me.  Likewise, we have deluded ourselves into believing that being Catholic is whatever I say it is and that if the Church has criteria on what constitutes a member in good standing then the Church is out of line.  This, too has led to a moral anarchy where being holy devolved into being good which devolved into being nice which devolved into being inoffensive.  We dismiss divine revelation for human wisdom; saying divine revelation is just human rules.  Even the Bible itself is dismissed as a mythology anthology full of fables and tales.  All of this done as an act of rebellion in which I am my own master. 
    The Catholic Church, though, is no mere human institution.  If Jesus is who He says He is, then what He calls the Church becomes the guiding principle. To this Church He said “what you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, what you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mathew 16:19, 18:18)  The Church built its teachings on those of Jesus.  Jesus’ teaching flowed from the Old Testament, especially the 10 Commandments.  Hence, the Church has the right and duty to define what life in Christ looks like.  The precepts of the Church do this; they give us an understanding of what it means to be a disciple.  If you look at the precepts, they read like a list of those things that will keep you healthy enough to engage in the work of the Gospel.

    I guess a colloquial way of looking at it is that here is the meal and exercise plan if you are to possess the strength to get about the business of the kingdom.  At one time, there was a 7th precept: To engage in the evangelization mission of the Church. 

    I am afraid if I were to say that only those who fulfill the precepts of the Church can receive the sacraments, many would fall away.  However, that is exactly what the Church is saying.  There are standards.  These are the measuring line.  I invite you to look at this list and ask yourself both ‘have I been doing these, and how do I start back up if I have not.’  That latter part is of great importance!  Remember, we are a Church of mercy and forgiveness.  However the human heart has to be so disposed to mercy and forgiveness before it can be given.  In the next 3 or 4 weeks, I will be going one by one on these precepts as a preparation to the Year of Mercy that is starting on December 8th. 

    In each precept, I will also point out that each precept is a minimum and not a maximum.  The goal of a healthy relationship isn’t defined in what is the least that has to be done.  If that is the case, could one actually say they love the other?  The more one loves, the lighter these precepts are and the deeper we will go.

No comments:

Post a Comment